Public Radio: Conference on Regions and the Brno Perspective

Public Radio: Conference on Regions and the Brno Perspective

The specialised radio magazine Svět rozhlasu published extensive material in issue 35 – responses of employees to a poll regarding the issue of regional broadcasting.  From it, we publish part of the critical text of Jiří Plocek which deals with the Brno station of Czech Radio. Based on the suggestions from the poll, the management of the Czech Radio decided to organise a conference on regional broadcasting and its perspective on 11 October. Both the professional and general public are invited.

1. A country that is not, yet it is

When thinking about the answer to poll questions, I eventually decided to answer with a comprehensive look "from elsewhere". A public medium paid by the residents of all parts of the country should be able to handle the stratification of its subsoil. I will therefore comment on the situation from the perspective of Brno or Moravia. I cannot begin with any else other than a historical summary because it is of the utmost importance and I dare say that it stands at the root of many painful areas that we feel in our region. When I speak in plural, in addition to my personal experience from the radio, I also mirror the reality that we objectively face when formulating long-term cultural policy in Brno – for example, on the grounds of the Brno Cultural Parliament. It is an apolitical forum of people active in culture and the media, which voluntarily prepares documentation for further development of the city and the catchment region in the field of culture for the city hall. The poor condition of the Brno public media is one of the major problems.

The "2014 Regions"Project is a sort of a culmination of long years of development of the radio that occurred in the atmosphere of quite a ruthless centralization and degradation of the oldest traditional stations - mainly in Brno and also in Ostrava (the situation in Bohemia is different, as Prague is the natural provincial centre). The aforementioned stations were full-fledged institutions of a provincial character for many decades because they were originally founded back before World War II largely based on the historical provincial arrangement. They were sort of like "small Pragues": they had libraries, the administration of systematically built and extensive archive funds and they had excellent production capacities for that time. It had its own historical, geographical, cultural and social logic, because the lands (Bohemian and Moravian-Silesian) reflected the natural development of our country – analogous to the neighbouring Austria and Germany.

After the Communist takeover, the lands were abolished in 1949 and replaced by a system of regions. Nevertheless, the new rulers preserved a certain hierarchy of radio stations because it corresponded to a deeper cultural and social reality. This was true despite the post-war emancipation of regions of a lower order than provincial when new studios were opened. The Olomouc station was established, for example, as a station reporting to Brno because it simply mirrored the potency of both natural Moravian centres. The gradual transformation of the system of regional stations began upon the non-renewal of the provincial system after 1989 and the introduction of a new artificial system of regions. Today, it is apparently of a centralised and deeply technocratic nature corresponding perhaps only to the formal wording of the law but it certainly does not correspond to the cultural, historical and social reality.

The lands with their individuality and catchment - whether on the cultural, social or geographical and historical level - did not disappear with the political and administrative measures. And they cannot disappear even with a purpose-built decision because their life and culture were naturally being shaped over centuries. Therefore, for example, some provincial functions have to be preserved even today regardless. The Moravian Provincial Archives, the Moravian Provincial Museum and the Moravian Provincial Library are also based in Brno. The Provincial Assembly (the seat of the Moravian government) has symbolically turned into the Constitutional Court and it also houses some of the other highest judicial institutions. Brno is the second most powerful, academic, scientific and research centre of the Czech Republic. This is due to the potency of Brno as a catchment centre of the region or other cultural institutions such as the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Theatre Brno, which are not merely municipal institutions, but they are a service and a representative of a much wider region (judged by the structure of visitors) and their outputs are on an international level. Yet, they are only funded by the city...

How does the real situation of public radio in Brno correspond to the reality? I will make it simple: In 1993, the Brno Radio had around 300 employees. In 2015, the number of people, who create the content of the broadcast of the Brno Czech Radio, was about 30 – including service professions. Other small groups of employees (news, a creative group) have had their leadership in Prague and largely serve the interests and priorities of the central institutions. Even if I counted all employees, then there is roughly one-fifth of the original number of employees in our old radio building. I understand that the purpose of all previous reforms was also "streamlining" and "economisation" but there is an obvious disproportion to the Prague headquarters and mainly the denial of the natural state of things. Everyone pays license fees, which includes listeners from Brno and Moravia.

I am convinced that a responsibly conceived public station in the case of Brno (and similarly at least in Ostrava) should have an expert editorial and production background with full potential, it should have a distinct and unique legacy of the entire region, which still has its provincial character. It should also provide space for the creativity of the Moravian regions, to fulfil their cultural potential.

When I started in the radio in 2006, there were three other music reporters (excluding myself, I started as a BROLN dramaturge and I produced some musical shows): one for jazz and popular music, the second one for classical music, and the last one for folklore and genres such as folk, country, tramp music. All of these categories were based on the richness of the range of music existing in our territory – ranging from several symphony orchestras, an extensive music education (including university level), to a jazz scene of nationwide significance, folk, peculiar Moravian popular music, to folklore, which was – simply put – represented, counting only south-eastern Moravia, by roughly two hundred ensembles and which firmly belongs to the regional and municipal identity. The Strážnice Festival has been a phenomenon at the European level for decades. In addition, folklore plays an important role for young people as a prevention of undesirable social phenomena on a large scale. Folklore is also one of our export cultural articles of nationwide significance. When the Czech Radio was deciding how to present the Czech Republic in the international edition of the published Ocor, it chose traditional music from the area of the Moravian-Slovak border. I helped build the dramaturgy of that title.

At the time, when I joined the station, the Brno Radio had one spatially and acoustically superior studio (we lost the other one prior to that) with long neglected technology and facilities, and one outside-broadcasting van.

2015: The music department does not exist. We do not have our own production studio in Brno any more. We produce in cooperation with the recording studio in the JAMU Theatre with limited space and capacity. The outside-broadcasting van is technologically outdated, it crashes. During trips to the field, we see it clearly: In comparison with any slightly established private sound expert, the "large company" Czech Radio Brno looks like a very poor and technologically backward relative.

To briefly conclude: In my opinion, the approach to regional stations is not differentiated as it needs to be, and disregards the relevance and potential of regions. It is excessively centralist and is heading towards a simply technocratic low-cost commercial approach which I see as a threat to the fulfilment of the complex role of a public medium. In the case of Brno, these tendencies are literally sticking out.

Jiří Plocek

The full issue 35 of Svět rozhlasu can be downloaded in pdf here, text by Jiří Plocek begins on page 25.

Detailed information about the conference:

Regional broadcast and regional verbal and musical production – that is the name of the public debate which will take place on 11 October 2016 at 10 a.m. in the Brno Radio Studio. The discussion will be attended by the management of the Czech Radio and the professional and general public.

The meeting begins at the Czech Radio Brno (Beethovenova 4) with a morning session which will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The speakers will include the Chief Executive Officer René Zavoral and other members of the management of the Czech Radio and guest speakers. They will talk, among other things, about the concept of regional broadcasting, news reporting, as well as programmes from the regions broadcast on national stations. In the afternoon session, which begins at 1:30 p.m., it will be followed by an open discussion with all participants.

Building of the Czech Radio Brno / Photo: Archive

Several years ago, a miracle happened to Jura Hradil. This devotee of the electronic nu jazz alternative came to the hilly Carpathian landscape somewhere on the border between Moravia and Slovakia and heard a song, firstly one, then two, then hundreds. It wasn't a blurry echo of old times, but the bright tone of a Horňácko song.  more

Originally, it was supposed to be the third part of the YM project, in which the individual members of the group Květy make records of their solo albums of different genres, and their colleagues from the band accompany them. After Lorenzovi hoši [Lorenzo´s Boys] by Martin Kyšperský in country style and after the electronic Japonec [The Japanese Guy] by Aleš Pilgr, Ondřej Kyas´s Solárium [The Sunbed] was hard to classify concerning its genre category. As a solo record, with only an episode contribution by Aleš Pilgr and without any playing participation of Martin Kyšperský.  more

The small Ponava music club has been renowned in Brno last several years for its very high quality music production. Here and there, its diverse programme also features folklore projects. On Thursday, a duo of the well-known multi-instrumentalist Marian Friedl and the Lachian vocalist Sabrina Pasičnyk performed on this stage.  more

While trumpeter Jiří Kotača is known to the Brno jazz audience mainly as the bandmaster of the progressive big band Cotatcha Orchestra, on his first CD he presents himself with a different formation. He had met the Swedish guitarist Alf Carlsson during his studies in the Netherlands, and then they met up again and founded their band during Alf's tourist trip to the Czech Republic. Then they invited two very talented Slovak players to a joint trip for music, drummer Kristián Kuruc and double bass player Peter Korman, who is a member of Kotača's big band. This international formation plays Kotača's and Carlsson's original compositions and gets more or less inspired by Moravian, Slovak and above all Scandinavian folklore. The album was given the name Journeys, because journeys – to music, to knowledge and to the heart of souls – are what the life of not only this band revolves around.  more

With the return to the Janáček Theatre after three years and with the first foreshadowing of the upcoming celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's birth, the Brno Philharmonic entered the new year with its traditional, already the 65th New Year concert in history. For this occasion, it chose a programme truly magnificent and appropriate, crowned by the European-famous Ode to Joy. The whole gala evening took place under the baton of Chief Conductor Dennis Russell Davies.  more

Two sold-out concerts launched on Saturday filled-up the hall of the Koruna cinema in Břeclav, where the Národopisný soubor Břeclavan [Břeclavan Ethnographic Ensemble] celebrated its 65th anniversary and joined thus the series of jubilee folklore ensembles this year. The afternoon concert had to be eventually added because of the huge audience acclaim, which only confirms that in South Moravia folklore is still widely known and enjoys unremitting popularity.  more

The Prophet and the Wind is a multi-genre performance by flute player Martina Komínková. She created it in Italy and after its Italian premiere it will be presented in Brno for the first time. The Czech premiere will take place at Brno's Divadlo na Orlí Theatre on Sunday 3 November. The evening show starting at 7:00 pm is already sold out, but you can still buy tickets for the afternoon performance scheduled at 2:00 pm.  more

In the premises of the neo-Gothic Czech Brethren Evangelical Church of J. A. Comenius, on the fifth evening of the Moravian Autumn festival, a performance of sacred music for choir and organ took place. In addition to the choir of the same name, Martinů Voices was also dominated by the organist Linda Sítková and a four-member ensemble of French horns. All this under the direction of choirmaster Lukáš Vasilek.  more

The third event of this year's Moravian Autumn festival was transferred to a theatre stage. The event was made happen by Terén, which is a platform acting as a third stage of the Centre of Experimental Theatre, right after the Goose on a String and HaDivadlo theatres. And it was on this particular stage of the Goose on a String where the world premiere of a stage production of Oedipus by André Gide took place yesterday. Composer Bohuslav Martinů stands behind its equally important incidental music.  more

The jubilee 50th Moravian Autumn music festival started yesterday at Bobycentrum in Brno with a concert performance of the minimalist opera Einstein on the Beach by composer Philip Glass and director Robert Wilson. The concert version was created by collaboration of visual artist Germaine Kruip, Suzanne Vega and Ictus Ensemble and Collegium Vocale Gent. Although only the music remained from the previously stage show, the length of the concert itself was comparable with the opera work. Hence, the evening lasted almost four hours.  more

Doctor Fligg talked to us about one of the most talented composers and musicians of the first half of the twentieth century – Gideon Klein. He is at the same time one of the organizers of the project Gido‘s coming home, which commemorates a flat one hundred years from the composer’s birth.  more

The National Theatre Brno started its new season yesterday by staging The Tales of Hoffmann, an opéra fantastique by French composer Jacques Offenbach with French libretto written by poet Jules Barbier. Directing was undertaken by the recognized artistic tandem SKUTR, consisting of Martin Kukučka and Lukáš Trpišovský. The title role was presented by Luciano Mastro, his faithful companion Nicklausse (and also the figure of the Muse at the end of the show) was performed by Markéta Cukrová. The roles of Hoffmann's sweethearts Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta and Stella have were performed by Martina Masaryková, Pavla Vykopalová, Daniela Straková-Šedrlová and Andrea Široká. The character of Hoffmann's eternal rival (Lindorf/Coppélius/Miracle/ Dappertutto) was interpreted by Ondrej Mráz. The orchestra was led by Ondrej Olos, the choir by Klára Složilová Roztočilová.  more

The Brno Philharmonic launched its 64th season yesterday, which is also the second season of its current Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Dennis Russell Davies. Beside him, the leading Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja also stood on the stage of the Brno Stadium. Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major and the Czech premiere of the composition DA.MA.SHI.E by the Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi's, connected with animated films of director Hayao Miyazaki, were chosen for the ceremonial start.  more

The fourteenth season of the Subscription Concert Cycle was launched yesterday evening by the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno with captivating music. A jubilant, almost festive programme was played in the Besední dům, following a performance at the St. Wenceslas Music Festival in Ostrava the previous evening. However, there were faithful and long-time spectators in Brno without whom the entire cycle would lose its meaning.  more

Yesterday evening at the piazzetta of the Janáček Theatre was marked by a concert to commence the 2019/2020 season of the National Theatre Brno (NdB). Promotion of the event ensured the most important thing for this music evening – hundreds of spectators who filled up the whole place. We should not forget the really wide age range, which is so much needed for future culture, especially at its lower limit (still in strollers).     more

Editorial

The acclaimed soprano Naděžda Kniplová died at the age of 87. Former soloist of the National Theatre and the State Opera in Prague, she also performed in the Brno Opera between 1959 and 1964.  more

The Ondráš Military Art Ensemble announces a selection procedure for the professional part of the ensemble, for the position of soloist in the music and singing group (violin) in the Orchestra of Folk Instruments.  more

In 2020, the Janáček Quartet launches a brand new cycle of chamber concerts, in which it also welcomes guests from the ranks of  chamber ensembles and soloists. Four concerts of this cycle are planned to take place in the newly reconstructed Janáček Hall of the Brno Conservatory. The opening concert of the cycle is dedicated to the founding member of the quartet Jiří Kratochvíl, who died on 3 January 2020.  more

The ballet ensemble of the National Theatre Brno celebrates 100 years since its foundation this season. On the occasion of this anniversary, the ensemble is preparing a gala concert at the Janáček Theatre, featuring dancers from major European ballet companies, as well as soloists of national theatres from Prague, Bratislava and Brno. Among the guest artists there are stars such as Diana Kosyreva, Natascha Mair, Philipp Stepin, Cesar Corrales and many others.  more

The New Year's Concert of the Brno Philharmonic is coming back to the Janáček Theatre after almost three years, and for the first time it will be led by the Chief Conductor Dennis Russell Davies. In 2020, the ensemble will richly celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of composer Ludwig van Beethoven, whose 9th symphony will be heard at the concert. The solo parts will be accompanied by soprano Kateřina Kněžíková, alto Jana Hrochová, tenor Richard Samek and bass Roman Janál, accompanied by the Brno Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno.  more

The ballet company of the National Theatre Brno announces audition for dancers, both male and female (soloists and chorus) to be cast in the season 2020/21. The audition is announced to take place in April 2020.  more

Janáček Quartet announced today that Jiří Kratochvíl,  founder and long-time member of the ensemble, died on 3 January 2020. He was 95 years old.  more

Leoš Janáček's teacher Pavel Křížkovský would celebrate his 200th birthday this year. The male choir Láska opravdivá [Truthful Love] will commemorate his anniversary by a concert at the composer's statue at the foot of the Špilberk hill. We will hear male choral pieces by P. Křížkovský and L. Janáček.   more

A concert called Valná hromada [General Meeting] will commemorate the legendary shows of music groups of the 1980s, when Brno's alternative scene was shaped. The joint concert will take place in ArtBar.  more

David Radok's opera production Three fragments from Juliette / The Human Voice is in for its last performance. You can see it only two more times at the Janáček Theatre.    more