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

The Slovak group Kiero Grande, two Polish bands and the Brno musician Jan Fic with his solo project progressed from the competition Blues Aperitiv to the international festival Blues Alive in Šumperk. Jan, or Honza as he is informally called, who under the label Red Bird Instruments makes cigar box guitars and other instruments, is otherwise known as the frontman of The Weathermakers, playing their raw blues even at Porta. And in several festivals he appeared as leader of the mock country group The Honzíci. The interview that follows took place on the occasion of the release of the solo album Město (City), which Jan Fic together with the producer Martin Kyšperský officially presented on 17 December in Brno’s Stereo – Vinyl Culture Shop.  more

The last week full of musical events culminated in the final round of the Central European Jazz Competition organised by the “neighbouring” jazz festivals – JazzFestBrno and Poysdorf Jazz & Wine. This cross-border musical project has a promising future: the first year of the jazz competition in its final afternoon offered six half-hour blocks of the finalists, who were a surprise with their musical range and the quality of their musicianship.  more

The main programme focus of this year’s Janáček Brno 2018 international festival is the performance of all of the composer’s musical-dramatic works. After the popular success of Káťa Kabanová and the precisely staged The Makropulos Affair yesterday it was the turn of the Polish ensemble Teatr Wielki from Poznan with a performance of Jenůfa, a work which, twelve years after its Brno premiere in 1904 opened the doors to the international musical scene to Leoš Janáček.  more

Many diverse and qualitatively varied opera performances were heard at the festival Janáček Brno 2018. Every now and then a production appears that divides Brno audiences into two irreconcilable camps, one overjoyed by the innovativeness, many non-musical references and bold direction, while the others lament the illogical symbolism, departures from the libretto, seeing it even as a slap in the face of the composer. The song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared from the Belgian ensemble Muziektheater Transparant as directed by Ivo van Hove and with compositional annotations by Annelies Van Parys is controversial in the true sense of the word. The scenographer Jan Versweyveld, the costume designer An D’Huys and the dramaturge Krystian Lada also took part in this new stage form. The solo roles were taken by Ed Lyon, Marie Hamard and Hugo Koolschijn, accompanied on the piano by Lada Valešová and the choral academy De Munt/La Monnaie also took part in the production. The Diary of One Who Disappeared was performed yesterday in the hall of the Mahen Theatre.  more

The second of the accompanying folk concerts of the Janáček Brno festival took place at the Reduta Theatre. And it seems that the bar, set by the first concert, has remained high. The show, called Chodníčky k lidové písni (“Roads to folksong”) was to present one of Janáček’s favourite regions in Slovácko – Horňácko – to the audience. This job was taken on by a cimbalom band with the fitting name of Musica Folklorica.  more

Two servings of first class musical mastery and each one different. One was musical show that was demanding for its audience, where only informed listeners perceived it as a reminder of tragic events. And the second was a lighter dance-like evening with songs that could be sung by the whole of the hall at the Sono Centre. The organisers of JazzFest Brno have shown that no two jazz quintets are alike. Both of the leaders in the last two concerts of this year’s festival rightly got the stormy applause they deserved. At the same time you could hardly see on stage two such different musicians as Terence Blanchard and Richard Bona.  more

On Tuesday the tones of folk song resounded in the courtyard of the Rectorate of Brno University of Technology on Antonínská street in Brno. The first folk accompanying programme of the festival Janáček Brno 2018 carried the poetic name Kvítí milodějné (which might translate as Merciful Flowers), borrowed from the composer’s eponymous arrangements from a unique song cycle of Moravian folk poetry. The entire programme had an interesting and attractive concept, in which there were performances of three versions of folk material from the collections of Leoš Janáček. All three were close not only to the composer himself but were also generally popular.  more

The international music festival Janáček Brno 2018 yesterday opened its sixth year with a new production of the opera The Cunning Little Vixen. The performance was directed by the artistic director of the Brno Opera Jiří Heřman, the stage sets were designed by Dragan Stojčevski, the costumes by Alexandra Grusková and the lighting was by Daniel Tesař. The role of Bystrouška was taken by Jana Šrejma Kačírková, the forester was Svatopluk Sem, Zlatohřbítek was played by Václava Krejčí Housková, Schoolmaster/Mosquito by Ondřej Koplík, Priest/Badger by Jan Šťáva and Harašta by Roman Hoza. The orchestra of the National Theatre in Brno performed under its chief conductor Marko Ivanović, who was also responsible for the musical production of the work.  more

The Cameroonian musician Richard Bona is returning to Brno after a year and a half. While last year the audience in the Janáček Theatre had their breath taken away by his Afro-Cuban project Heritage, this time he is coming with his international group Richard Bona Group. When on 25 November in the Sono Centre we are admiring Bono’s virtuoso guitar playing, it would be good to be aware while he may have inherited his sense of rhythm and general relationship to music from his ancestors, his current level is the result of his hard work. At least this was something he emphasised in our interview, in which we also covered Bono’s love of flamenco and for his club, which he recently opened not far from Paris.  more

Brno City Theatre has come out with another premiere of a Czech musical in the form of Big. This musical novelty, taken from the film of the same name, will entertain children, adolescents and their parents. This musical tale is truly for all the generations. Big is a family comedy, in places also a fantasy spectacle, in others a romantic sweet piece about love or an exciting story of an impatient little boy, in which however all ends well.  more

On Friday 19 October the big band Cotatcha Orchestra performed in HaDivadlo with an important foreign guest: the trombonist, composer and arranger Ilja Reijngoud. After the review of the concert we are now also bringing you an interview with this Dutch jazzman, holder of a Latin Grammy and other significant awards. Reijngoud answered our questions shortly before the Brno concert.  more

The promising developing contemporary Czech jazz scene, which includes well-functioning festivals and two universities with the teaching of jazz (in Brno and in Prague), is creating the background not just for little ensembles, but also for large orchestras. In Prague there is the excellent Concept Art Orchestra, which under the leadership of the trumpeter Štěpánka Balcarová focuses on the work of contemporary Czech authors in the middle and younger generation (the so-called Prague Six). In Brno the B-Side Band, led by the trumpeter Josef Buchta, sells out big halls and plays at major festivals, cooperating with the popular Vojtěch Dyk, but has not given up on its original jazz repertoire and also cooperates with foreign stars of the calibre of Kurt Elling. Another Brno big band, the Cotatcha Orchestra, under the leadership of (yet another trumpeter) Jiří Kotač, has not yet met with such great success. Despite this the ensemble, put together from students and teachers of the jazz department at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, is fiercely and healthily making progress in our scene and given the quality of the musicians it has at its centre, I believe that it will in the coming years win a unique place for itself.  more

The jubilee 25th year of Olomouc’s Autumn Festival of Sacred Music is drawing to a close. Before the finale with Verdi’s Requiem yesterday there was a concert from the Brno chamber group Ensemble Versus under Vladimír Maňas with an ensemble of renaissance wind instruments accompanied by the continuo provided by Capella Ornamentata under the artistic leadership of its founder Richard Šeda in Olomouc’s Church of the Annunciation (Kostel Zvěstování Páně). Both bodies are mainly concerned with the interpretation of the religious music of the 16th and 17th centuries and have engaged in many other joint projects. In 2017 this cooperation led to a CD of the works of the late renaissance composer Nicolaus Zangius, whose works were heard at Sunday’s concert.  more

The Exposition of New Music festival has been confronting Brno listeners with contemporary Czech and world music for thirty-one years. Over this time, the festival’s concerts have gained a devoted audience wishing to experience the non-traditional musical works and experiments themselves. The autumn part of this years’ festival begun yesterday with the vocal cycle Canti del Capricorno by the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, performed by solo soprano Lore Lixenberg.  more

This week in Prague and Brno the English singer Chris Norman, founding and long-time member of the popular band Smokie, will be performing. His concert in the Brno DRFG Arena will be on Saturday 6 October and he will perform at the Prague Forum Karlín two days earlier.  more

Editorial

Jakub Hrůša will become the fifth Chief Conductor and the musical director of the prominent German orchestra the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Players – the Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker – Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie) in the 2016/2017 season. It was announced today during the morning ceremony, which was attended by Jakub Hrůša himself, by Bavaria’ Minister of Culture Dr. Ludwig Spaenle together with Marcus Rudolf Axt, Chief Executive.  more

The choir at VUT in Brno is seeking new vocal talent. The audition will take place next week.  more

The 21st edition of this competition is being organized by the Musical faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. The competition focusing on young artists playing the violin and on string quartets is being held in cooperation with the Leoš Janáček Foundation.  more

The club, which is starting its 25th concert season, has been reconstructed and is now reopening to jazz musicians from both the domestic and foreign scene. The season will introduce bands as well as individuals such as Ostrich Quartet, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Balzar Trio, Vilém Spilka Quartet or Nuf Said.  more

The current 17th year of the festival is divided into two parts. The first part, called Intake of Breath, will take place during October and it will be the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Filigrán dance ensemble. The other part, called Exhalation, will introduce international guests and dance themed movies in November.  more

Old buildings are seemingly silent, but they resonate with memories and lives vanished long ago; this is where they get their distinctive atmosphere from. Watch the video recording of a concert in the former MEZ factory hall in Židenice.  more

The winner of the solo violin category is Amalia Hall from New Zealand while the winner of the string quartet category is a Slovak ensemble called the Mucha Quartet.  more

The new operetta Studio Brno presents the operetta The Cousin from Batavia by Eduard Künneke for the first time.  more

The Brno vocal group Megafon has recorded a debut album full of successful hits and authorial compositions.  more

The Makropulos Affair opera record directed by David Radok and with music production by Marek Ivanovič won two awards at the International Television Festival Golden Prague which took place last night. The recordings won the Foundation VIZE 97 prize and a prize in the category of Performing Arts. The premiere of the opera was on 21 November 2014 during the Janáček Brno festival.  more