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RFE/RL to Close Czech Language Broadcast

(Prague, Czech Republic--July 2, 2002) Thomas A. Dine, President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, announced today that funding for the Czech language Radio Svobodna Evropa will end later this year and by mutual agreement RFE/RL will dissolve its partnership with Czech Radio, which provides a frequency for the broadcast.

Dine said RFE/RL's managing body, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in Washington, has decided not to renew financing for RSE in the new fiscal year which begins on October 1.

"It was an extremely difficult decision because Radio Svobodna Evropa has been a most important component of RFE/RL since it was founded more than half a century ago," Dine said, adding "but we have new priorities and new financial burdens we have to carry in our budget that did not exist before September 11."

RSE, affectionately known as "Svobodka" by Czech and Slovak listeners, is an American non-profit company, funded by a grant from RFE/RL. It was incorporated in Washington in February, 1994. Later, a tripartite arrangement with Czech Radio, RFE/RL and RSE was codified in an agreement signed in May, 1996. In the partnership, Czech Radio provides majority funding and RFE/RL contributes about a third of RSE's annual budget.

RSE currently produces more than 40 hours of political and educational programs weekly which are broadcast on Czech Radio 6, a frequency owned by Czech Radio.

Prior to 1994, the Czech Service was located at RFE/RL former headquarters in Munich. Czech and Slovak Language Services were established in 1993, reflecting the political split between the Czechs and Slovaks. Previously combined and called the Czechoslovak Desk, it was RFE/RL's largest Central European service, held up as a model of excellence for other broadcast units. It was also the first service to go on the air from Munich.

This week it will be 52 years since the new international broadcast station Radio Free Europe, on July 4, 1950 transmitted its first 30-minute experimental program to then Czechoslovakia from the West German border.

Dine said Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ended broadcasting to Hungary in 1993 and to Poland in 1997.