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Sobotka backs retention of license fees for Czech TV and Radio

The prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, believes the current compulsory license fee model of funding Czech Television and Czech Radio should remain in place. Mr. Sobotka said he had informed President Miloš Zeman of his view when the two met at Prague Castle on Wednesday. Mr. Zeman recently suggested paying the license fee could be optional and said Czech Television was not fulfilling its role as a public service broadcaster. The prime minister said maintaining the current model was the best way of ensuring the station and Czech Radio remained independent.

Senate bill changing collection of license fees withdrawn

A Senate bill aimed at changing the way license fees are collected for Czech Television and Czech Radio has been withdrawn. The initiator of the amendment, Senator Jan Veleba, said he was removing it from the upper house’s agenda as it required deeper study by his fellow legislators. Mr. Veleba wants paying the license fee to become optional, with citizens also having the choice of contributing the equivalent amount to charities or arts institutions. President Miloš Zeman has put forward a similar idea recently and questioned whether Czech Television was fulfilling its role as a public service broadcaster.

Senators to debate petition accusing Zeman of pro-Russian behavior

Senators are set to hold a discussion on a petition calling on them to look into what the drafters describe as the pro-Russian behaviour of President Miloš Zeman. The petition, which has been signed by 11,000 people, calls on Senators to take a complaint against the president to the Constitutional Court over his alleged spreading of Russian propaganda. It also accuses him of disrespecting human rights and attacking the Czech constitutional system. The Senate’s Petitions Committee will debate the matter next month, though the petition is seen as having virtually no chance of succeeding.

Industry minister to order independent study into feasibility of mining limits in north Bohemia

The minister of industry and trade, Jan Mládek, says he is going to commission an independent study into whether it limits on mining in north Bohemia are feasible. Mr. Mládek made the comment on a visit to Horní Jiřetín, a village that could be at least partly destroyed if limits on mining in the area are eased or lifted completely. The mayor of Horní Jiřetín said his office had provided the minister with evidence that the restrictions should remain in place. Trade unions have been pushing for a complete lifting of the limits, saying the move would safeguard jobs.

Czech branch of Skanska investigated over missing CZK 100 million

Detectives from the police’s anti-corruption unit are carrying out an investigation in the Czech branch of the construction company Skanska, Czech Radio reported. Auditors at Skanska’s head office in Sweden said they had discovered that CZK 100 million had disappeared from its Czech branch in 2011. Czech Radio said there was a suspicion the money had been used for kickbacks. At the time Skanska in the Czech Republic was headed by Dan Ťok, who is now transport minister.

Average mortgage rates in Czech Republic reach new low of 2.27 percent

Average mortgage rates in the Czech Republic have again fallen, reaching a record low of 2.27 percent in February, according to an index kept since 2003 by financial services providers Fincentrum. The previous low – of 2.34 percent – had been registered in January. The highest figure recorded by Fincentrum was 5.82 percent in August 2008. However, Czech mortgage rates were considerably higher in the first decade after the fall of communism.

Czech cannabis supply delayed by competition problems

Plans to tap domestic supplies of medicinal cannabis have hit a problem after the Czech competition office opened an investigation into the tender for suppliers, the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on Wednesday. The probe follows a complaint by one of the unsuccessful bidders in the tender staged late last year to grow and supply cannabis. Medicinal cannabis is currently being offered on prescription in the Czech Republic with supplies shipped in from abroad and with costs several times higher than they would be for the homegrown product, the paper reports. The competition office says its investigation could take two months or longer.

Prague flights cancelled during Lufthansa strike

Flights between German destinations and Prague have been hit by a strike by Lufthansa pilots on Wednesday. Around 10 flights between Prague and the cities of Frankfurt and Munich were among the early casualties of the strike starting just after midnight. The strike targets short-haul and European flights but not long distance connections. A meeting will be held by pilots on Thursday to decide whether the one day action should be widened. The strike was sparked by a long-running dispute between Lufthansa management and the pilots over their pension payments and rights.

Valuable St. Wenceslas Crown to be displayed in 2016 to mark anniversary of birth of Charles IV

The most valuable of the Czech crown jewels, the St. Wenceslas Crown, is to go on display next year as part of events marking the 700th anniversary of the birth of Czech king and Holy Roman emperor Charles IV, prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Wednesday after a meeting with President Miloš Zeman. The keys to the crown jewels are held by the president, the PM, the archbishop of Prague, the chairs of both chambers of Parliament, the mayor of Prague and the dean of the Metropolitan Chapter of St. Vitus Cathedral. The collection was last displayed in May 2013 to mark the election of Mr. Zeman.

Very good conditions for observing solar eclipse on Friday expected in Czech Republic

Conditions should be very good for those in the Czech Republic hoping to observe a partial eclipse of the sun on Friday. A spokesperson for the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute said it would be quite cold in the morning but skies should be clear. In Prague the 74-percent solar eclipse – the biggest visible between 2011 and 2026 – will begin at 9:37, peak at 10:45 and conclude at 11:57.