In Business News: average monthly wages grow by 6.9 percent - 3.9 percent in real terms; the government approves a steep rise in excise duty on tobacco products; tens of thousands of Ukrainian workers are taking the opportunity to legalise their status and escape the influence of criminal middlemen, says the country's ambassador; sales of downloads slow a continuing fall in overall music sales; the BBC changes its licence and gets to stay on the Czech airwaves; and Eurotel is now operating under the name O2.
Average monthly wages in the Czech Republic grew by 6.9 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of this year, according to figures just released. That represents a rise of 3.9 percent in real wages, with the average monthly salary in the Czech Republic now at almost exactly 20,000 CZK (900 USD). Analysts say increasing wages should lead to an increase in household consumption and boost the growth of the Czech economy. They say there is as yet no threat to the economy's competitiveness, but say increased pressure on inflation is likely.
There was bad news for smokers this week, as the government voted to raise excise duty on tobacco products. The price of a pack will go up by 12 CZK (around 50 US cents) from the first of January - bringing an estimated 10 billion CZK (450 m USD) into the state coffers. The European Union had been demanding a rise in excise duty, and the move is also part of the Finance Ministry's plan to keep the state budget at the proposed 88 billion CZK next year. But tobacco industry figures say the rise is too steep, while some analysts say Czech smokers may cut down on consumption, or switch to cheaper brands.
Conditions have improved markedly for the thousands of Ukrainian workers in the Czech Republic, the country's ambassador to Prague, Ivan Lebeda, said this week. He said his office had been working closely with a number of Czech ministries, and that in the last year 30,000 Ukrainians had been given the opportunity to make their working stay in the Czech Republic legal. Mr Lebeda said the influence of criminal groups acting as middlemen had been significantly eliminated; he said his embassy had made a lot of enemies, but dignified the position of Ukrainian citizens.
Sales of music downloaded from the internet in the Czech Republic increased by 400 percent in the first half of this year, the Czech branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said this week. An IFPI spokesperson said this huge increase went some way to making up for the long-term fall in sales of CDs and cassettes - overall sales were down 3.2 percent in the first six months of 2006.
The Czech broadcasting council has approved a request by BBC Radiocom, holder of the BBC's broadcasting licence, for a change to its licence conditions. The ruling means that the BBC World Service can continue to broadcast in FM in the Czech Republic, with two three-hour blocks of the Czech language Radio Cesko every day. BBC Radiocom changed the terms of its original application after the broadcasting council objected to the fact that its blocks of Radio Cesko amounted to re-broadcasting, which the BBC licence did not permit.
Friday's Czech newspapers are completely dominated by advertisements announcing the name change of mobile phone operator Eurotel to O2. The change is part of Telefonica's purchase of Eurotel's owner Cesky Telecom. O2 is also the new sponsor of the Czech Republic's ice hockey team.
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