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The Warsaw Voice » Society » September 2, 2011
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Voice of the Region
September 2, 2011   
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The launch of the Economic Forum in Krynica two decades ago coincided with a reorientation of the Polish Radio External Service toward Poland’s eastern neighbors. Next to the existing Polish, English and German services, broadcasts in Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian were introduced, along with a dedicated service for Polish communities in the East. In an interview with Peter Gentle, Marek Cajzner, head of the Polish Radio External Service, describes the station’s mission as building bridges with Eastern European nations with a view to helping forge business contacts.

In its broadcasts, which reach target audiences on FM, AM, traditional shortwave and as webcasts, the station builds a favorable climate for business relations between Poland and the European Union, on the one hand, and countries beyond Poland’s eastern border, on the other. How does that fit into your overall mission?
The Polish Radio External Service works on three fronts. One direction is to reach Polish communities abroad. Another one is to draw countries to the east of Poland into the sphere of European and pro-Western thinking. Yet another direction is both eastward and westward-oriented. It is to promote Poland as a European and world player and a good partner in business. The goal of the Krynica forum is to build economic bridges. For our part, we are also aiming at projecting Poland as a country offering investment and business opportunities, and, in relation to the countries beyond Poland’s eastern border, a country which understands their problems well and can bring business to them.

One of your priorities is Ukraine, where you have developed a network of 46 relays in key cities in the past year.
This direction is natural because of Poland’s geopolitical position. Ukraine is a vast country and potentially a major economic partner. It is important, therefore, that we are heard there and heard by the right people. We have signed an agreement with the main Ukrainian commercial broadcaster, Radio Era, which allows us to reach the right socio-demographic group. In our broadcasts we talk about Poland, but also about broader regional and European issues. In this sense, we position ourselves as a regional broadcaster. The same goes for broadcasting to the West. There is an opportunity of positioning ourselves as a voice of Central Europe and we should grab it. As for the Ukrainian market, the run-up to Euro 2012, which both countries see as an opportunity to move on economically, politically and image-wise, is a good time for us to promote Poland. In this respect, we complement the efforts of other institutions such as Poland’s foreign ministry and local government. In Ukraine, we also target Polish communities by reaching them on local FM stations including those in Lviv.

Poland is the next-door neighbor of Belarus, a country that many say is frozen in time. It is also seriously underreported in the Western media. What is your station’s role in informing the people of Belarus about what goes on in their own backyard, also in terms of the economy, and in letting the world know about the situation in Belarus?
These two directions complement each other. Obviously, we talk to Belarusians in Belarusian, and to ethnic Poles there in Polish. We reach them through FM/AM relays from Ukraine and Lithuania. It is in Poland’s interests that Belarus changes. But for that to happen we also need to sustain interest in what is happening there among Western European countries and in the EU. We need to give plenty of coverage to Belarus in our broadcasts to the West, also on our website in English. We are excellently positioned to do that, given that we have a network of our own correspondents across Belarus. Our Belarusian service understands its audience very well and we can pick up stories emerging from Belarus and broadcast them to our Western audiences.

Poland and Russia have not always seen eye to eye in recent years, but today bilateral relations seem to be on the mend. In what way is this reflected in your programs?
We reach audiences there through a relay in Moscow and on short wave. Poland’s experience of emerging from the communist system, including the period of fighting corruption in the 1990s, and the experience of building a civil society and local government are obviously relevant topics. But Russia is a very difficult market with a great number of local radio networks vying for listeners. We need to move with the times to reach people in Russia through our web pages and this is the most immediate task ahead for the Russian service.
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