U.S. Stalls On Radio Relocation

PRAGUE -- U.S. government delays are jeopardizing a cost-saving offer by the Czech government to host the headquarters of the cash-strapped Cold War information powerhouse, Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty. The Czechs have offered rent-free use of their former federal parliament building to the U.S.-financed stations, which since the 1950s have been one of the main news sources in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Czech ministers have given the U.S. Congress and President Bill Clinton until June 30 to decide whether or not to move RFE-RL to the Prague building from their headquarters in Munich. It is the third time the Czechs have extended the deadline while waiting for a decision from the Americans, but they say it will be the last. "The Czech government can no longer extend the period. The end of the period falls on the last day of June," Igor Nemec, minister for state oversight, said Tuesday. In April, RFE's supervisory agency, the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting, or BIB, recommended the move to the empty legislature building in Prague as a cost-saving measure for the radios. The White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, has yet to release its report on the proposed move from Munich, which should save millions of dollars a year. A team of congressional aides, RFE and BIB officials are in Prague this week working out details of the possible move with the Czechs, who are asking only a symbolic rent of one Czech crown (3 cents). "We see it as extraordinarily cost-effective in the long run for the radios," RFE-RL's acting president Kevin Klose said in Prague. Klose said he has no idea how long congress will take to make a decision. "That's the $64 question," he said. RFE broadcasts on short wave and some local FM frequencies to Eastern Europe, the Baltic states and, since January, to former Yugoslavia, all in their native languages. RL does the same in Russian and 12 other local languages to the republics of the former Soviet Union.