Category Archives: Radio History

95th anniversary of Czech radio’s first broadcasts

Czech Radio’s main headquarters in Vinohradská street in the centre of Prague, photo: Lenka Žižková

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF), who shares the following news items from Radio Prague regarding the 95th anniversary of Czech Radio’s first broadcasts:

Listening Sessions at a Prague Cinema: Czech Radio’s First Broadcasts Recalled, 95 Years Later

A historic moment occurred at 20:15 on Saturday May 18, 1923 when the first ever broadcast by Czechoslovak Radio was made from a tent at a military air base in Prague’s Kbely district.

After the United Kingdom, Czechoslovakia was the second country in Europe to launch regular radio broadcasting.

Zuzana Foglarová is communications manager at today’s Czech Radio. Speaking at a new exhibition of radio technology at the station, she describes the scene in May 1923.

“Above all it was very simple. There was one tent, which had been borrowed from the scouts. On the floor in the tent was a piano and stool. There was also a table for the presenter, technicians and so on. There was only one microphone, and the story goes that if somebody was playing the piano and somebody else was singing, the latter had to sit under the piano so the microphone could pick up all the sounds.”

Many of the first listeners 95 years ago were waiting to hear the signal come through at a cinema just off Prague’s Wenceslas Square.[…]

Click here to download recording.

Click here to read the full article at Radio Prague.

The spectacular Rudgers?v Palace built in the Neo-Classicist style is home to Czech Radio’s Ostrava studios, photo: Daniel Martínek, Czech Radio (Source: Radio Praha)

Past and Present: A Gallery of Czech´s Radio Buildings

Czech Radio is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year. The Czech national radio broadcaster has come a long way since its pioneering days. Today it is the biggest radio broadcaster in the country with 9 channels, manned not only by its Prague staff but 14 regional branches providing news and reports from around the country. The station’s buildings are also an important part of its history. On the occasion of Czech Radio’s 95th anniversary we have prepared a photo gallery of its buildings, some of them valuable architectural landmarks.

Click here to view the photo gallery at Radio Prague.

Dan shares photos from journalist trip to Zanzibar in 1986

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who writes:

Here’s a blast from the past that might be interesting reading for the SWLing Post.

Back in 1986, just before ending my three year tour as VOA East Africa bureau chief, I had an opportunity to visit Zanzibar, with a group of journalists. Back then, Zanzibar was still under the socialist government in charge at the time, and was still attached to Tanzania’s socialist government.

Zanzibar town was full of old structures, and clay/stucco type buildings [see photo at top of page]–it was a wonderfully exotic place, with pristine beaches. The main hotel at the time was in poor condition — this was way before any of the extensive hotel development that the island has seen in recent decades.

One day we were traveling across the island, but I made a point of stopping at what was then still Radio Tanzania/Zanzibar. This was of course years before that station would become ZBC, which remains on the air today, and that time the power was still far lower than the station we know today that serves some fairly wide sections of East Africa and up into the Gulf region.

I hadn’t remembered snapping this photo, but found it recently while going through some old prints. This is what I believe to be Radio Tanzania/Zanzibar as it looked back in 1986 [see below].

Another photo [below] shows old Zanzibar town (shot taken from just off the shore).

Two other shots [below] show a graveyard on Grave Island, off Zanzibar, with one of the stones belonging to someone named Henry Bodley Carpenter (click here for more info) who served on the H.M.S. Briton and died in 1873.

Thanks so much, Dan, for taking the time to share these photos of Zanzibar with us. I imagine your work with the Voice of America took you to many corners of our wonderful planet!

I still get a small thrill when I put Zanzibar in the logs! Thank you again.

The history of Deutsche Welle’s interval signal and signature tune

(Source: Deutsche Welle via Mike Hansgen)

Beethoven on the air: the DW signature tune

When Deutsche Welle went on the air 65 years ago, the broadcaster opted for a melody from “Fidelio” for its signature tune. Ludwig van Beethoven’s opera is about an act of liberation.

A political prisoner is starved and nearly tortured to death because the prison’s military governor knows that the prisoner could incriminate him. The incarcerated man’s wife masquerades as a young man and, thus camoflaged, makes her way into the dungeon. When the governor attempts to stab the prisoner, the woman jumps between them and pulls out a pistol. At that very moment, trumpets sound out and the Minister, a higher authority, enters the scene. A friend of the prisoner, he recognizes what has been going on and sets the political prisoners free.

At this happy ending of the opera “Fidelio” by Ludwig van Beethoven, Minister Fernando sings the words “Es sucht der Bruder seine Brüder” (The brother seeks his brothers), and continues: “Und kann er helfen, hilft er gern” (And if he can help, he does so gladly.)

The melody to the words is anything but catchy; it is nearly ungainly in fact. Nonetheless, it was chosen as the signature tune when Germany’s international broadcaster began its shortwave radio transmissions on May 3, 1953.

The symbolism in the words

The choice not only had to do with the musical motif, but was also based on the symbolism in the words. Only eight years after World War II’s end, building new friendships and international relationships was no easy task for the new Federal Republic of Germany.

One sought to proceed in a “brotherly” manner with listeners and partners abroad through friendly exchange. Trust was to be built in a fair and impartial sharing of information.

For many years, the melody, played on a celesta keyboard, penetrated the constant ebb and flow of interference noise on the shortwave radio spectrum. It thus made its way to the speakers of shortwave radio sets around the world – often in endless repetitions leading up to the news at the top of the hour.

Click here to download a clip of the DW interval signal recorded on February 22,1982 at 1400 UTC. (Source: IntervalSignal Database)

The broadcaster then had its headquarters in Cologne, and the Beethovenfest classical music festival took place only sporadically in Bonn, 30 kilometers upstream the Rhine.

The move from Cologne to Bonn, and the media partnership with the re-established and much bigger music festival, had to wait until the new millennium. Then it seemed only fitting that Deutsche Welle should once again associate itself with Beethoven.[…]

Continue reading and listen to a number of “Fidelio” variations at Deutsche Welle.

WTPF’s former site: A “Time Capsule from the 1940’s”

(Source: ABC11.com via Mike Hansgen)

Photo source: WTPF.com

The distinct Art Deco style clearly defines the WPTF radio station as a 1940’s classic.

With rounded windows and curved edges, the building looks tiny on the outside, but cuts deep underground into a shelter that allowed announcers to broadcast through wars and hurricanes.

Today, it’s hidden behind tall shrubs, a chain-link fence, and a set of train tracks – it often goes unnoticed, a relic from a long past era of Raleigh history.

Decades ago, this station was staffed 24-hours a day, which means it provides amenities like a kitchen and shower. However, this enticing building has been closed to the public, mostly forgotten, for decades. Nearly 80 years old and sealed to most of the outside world, it harbors dust-coated secrets that time forgot, like a living time capsule.[…]

Click here to read the full article and view photos of the site.

Also, check out the following photos of WTPF courtesy of this imgur.com account:

Former WPTF 680 AM art deco studio – Cary, NC

KCRW: The Rise of Pirate Radio Station WBAD

SWLing Post readers: check out this amazing audio documentary by our friend David Goren about the legendary hip hop pirate radio station WBAD. It’s part of a new series from KCRW called Lost Notes.

David shares the following note:

“Endless thanks to DJ Cintronics, and Dren Starr for sharing their stories. Thanks also to Myke Dodge Weiskopf and Nick White of KCRW for their incredible, skillful work and dedication bringing this to fruition.

If by chance you are not a hip hop fan, I would still encourage you to listen to this compelling two person narrative about people who love music and the lengths they go to put it on the air.”

Click here to listen via KCRW or subscribe to Lost Notes via iTunes or Google Play.