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The History of Radio in the Netherlands 1919-1945

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Baek, Hee Won
Term Paper, AP European History Class, July 2008

Table of Contents
I. Introduction
II. Beginning of Radio Broadcasting
III. Gaining Popularity
IV. Radio Programs
V. Special Use of Radio during WW II
V.1 Radio Oranje
V.2 Nazi Radio Ban
VI. Conclusion

I. Introduction
            In 1919, the world's first radio station started broadcasting. Since then, many other stations were built throughout Europe, and tried to spread radio among people. Station managers strived hard to grasp people's attention by planning interesting programs. Sports, music and audio theater was major fields of their programs. It actually succeeded, and soon, many households started to buy and listen to radio. As radio became widespread medium, many radio stations were newly established. They competed one another to gain more popularity by broadcasting attractive programs. Until television was developed, radio maintained its fame in almost every type of program. Since radio was so popular a, it was its broadcasting was also used for political purposes. But after the invention of a television, radio started to specialize in music programs or news.

II. Beginning of Radio Broadcasting
            The world's first broadcasting station became operational from as early as November 6th 1919, which belonged to a Dutch ham radio operator - Hanzo Idzarda. Hanzo started public broadcasting with a "PCGG" from Den Haag ("The Hague") with his homebrewed transmitter and his programs became popular around the globe as "Hague Concerts". When Idzarda started broadcasting in 1919 his audience was rather small. They were mainly technical enthusiasts who tuned into the regular transmissions. From 1924 many Dutch broadcasting organizations were founded; it was an important step to bring radio to the people. When Philips introduced a simple to operate radio set in 1927 radio began to boom.
            In the late twenties and the early thirties Dutch broadcasting organizations published construction manuals on how to make radio-sets. The first Dutch broadcasting dates back to 1919. The NRI (Netherlands Radio Industrie/Dutch Radio Industry) operates from 1919 until 1924 a transmitter from The Hague and broadcasts a regular music programs. It took until 1923 that others became active.
            The second party was the NSF (Netherlands Seintoestellen Fabriek) in Hilversum. The NSF operates a transmitter from 21 July 1923. On 1 April 1924 the NSF founded the HDO (Hollands Draadlooze Omroep), a special organization to make programs. Both NSF and NRI were radio¡© factories, they knew radio's could only be sold when programs were available.
            The Dutch government knew the importance of the new medium, they addressed public organizations. Some 23 organizations replied. Many of today's Dutch Broadcasting organizations were founded shortly after. The radio had become common in many households.

III. Gaining Popularity
            When radio broadcasting was first operated, radio was not really spread among the public. So, the radio stations tried to attract people to buy more radio by broadcasting interesting programs. They attempted to obtain more listeners through broadcasting many types of programs; sports, music, and . (News was the only minor part of radio broadcasting at that time.) At that time period, television was not invented, so radio could gain great popularity very soon.
            During the 1920s, club owners cautiously embraced radio broadcasting of sports games. Many owners feared radio would dissuade fans from attending the games in person. Actually, since not many people could visit stadium to watch games, radio started to entertain people by enabling them to enjoy sports with sound.
            Moreover, radio broadcasting allowed people to listen to music in daily life without any recording. Music was the primary source of broadcast content on both commercial and non-commercial stations. Music radio, particularly has often acted as both a barometer and an arbiter of musical taste, and radio airplay is one of the defining measures of success in the mainstream musical world. Later on, in fact, the rise of rock music to popularity is intimately tied to the history of music radio. Actually, for many years, many listeners have been dissatisfied with the content of radio programming since the decline of early free form rock radio. The popularity of offshore pirate radio stations in the United Kingdom was an early symptom of frustration with the often overly safe and occasionally politicized playlists of commercial radio.
            The growth of Internet radio from a small experimenter's toy in the mid-90s to a huge phenomenon allowing both small do-it-yourselfers and large commercial stations to make their offerings available worldwide was seen as a threat to over-the-air music broadcasting, and was nearly shut down by onerous licensing demands made by the recording industry. Meanwhile, the rise of satellite radio services as a major competitor have brought many of the advantages of Internet radio to an increasingly mobile listening public, including lack of censorship, greater choice, a more eclectic approach to format programming, and static-free digital sound quality. Indeed, one-size-fits-all programming is no longer seen as tenable by some, as the diversity of musical tastes among the listening public have created a proliferation of radio formats in what some might call a form of narrowcasting.
            Also, Audio Theater became popular which has deep roots, building on very old traditions of storytelling and stage presentation. In the 1880s, theater performances were heard over the telephone. By the 1890s, sales of phonograph recordings were booming. Words were added to describe scenes, and set up sight, now sound-gags. Sound effects and music were adapted from stage technique, and audio theatre was born years before sound was first broadcast over the radio. Called as "Radio Theater," it became the hottest mass-entertainment art form of the '20s, '30s, and '40s, now called the Golden Age of Radio.
            The golden years of radio broadcasting lasted a little more than 30 years-from about 1925 to 1956-before television began capturing audiences with visual counterparts to radio programming. During those decades listeners became devoted to an entertainment form that allowed them something that television does not-free play of the imagination. Audiences sat in suspense through Inner Sanctum Mysteries and Lights Out; they were intrigues by the quiz programs; and they laughed at the seemingly endless number of comedy-variety shows. Housewives listened audio dramas-daytime serials with dramatic adventures. In the year 1934 the radio had become a normal appearance in many households.
            Especially, The late twenties and the early thirties were booming years for radio business. In 1929 the Dutch Vademecum for radio business mentions many Dutch companies occupied with radio. In Amsterdam alone, 700 companies are involved. The vademecum also mentions 219 Dutch companies, each making their own radio brand. Most brands are history. The company Okaphone however still exists and has a nice website. The radio was a part of the furniture. And so the look of the radio and the used materials became very important.
            The first years of radio were experimental. Programming was based on what station managers thought people wanted to hear. Programming was based on what station managers thought people wanted to hear. Before radio existed, audiences liked sports events, dance bands, and vaudeville (type of entertainment consisting of short acts such as comedy, singing, and dancing). It was therefore assumed they would like the same entertainments over the airwaves.
            Comedy?variety was one of popular programs. Radio's comedy shows were mainly of two types: those with plots and those without. Those with plots were situation comedies. Comedy-variety shows consisted of skits, music, and joke telling. Most of the radio comedians were veterans of vaudeville-troupers who had worked in theaters. Radio allowed them to perform in one area. Many appeared in films in addition to doing weekly radio. Drama was also very famous. Some dramatic programs were showcases or anthologies-they presented plats that had been written for the stage or plots of films. Others were broadcast as a series with new plots each week. Many radio programs focused on music, too. Radio catered to every musical taste - from grand opera to the novelty music. Also many leading vocalists of the era had their own shows. And some music programs were almost comedy-variety shows. Radio offered everything-from conventional detectives to the most bizarre encounters with the most bizarre encounters with the supernatural. Crime fighters were both amateur and professional detectives. About news, apart from the daily newscasts at noon and in the early evening, there were commentators on current events. Some programs held a weekly talent contest and there was a daily program broadcasting, too

IV. Special use of Radio during World War II

IV.1 Radio Oranje
            At the outbreak of the Second World War, radio was considered the fighting arm, as important as the army, the navy and the air force. Radio was the first medium that could transport the emotions of an event to the listeners, like they were actually witnessing the event themselves. The allies used radio during the war as a way to present the news to the people of occupied Europe, to maintain their morale and instruct them how to resist the German invader. Many celebrities, including the German writer Thomas Mann and the French anthropologist Claude L?vi-Strauss, supported the allied war effort and broadcasted to their compatriots in the occupied territories. The Dutch language radio stations saw many well known writers and journalist, like A. den Doolaard or Loe de Jong, take up the cause and fight the Germans by the spirit of their talks. Radio Oranje was predominant among these Dutch language radio stations, like the Dutch Service of the BBC and WRUL station from Boston, Massachussetts. Sinke studied archives in Berlin, London and Tel Aviv and spoke to former employees in the Netherlands and abroad to find the story behind the broadcasts. He looked for the motives of the Dutch government to create Radio Oranje, the problems Radio Oranje encountered broadcasting during the war, and the reception of the broadcasts in the Netherlands and abroad. He discovered that the broadcasts earned Radio Oranje the respect of the Dutch people during the war but also aroused controversy. His research contributes to a new understanding of the way in which the Dutch government in exile exhorted the Dutch people to resistance against the Germans, the development of Dutch radio journalism in the period 1935-1945 and propaganda in wartime.

IV.2 Nazi Radio Ban
            During World War II radio listening was restricted in Holland. In 1940 the Dutch were forbidden to listen to foreign broadcasting and Dutch broadcasting- organizations were censored by the Germans. The VARA was the first organization to openly protest against the Germans when they had to report about a march of the Dutch Nazi-organization NSB.
            Broadcasting of English and American songs was forbidden in January 1941. The grip of the Nazis on the programming was increasing, they ordered to broadcast Aryan "Auflagesendungen" (mass-produced programs) like the music programs with German titles : "Gruss aus der Heimat" (greetings from the fatherland) and "Wunschconcerte" (request concert).
            The Dutch society protested against the German rule and persecution of the Jews with the "February-strike" of 1941. After this the Germans let no more room for talking. On 9 March 1941 the broadcasting organizations were dismantled, and a German propaganda-station "De Netherlands Omroep" (Dutch for: Dutch Broadcasting Organization) was founded. The personal and property of were taken over by "De Netherlands Omroep".
            The engineer Herwijer was in charge, he Nazified the organization by appointing Dutch national socialists (members of the NSB) on executive posts. In the spring of 1941 a obliged registration and a listening-fee was introduced to finance broadcasting. This fee replaced the membership-fee of the dismantled broadcasting organizations. About 1.300.000 were registered.
            Foreign broadcasts like the BBC and Radio Orange from the Dutch Government (in exile in London) were very popular with the Dutch people. The Germans were trying to stop the broadcasts any way they could, by forbidding to listen or by trying to jam. These measures were not effective enough, the final measure was the confiscation of all radios on 13 May 1943. Because the registration this measure was very effective. Of course, many tried to find ways to keep listening to Radio Orange. Many Dutch listened with their hidden radios to the Dutch broadcasts of "Radio Orange" from England. The BBC was also very popular.
            With "wire-broadcasting" the Nazis could control the programs which were passed on. Wire-broadcasting (in Dutch "Draadomroep" or "Radio-distribute") was the only radio which was allowed. During the last months of the war the Dutch could listen to "Radio Herrijzend Netherlands" from the liberated parts of the country.

V Conclusion
            Since the first radio station was established, radio broadcasting has continuously developed throughout history. Though at first, only minorities used radio, owing to station managers' effort, more and more began to use it. When radio became widespread, it was no longer the domain of professionals and was also being used for entertainment. Since then, radio became a part of people which enables them to listen to music and enjoy sports without inconveniences. Various programs introduced above shows tendency of commercial radio broadcasting because almost every program is focused on providing "entertainment" rather than information. Also, Political use of radio reveals how influential radio was at that time.
            Throughout history, radio has been functioned many different roles by broadcasting different types of programs. Although programs broadcasted today has slightly changed since invention of television, radio still remains as one of the popular medium to us.


Note : websites quoted below were visited in July 2008.
1.      An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology, Ian McNeil, Routledge, 1996
2.      McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology 15-8th ed., McGraw-Hill,Inc.,1997
3.      Hans Renders, Hans Blom and Piet de Rooij , Radio Oranje (Radio Orange), 2008,
4.      Article : Music Radio, from Wikipedia, 2008,
5.      Don Godfrey, History of Broadcasting, 1992,
6.      Sandra Ward, Losing the Signal, 2008
7.      A world of wireless, Radio Days, 2005
8.      Herman Boel, European Radio History, 2008
9.      Thinkquest, Our Favorites, 2005

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