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World Radio Day: 100 years of radio

The importance of radio is yearly celebrated on the World Radio Day on February 13. The mission of UNESCO is to stress the importance of the medium in the way it informs us, changes us and brings us together. In the Netherlands 2019 is the year of the radio.

On february 24 it is exactly 100 years ago that the first wireless radio connection was demonstrated at a fair in the city of Utrecht. A distance of 1200 meters was covered during this two weeks event, that was even witnessed by queen Wilhelmina.

The sensation of wireless sound must have felt like the way we experience the Internet of Things nowadays. Although it was unclear what these wirelss sounds in radio would offer, it was called wireless telephone at the time. Radio was primarily used for ships to communicate in morse codes. In the Netherlands people could listen to music in the first regurlar broadcast on November 6 when Hanso Idzerda started his weekly show on PCCG. This was a worldwide start for regurlar broadcasting.

Eddy Startz - Pioneer of Happiness

What to celebrate?

And thus the Netherlands celebrates one hundred years of radio in 2019. What to celebrate with a centennial anniversary of a medium? Obviously it is the miracle of the technology that turned into a mass medium by 1930. For the general audience the memory of radioshows, a sense of nostalgia will be more prominent in the celebration. The social and cultural value of the medium is in the World Radio Day theme: Radio as the basis for dialogue, tolerance and peace.

For many international listeners the theme might call into memory the Happy Station that Eddy Startz made for decades for Radio Netherlands Wereldomroep. He started the programme in 1928 and continued to do so until his retirement in 1970. Initially it was the PCJ transmitter by Philips Omroep Holland Indie (PHOHI), after 1945 it was the Radio Netherlands World service. Startz believed that radio could help to bring world peace, for him PCJ stood for Peace, Cheer and Joy. The Happy Station was to broadcast ‘friendship over the airwaves’.  By his own account, Startz could speak half a dozen languages, and a dozen half. The programme was popular, considering the mail and responses that Startz and his succesors had with The Happy Station.

In the video below on 2.12-2.30 you can see a fragment of Startz.  

International conference about the history of radio

Most activities to celebrate the one hundred years of Radio will be taking place his fall. Obviously November 6 is the Day of Radio in the Netherlands. Hopefully we will be able to broadcast from a replica of Idzerda’s PCCG transmitter. On november 7 and 8 the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision will host an International conference about the History of the medium. During these two days the development of radio news, programming of music, covering sport events on radio, the International radio as well as the future of Radio research will be discussed. Confirmed speakers are  Michele Hilmes and Kate Lacey. For scholars the conference would be worth a trip to the city of Hilversum, known as the Dutch Media City that hosted radio broadcasting for almost one hundred years.