1938: "Lahti, Finland..."
started low powered SW broadcasts from Lahti, the site of
the long wave transmitter. Annoucements by Ms Kaisu Puuska urged
listeners abroad to send in feed back.
1939-1945: War years
confiscated the 100 kW Marconi transmitter that had
been ordered by YLE to arrange coverage of the Helsinki olympics of
1940. Finland used low powered SW transmitters in Helsinki,
Lahti and Pori to air the voice of Finland during the war
years. Foreign language broadcasts were handled by the
State Information Service, at the height of operations seven
languages were used.
1945-1948: Early post war years
the end of hostilities, only broadcasts in English and
French continued. Following the closing of the governmental
information services a special Radio Unit was created
in the Foreign Ministry. It produced daily ten-minute
bulletins in English and French, the presenters walked from the
Ministry to YLE (15 Fabianinkatu) for the broadcasts. See the 1949
schedule on the right.
1948: Inauguration of the high powered transmitter in Pori
signed formal peace treaties with the UK and the Soviet Union in
1947. Already in 1946 the UK had allowed the 100 kW
transmitter (ordered before the war) to be shipped to
Finland and it was installed in Pori (west coast). A
formal inauguration event was arranged in 1948, aired
live - with the then YLE Director General Hella Wuolijoki
addressing an elite audience on location. President J.K.Paasikivi was
heard from Helsinki via circuit as part of the broadcast.
1949-58: "Years of routine work, without much enthusiasm."
Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued producing the daily
bulletins in English and French, and YLE handled the domestic
languages for expatriate abroad.
YLE no department was created for the sector and work was placed
in various sections as an extra duty. This made the
international programming something of a nuisance to many
within the old radio centre in the 1950s.
of the international service YLE had an almost 24-hour operation
in Helsinki. Although the domestic services had long
intermissions in the morning, afternoon and night, the
international broadcasts covered the rest.
1958: The Foreign Ministry discontinues its output, YLE cuts back its role as well.
then new official in charge of media services at the
Ministry, Max Jakobson wanted to close the radio service
and got enthusiastic support from the Head of
Programmes at YLE, Jussi Koskiluoma. Max Jakobson
seemed to see the future in the placement of
programming on foreign stations, as tapes. The language used by
Jakobson in some of the memoranda is fairly direct.
Finnish language special productions for expats were cancelled,
only the merchant navy hour remained following an intervention by
the respective union.
1958-1972: The era of "bussing" the broadcasts
the drastic cutback in October 1958 YLE closed
down even the broadcast audio circuit from Helsinki to the
west coast transmitter base. From then on until 1972 technicians
at the base taped portions of the domestic service for reruns
or the base simply aired domestic channels
live. The remaining programmes produced specially for
SW were sent to Pori as bus packets, arriving in Pori in a
The changes that took
effect on October 10, 1958, amounted to an almost
total demise of the service level introduced in 1948.
The radio critic of the Uusi Suomi took up the situation, only to get a sarcastic letter from Max Jakobson.
1958-1967: Radio enthusiasts take an international broadcasting role.
Initially after the closing of the Foreign Ministry
service there were no foreign language broadcasts. Then
some radio enthusiasts started producing magazines, mainly intended
for comparable radio enthusiasts. This was a monthly feature
first, but the service soon expanded to include a 30-minute
Finland-related magazine on Mondays and a 60-minute record
request programme on Fridays, with reruns the following day.
1967-1977: The Ministry reconsiders its position and gives some funding.
Finnish Foreign Ministry had changed its stand and gave YLE
a relatively small sum to start English language
programming on a daily basis. The demise of the sector had come
up also in a policy book written by N-B Storbom "Yleisradion suunta"
where he had noted the sector cannot be a playing ground for
enthusiasts only. YLE advertised for freelancers and
the first broadcast aired on May 4th, 1967
the domestic side seasonal news in English had started in
1965, but that production was unrelated to the international
side, though some freelancers were on the air in both.
1967-1977: Choice of organizational location hampers development
the YLE, the new English service was placed in
the office of International Relations. Some well known broadcast
journalists had been placed in the sector as upper echelon managers,
but the actual hands-on production suffered seriously
from lack of contact with the news sector. Many British and American
freelancers acted as "voices of Finland", but without sufficient
background, any day-to-day continuity and supervision.
were not that many issues related to content in the off news
productions, in the high brow items in particular, and in that genre
the newly-established service attained a good
a feature on this site about the early years of the
newly established English service. Coming soon.
1973: Circuit to Pori re-opens, a continuity unit starts in Helsinki
September 1973 marked the return to some of the service level of 1958.
A continuity studio was established in Helsinki and the circuit to Pori
was opened, though Pori continued airing night time programming from
tapes. - The unit showed imagination in making ends meet and
started using audio technicians as annoncers. Such a
combo operation did not start on the domestic side of public
radio in Finland until the 80s.
1975: CSCE broadcasts
all freelance, the English service of YLE was able to
produce limited coverage of the 1975 Helsinki Summit of the
Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.
preceding the event in August, a company wide strike by a freelancer
union had closed down the English service for two months.
Studio managers kept playing a current song of the time "They are
coming to take me away..ha,ha..".
1976: A new transmitter is added in Pori
a campaign by YLE and merchant navy related
organizations a new 250 kW Brown Boveri unit is purchased
for Pori, with some additional government funding. Also a
rotatable log-periodic antenna was constructed. This made
it possible to broadcast also to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and
1977: First ever domestic availability
of March, 1977, will remain in the history of Radio Finland
as a red letter day..." Those were the words Donald
Fields welcomed listeners on domestic Medium Wave. A
half hour every evening had been given to Radio Finland on MW
transmitters in Turku (Åbo) and Helsinki, and some of the evenings were
allocated to English.
wave broadcasts skipped nearby areas, this was the first time
listeners inside Finland were able to hear the coverage in
1978: Foreign language FM in Helsinki
February 1978 all the English language broadcasts
of Radio Finland started airing on an FM
frequency in Helsinki. The low power transmitter was the
result of activism shown by a YLE engineer who
suspected that the contents of the English service
were"left wing" and should be subject to control.
suspicions were unfounded though , as from 1977 hands-on control
of the contents had been introduced. And until that time, if
there had been a tilt, it was towards the right, not left.
the FM transmitter in Helsinki gave Radio Finland
a great PR boost in the capital metro area. One
should remember that there were no commercial stations at the time, and
the whole FM dial comprised five YLE channels, three in Finnish and two
in Swedish. This new channel was noted instantly.
1974: Foreign Ministry financing ceases
YLE English service had been launched on the basis of
a small subsidy from the Foreign Ministry. YLE had to apply
for the funding each year. One year the application had
been simply forgotten and the funding was no longer
available. No attempt was made to reactivate the system as
the cost of the operation was considered to be so minimal against the
backdrop of YLE resources anyway. Thus, from then on,
foreign language broadcasting from Finland was financed on
the basis of the annual TV usage fees paid by Finnish
1979: Professional proximity to the YLE News is established, though formal organization is separate.
Finland moved its production from the corporate office building
(at Kesäkatu 2) to downtown premises located right under
the national newsroom. This was important at a time when there
were no computer connections. 1980 Radio Finland moved to
the Pasila Center, along with the News.
organizational position as part of YLE International Relations
remained unchanged until 1986.
1978- Developing the format and criteria for English language news casts
effort was put in the late 70s and early 80s into the
content of the newscasts for international
distribution. See the item on this website about the
development of English language news operation.
lot of coverage focussed on the Finnish security policy ,
and the fact that Finland was a democracy in the
"western sense of the word".
1979 Radio Finland introduced two-hour talk shows in
the North American beam morning programme. The format continued
until the final years, under different names. See a
separate item appearing shortly.
most of the time, the host was Barbara Helsingius, an
entertainer and broadcaster. For some years the slot was handled
by Patrick Humphreys and Valerie Vainonen.
1980- Assuring the western sound image of Radio Finland
1980 scripting and presentation was separated in Radio
Finland. Writers had to have a good command of both
Finnish and English, to be able to understand the sources
correctly, and thus many of them were native Finns. The
presenters meanwhile could be hired on the basis of their on air
talent only and no command of Finnish was required.
The change gave Radio Finland a "western" sound, in
contrast to the Soviet bloc stations that mainly used their
nationals as on air talent. Within the service this
was considered to be a major image issue. -
1982: Campaigning for investments
technical situation in the Pori SW base started to be crucial, one mast
had to be taken down and most transmitters were from
the 40s. YLE campaigned to get government funding
as using Finnish TV usage payments for the investment
was not deemed to be correct.
1985: The German language resumes on Radio Finland
consideration had been given in the mid 70s within the International
relations (home of Radio Finland at the time) to starting German, but
the plans had not materialized. The formal obstacle was always
financing, but in the background there was concern about a
possible negative reaction by East Germany.
Niinistö wrote a plan in September 1985 based on the idea that
German would be started without any extra funding, simply taking the
resources from the English operation. He did not expect the
initiative to lead to anything, but suddenly the Director of the
Central Branch Jussi Tunturi gave his approval.
Niinistö then wanted to act quickly, to avoid a possible change
of opinion among the YLE top brass, and the service was
launched in mid October 1985 as a weekend operation.
German service got a good start, the first broadcast was
reported in ORF Radio News and got high visibility in the
upper left hand corner the back page of Berliner Zeitung (BZ,
In the formal
opening broadcast Domestic Radio Programme Director Keijo
Savolainen underlined audiences in "two other neutral
countries, Switzerland and Austria."
A separate item about the political connotations involved in the launch of German will appear shortly.
first producer of German, Dieter Krause, worked hard
to create a service and to promote it. The
German service was the first from Radio Finland to
arrange listener events and to attend expatriate
meetings. In 1991 Dr Stefan Tschirpke took over as a
producer and remain in the position until the closing of
German in 2002.
1986: Corporate location changes
June 1986 Radio Finland moved from its
position as part of YLE International Relations to
the domestic Radio Unit. International Relations had
been a safe and secure home during the
build up, once the International Relations had understood the
importance of the service. But the corporate distance from
operational radio had been huge.
Head of International Relations Mrs Ulla-Kristiina
Haarma said that Radio Finland had now grown to such dimensions
that it would "be accepted as a feather in anyone's cap".
Haarma's predecessor Ville Zilliacus (a nationally known veteran
broadcaster) had, when retiring in 1980, warned
Niinistö to keep "head down so that you wont be hit.."
returned in February 1987. The then Director of Radio
Jouni Mykkänen backed the idea: "As there is German, there should
be French as well". The French service
inherited first the weekend slots that had been
vacated by German, now a daily operation. French became
a daily fifteen minute bloc by the end of the decade. Brita
Jokinen-Morris, a broadcaster from the Finnish service was
assigned as producer, freelancers were recruited.
The YLE French Service never
attained the level of audience popularity of the German
service. It attracted many friends though,
particularly in Africa. - In the late 90s French and
German were combined as a production group.
1987: Domestic AM becomes Radio Finland territory
had closed most of its domestic AM stations, simply for lack
of audiences. FM covered the whole country. The
remaining three stations (MW in Helsinki and Pori, LW in Lahti) started
airing the compilation channels (selections from YLE networks and
separate productions) of Radio Finland.
1988: New Pori base inaugurated
new Pori transmitter site started broadcasting in 1987. A
formal inuguration was on May 10, 1988. YLE Director
General Sakari Kiuru gave a keynote speech and the
base was formally inaugurated by the General Director of the Ministry
of Communication Juhani Korpela.
1990: Russian starts
General Reino Paasilinna took up in early
September the possibilities of resuming
broadcasts in Russian. He pursued his idea vigorously
and the broadcasts could begin as early as November
1990. While the services in German and French had
been iniatives from Radio Finland, the startup of
Russian was a corporate project clearly reflected in
the ease in getting resources such as working space, normally
difficult to obtain in those days.
Uotila, a broadcaster with previous YLE service in pr
and information as well as Finnish language broadcasts was
assigned a producer. Staffers were hired mainly on
part time and freelance basis. Later Eija Laitinen, formerly a
corporate intrepreter, joined as a producer.
1991: Capital FM
Helsinki "monitoring relay" of Radio Finland became a
fully fledged radio station in October 1991, programmed by Radio
Finland. There had been empty slots between YLE
foreign language segments. They were filled with
relays from VOA, BBC, DW in German and RFI in French.
Later during the 90s the selection of languages
and broadcasters expanded. See a
separate item on domestic foreign language operations.
1991: Major domestic PR
YLE corporate information unit devoted major
attention to external broadcasting in the early 90s.
The intention was to help travellers discover
Radio Finland as a way to keep in touch with home.
was somewhat unique in marketing its external service
domestically. In countries where a high barrier
existed between domestic and international broadcasting
this was not usually done.
one of the early campaigns a wellknown TV role
character ("The casual traveller) was seen en route along with a
Later during the
90s Radio Finland itself underlined world band
radio as a cheap way of keeping in touch. Finnish nationals had
been hit by high mobile usage charges abroad and
sales of world band radios went up in Finland,
briefly before the demise of the sector.
1992: Slow speed Finnish begins
Finland launched weekly roundups in slow speed
Finnish, with simplified conjugations. There was some
demand for this kind of operation among second or
third generation Finns in North America. "Special
English" developed by VOA in the late 50s was seen as
an example. Slow speed Finnish later developed
into a daily service and continues even today
on YLE. It is one of the few products developed at Radio Finland
that survived the drastic closedown enacted between 2002
1993: Radio Finland enters the satellite age in a hurry
1992 Radio Finland staffers found out in a press clipping
that Radio Sweden has started making its Russian
available for placement from satellite, in Russia.
There was no way YLE could match the
We found out somehow though
that Deutsche Welle had spare capacity in its
satellite Eutelsat. Juhani Niinistö and the DW Head
of Marketing Burkhardt Nowotny drew up a contract and
the Director of Radio Tapio Siikala approved it. The
YLE Technical Division had reservations and would have liked to wait
until the new digital satellites would be on line. That would have been
years. But their view was not accepted.
was a very fast moving project. In January 2003 the plan was
still uncertain, but the broadcasts via Berlin
started already on May 1, 1993.
between YLE and Deutsche Welle widened then later to
cover satellite availability in Asia and Australia.
also got some funding from the Foreign Ministry for the
launch and for free satellite equipment given to stations
intended for services in Russian in Russia, the
availability of satellite was quickly discovered by
contemporary expatriate communities in Southern
Europe. And the migration from SW to satellite downlink got
The rest of Europe was already starting television satellite channels, Finland did just radio.. Why?
.The main reason is, seen in 2012, that organizationally external
radio was part of the Radio Unit in YLE, and in the TV unit no with
sufficient clout was interested in launching international TV
from Finland. Actually, the idea was met with fear. And
from Radio Finland nothing could be done regarding
TV. It was not until former prime minister Kalevi
Sorsa in his capacity as the chairman of an
expatriate service organization used his influence
and almost forced YLE to launch TV Finland in 1998.
1993: Lahti LW closes
Long Wave station in Lahti on 254 kHz (1181m) "went on
hiatus" on May 31, 1993. There had been plans for a
new LW base on the southwestern coast, but there was no
financing and somehow the view was that LW had no role in
the broadcast set up of satellites, SW and MW.
last half hour of Lahti was narrated by Juhani Niinistö, with the radio
Head Announcer Pentti Fagerholm giving the last announcement
followed by the 12 noon chimes of the Turku Cathedral clock
and two rounds of the YLE radio logo. Following the closing
Radio Finland got complains mainly from areas
close to Finland in the East.
1995: Satellite services expand
Finland became a customer to the World Radio
Network, a service company launched by London based
experts with former service at the BBC. Within a few
years Radio Finland co-operation with WRN grew into a
10-day satellite feed in the US and Canada daily and two 24
digital channels in Europe, and internet operations (see below)
Serving the Finnish short term expats was
defined as the primary task of Radio Finland
initiative from Radio Director Tapio Siikala a
detailed strategy for YLE international radio
was established. The service in Finnish
and Swedish for Finns temporarily abroad
was defined as the primary task, while traditional
emigrants would be the second target group.
Foreign language services were seen primarily
intended for those listeners abroad who would be specifically
interested in Finland, for work related reasons or because of
strategy has a major impact on programmingon Radio Finland.
For example, Finnish language sports relayed
from the domestic services were increased greatly, to
include live hockey, etc. The idea was to attract listeners
temporarily abroad in the same fashion as in Finland. In
Western Europe Radio Finland SW services was
now available all day, making "domestic listening habits"
The strategy also
greatly improved the internal position of the Finnish and Swedish
language side of Radio Finland. In the 80s and early
90s the Finnish service - even though larger in
volume - had become somehow subservient to the foreign language
The "Siikala strategy" remained valid until the early years of the 2000s.
1996: Radio Finland divided into two units
Finland comprised from now on two units, one for the
Finnish and Swedish language operation and one for foreign languages.
The Managing Editor for Finnish and Swedish was
Pertti Seppä, and one for foreign languages was
Christina Rockstroh, of German extraction.
1996: The first internet services of YLE
Finland opened the first continous
internet audio channel of YLE. This was done
with the assistance of WRN (London), the servers were
in London and soon also as a mirror server in the US. The audio
was downlinked in London from Eutelsat.
1996: Daily relays in English in Canada
Finland became a part of the CBC Overnight.
Arranged via the WRN in London, the daily Radio Finland half
hour was taken down from satellite atthe CBC in Toronto,
shortened somewhat and aired nationally. During the
first years the YLE slot was at 3.30 am in most time zones, and later
closer to the morning.
CBC relay was available to YLE at no extra cost and was one of
the major channel of distribution for the YLE English
The service continued until the closing of English by YLE in October 2002.
1998: Presence at Travel Fairs
Finland appeared for the first time in the Finnish
national travel fair "Matkamessut" in Helsinki. Short
wave radio was marked increasingly as a
travel companion underlining its low cost compared to
taking contact with the mobile phone just to hear the news.
Sales of world band radios increased in Finland and also YLE started selling receivers.
1998: DAB and New Services
created a subunit that comprised Radio Finland
and newly established special services on DAB.
Later two regional (Helsinki and surrounding areas) foreign
language DAB channels are created to complement
the Capital FM, one all in English, while the other channel
features the rest of the languages used in downlinks from
1998: TV Finland starts
starts a Pay-TV channel for Europe. Customer
management was outsourced and the actual transmission was placed
with a satellite from the Norwegian Telenor, at 1 deg West. The
sky position was not wellknown in continental Europe (dominated by
Eutelsat at 13 and Astra at 19 deg) and hampered the
attractiveness of the service. Subscriber levels
remained faily low.
Until fairly late
in the preparations "continental" alternatives
as a satellite were under consideration, but YLE
chose the Norwegians in the end.
fairly low key choice by the TV meant that the "radio
only" satellites purchased by the radio unit remained
viable. Radio Finland satellite audio in Europe could be listened
to via a satellite dish beamed to the "same direction" as the
1998: Expatriate parliament
Society (Suomi-Seura, Finland Samfundet) created a forum
for Finnish nationals abroad, Expatriate
Parliament. Radio Finland started broadcasting its plenary
meetings live and later also some of the regional
caucus meetings in various continents.
the Expatriate Parliament became a key forum for the
discussion of the plans of the YLE to close down the
1998: Services in small Fenno-Ugric languages
Radio Finland started weekly roundups in small
Fenno-Ugric languages spoken in Russia. The project
was part of a Finnish government project to help those
languages in maintaining relevance in a Russian speaking
environment. The content of the broadcasts was produced at the
University of Turku, based on scripts provided by Radio
Finland. The languages were Udmurt and two versions
2002: YLE gives up English, German and French as part of the international service
took fairly fast paced decisions to give up
broadcasting in foreign languages internationally,
except in Russian.
The decisions were okeyed by
the Administrative Council, the highest parliamentary control body
Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs deplored
the plan, but no political action outside
YLE on behalf of the foreign language disposal plan was
Finland, in its broadcasts and responses to listener
questions, remains fairly neutral. A unit of a company cannot
campaign against corporate decesions or plans.
the wake of the closings in October, listener feed back is
largest in German, also addressed to the Finnish Embassy in
Berlin. The closing of the relays on CBC attract comments
as well. The CBC replaced Finland
initially with material from the Voice of Russia.
language radio news for domestic use continued
as a production of TV News. YLE had launched TV news in
English some years earlier. Some employees of the RF
English get employment at the TV News. There is no
form of continuation of the media tradition of the German and
Please note the
closings were not "closing the SW" and continuing in the
internet, as done in Sweden, for examples, but a cessasion of the
2003: YLE restricts marketing of SW
Marketing told Radio Finland that the cost
effectiveness of world band radio should no longer be used
as a marketing theme. It had been established that
comparing the cost of listening to radio to the cost of listening radio
via a mobile phone would be conflicting
adopted the development of content for mobile
phone devices as part of its strategies. In that situation focus
on the high cost of usage abroad, on the roaming basis available
to non-residents, was considered illogical and inappropriate.
line with the instructions, Radio Finland cancelled all
advertising comparing the cost of radio to the cost of a
expatriate interest organization, and Expatrium, a commerical
operation serving high end expatriates, continued
giving publicity to the marketing slogans of Radio Finland.
2005: Tough debates
year was marked with tough exchanges
between YLE and interest organizations
representing expatriate Finns. At the May plenary
meeting of the Expatriate Parliament in Helsinki the
debate was hectic. Representing YLE there was
the Chairman of the Administrative Council (highest
parliamentary control body), in the end he ran out of arguments
and said simply that YLE was allowed and in position to do whatever it
published a mass circulation leaflet in support of keeping
the broadcast service on the air. The SS
leaflet looked somewhat like earlier YLE material.
the autumn YLE merged Radio Finland (as a unit)
with Radio Peili (a spoken word channel). The new unit was
named "Compilation Channels" (koostekanava), based on the
idea that both channels used material from other YLE
The Head of Radio Peili became the head of the new
unit. Juhani Ninistö, who had been head of Radio
Finland, left the company at the end of 2005.
components of the programme services of Radio Finland in
Finnish and Swedish were deleted during the
year. Broadcasting on SW and MW from Pori was
closed down at the end of 2006. Medium wave from
Helsinki went on a few more years.
site a private media history venture by Juhani
Niinistö. He worked as Head of YLE Radio Finland, a
section responsible for international radio and domestic foreign
language radio, for a considerable time until 2005.
juhani.niinisto AT ulkomaanmedia.net