Comparing YLE  Radio Finland with  the Swedish and  Swiss counterparts:

Finland  rose and  fell  the quickest of the three


German born  Frank Luthardt  wrote  in 2010  an extensive  academic  report comparing  three  organizations  involved  in international broadcasting,  SR Radio Sweden,  YLE  Radio Finland  and the  SRG Swiss Radio International.  Produced  at Roskilde University/Malmö Högskola  the work was academically  part of  the  Öresund  Master Programme of  European Studies.

" When the Cold  War  was over, Radio Finland still had its best years ahead  and was just right in the middle of an expansive period while Radio Sweden and  Swiss Radio International  had to back down, close languages or define a new role for themselves.."

The history of the Finnish international service had been  rather different  from that of Radio Sweden and Swiss Radio International.   In the form it was known from the late 60s, Radio Finland  was  financed  by  YLE on the basis of  its  regular  TV usage fee  revenue and and  it did not have much contact with the Foreign Ministry. All through its years  YLE  Radio Finland gave priority to serving Finnish nationals abroad and  foreign language programming  was in a secondary role, except perhaps during  the buildup of  foreing language  services  in 1985-1991.   (Radio Finland  had been preceded by  a totally  Foreign-Ministry run  foreign language  service that had been closed down in October 1958. Between 1958 and 1967 broadcasting continued, but foreign language programming was  restricted to some features for  SW enthusiasts.)   Radio  Sweden  and  Swiss  Radio  International  were primarily  serving  international audiences in  foreign languages.

Luthardt dismisses  the  view  that the  late  buildup of  Radio Finland  was primarily  related  to the  fear of the Soviet Union, rather he sees it  as a  personnel matter:
"However, being cautious towards the Soviet Union was probably not the only reason why programming at Radio Finland developed so slowly and late. Equally important seems to have been that before Juhani Niinistö, there had been no driving force within YLE committing itself to the establishment of a proper international broadcasting service. Without that dedication, not much was happening."

Luthardt notes that the Swiss service   had probably enjoyed the greatest international prestige during the Cold War,but it had to go through the deepest identity crisis and finally took the bravest step towards the future.  Radio Sweden went through a major transformation at the beginning of the 1990s and  been searching for its role for a long time and seemed, in the  assesment by the German writer in 2010, to have found its niche in becoming a national broadcaster that also can be used from abroad. 

The end of the Cold War did not cause a major change of  environment for  Radio Finland, Luthardt notes.  In fact, Radio Finland  still had its best years  coming: It was not a time of radical change at the department – in marked contrast to the situation in Sweden and Switzerland. - This may be a bit astonishing, Luthart notes,  as Radio Finland  had been the most political in its content (in its promotion of  Finnish neutrality and  active argumentation against  western claims  about finlandization, this added here by JN) of the three during the previous decades and one could expect that its mission now had become obsolete as it had happened to so many other international broadcasters. However, because of the late start, Radio Finland still had its best years ahead of it and was just right in the middle of an expansive period while its competitors had to back down, close languages or define a new role for themselves, Luthardt notes. Besides this, the station had always had a rather national focus, trying to inform about the country in general and to explain Finnish positions to people in other parts of the world. Even though it now became less necessary to emphasize that it was a "democracy in the western sense of the word", the goal of giving listeners a better understanding of Finland  remained  a relevant task to fulfil. So this can explain why there were no noteworthy changes in the programmes in Finnish, Swedish, English, German and French from Finland in the years around 1990.

On the other hand, two new language services were launched in that period.  Russian started in  November 1990. . Because of the historical relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union, this launch in  was a far more political issue than any of the earlier decisions  to open a language. Even after years of Perestroika and the more or less peaceful system change in many Eastern European countries, it was feared that the programmes could offend the still existing Soviet Union,Luthart notes and  explains how  the management  was careful to point out that  YLE  did not pursue any specific policy with the transmissions in Russian and emphasised the fact that they would be based on central scripts as the German and French were.

 Russian was also the only language that was not started on the initiative of Juhani Niinistö, Luthardt notes,  but because Reino Paasilinna, then YLE Director General, wanted to set up the service. There was very little time between the decision and the actual launch which led to problems with regard to recruitment and contents. So it took some years until the Russian service was finally established as a well-functioning subunit of Radio Finland, Luthardt notes

Luthardt also takes up the roundup in Latin. He  rightly  explains  it  was  not  an external  service production, but  from the  first domestic network.  It had started there in September 1989, but because of its presumed worldwide audience it was rebroadcast on international frequencies from early 1990 onwards. The service only occupied a fractional part of the total transmission hours, yet it was probably the programme for which the station has won most fame on the global radio scene. Vatican applauded it and many Latin teachers around the world have used it as learning material in their classes.

Luthardt  notes that  of the  three  services  reviewed, Radio Finland  came  down  fastest, between 2002 and 2006.   He  sees that  as a repercussion  of the organizational  position of  Radio Finland, as a part of  the national broadcaster. There were no outside  interests  to be  consulted, at least officially.   Fast  decisions  were  taken  by YLE, starting with the closing  of  German, French  and  English (as an international service language) in 2002.


Elsewhere on this site,  see the  timeline  of  Radio Finland,  both in  Finnish and  in English.

 Back to main page in English.