The living archive

Five years after its demise as a broadcaster, Radio Netherlands is beginning to stir in its grave. We ain’t dead yet… There’s a lot of activity on the web, such as these two sites about the orphaned Radio Netherlands archive:

and if you don’t dislike facebook, you can find more here:

Looking ahead, rather than back to the past, will be this symposium on international broadcasting:

So there’s plenty going on here, for the sake of posterity.

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Radio Netherlands one-day broadcast

Celebrating its 70th birthday, a special broadcast was made by former Radio Netherlands staff from the Automobile Museum in Schagen, North Holland province. The museum is home to the only surviving RN Outside Broadcasting Van, which has been restored, outside and in, to its original condition. This includes all of the valve-driven studio equipment, which was built to Netherlands Radio Union specifications, matching the public radio studios in Hilversum. Niels Zack is the engineer who put in a lot of labour and love into the machinery, which was actually used during the broadcast.

Most of the 7-hour show on 15 April 2017 was in Dutch and went out on shortwave, mediumwave, DAB+ and several internet channels. A 1980s documentary in English on shortwave broadcasting was aired in its entirety; other English content included a telephone conversation with Graham Gill and several messages from listeners on the day.

If you missed it, a download is available at

Or watch a video

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Studios and offices now National Heritage

The former Radio Netherlands studios and offices have been designated National Heritage monuments by the Dutch Culture Minister, Ms. Jet Bussemaker. In a drive to preserve recent buildings, characteristic of the post-WWII reconstruction period, the former home of RNW in Hilversum was listed in recognition of the way it ‘symbolized the development of Dutch radio and television broadcasting’.

RNW_buildingDesigned by architects J.H. van den Broek and J.B. Bakema, the building was officially opened in 1961 by the then monarch, Queen Juliana. Referring to the ground plan’s outline, she wished “this beautiful dragonfly” a happy and productive flight. And that is what happened. Until July 2012 the building buzzed with activity, producing international radio programming in countless languages, beamed to the world on shortwave, satellite and the web, around the clock.

Watch a video of the building, eerily empty shortly after the departure of all the staff, and just before it was taken over by its new tenants, a domestic broadcaster: RNW the way it was. Courtesy of Peter Veenendaal:

(Originally published on Dutch website De Wereld Online)

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RN Service Indonesia… Ranesi!

Radio Netherlands’ international service aimed at Indonesia closed at the same time as the other sections in 2012. Known by its syllabic acronym Ranesi, the service provided independent news and background to a faithful listenership in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia.

A number of Ranesi’s journalists took early retirement when the radio and web service ended, but quite a few of them are active on the web. Owing to their efforts, bits of Radio Netherlands’ Service Indonesia are living on.

Here’s a random selection:

Bari Muchtar is running, continuing Radio Netherlands’ tradition of news about the Netherlands in the language of the target audience – Bahasa Indonesia in this case. Bari is also on Twitter.

Yanti Mualim, who served as Head of the Ranesi section for many years, has turned blogger with her Dunia Taman.  Topics on the multilingual blog (Bahasa, Dutch, English) are often associated with to gardens and parks around the world, as well as with Yanti’s own history.

Former Indonesia correspondent Edwin Mooibroek has settled in the Netherlands and is actively continuing his career as a journalist here.

Eka Tanjung has realized his dream with Sepakbolanda, a website in Bahasa full of football (soccer) news. And he’s on Twitter, too.

Fediya Andina is on Twitter
Han Harlan is on Twitter

… to name but a few.

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Another one bites the dust…

After their valiant effort to resuscitate the Dutch week in review – in Dutch – the former RNW team at De Week Die Was had to throw in the towel. The ex-RNW staff who produced the weekly show for podcast and for rebroadcast on several stations, including in NZ, unfortunately lost their sponsor. The week 52 edition of 2015, therefore, was their last. One final chance to hear vestiges of Radio Netherlands’ Dutch service here:

Click to listen to DWDW in Dutch – last edition

Our thanks to hosts Wim Vriezen en Gerda den Hollander, spiritual leader Peter Veenendaal and the crew behind the scenes. Tot ziens!

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RNW talent at home on prime time national TV

In the late 1990s Simone Weimans and Max Ohlenschlager hosted RNW’s Roughly Speaking, a fast-paced programme aimed at the station’s young listeners. Deftly produced by Howard Shannon, the weekly show presented an amalgam of the Dutch music scene, social issues around the world and cultural events aimed at the under-30s.

“Where are they now” is a favourite pastime among radio fans, and we’re no different. So: Max Ohlenschlager has moved on to become a social worker counselling young people; Howard Shannon is a currently a radio producer working for the BBC, and Simone Weimans is still presenting fast-paced shows telling you “what is hot and what is not”. Except that now, she is doing it on national TV, hosting the 6 o’clock news:


Roughly Speaking‘s signature tune was by Amsterdam band The Treble Spankers, who were hot in the Dutch capital around 1995, despite their somewhat anachronistic surf sound.

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Recreating the past: Liberation of Netherlands, 1945

Seventy years after the event, the Dutch are commemorating the liberation from Nazi occupation of 5 May 1945. To mark the occasion, Radio Netherlands’ Dutch service in 2005 restored a radio broadcast originally aired from London by Holland’s extraterritorial station Radio Oranje on that date in 1945.
Ten minutes of the original half-hour programme had to be reconstructed, carefully degrading the sound quality, mixing in some interference, and revoicing part of the original scripts, which were discovered in the Radio Netherlands archives.
Listening to mid-20th century Dutch AM radio is not always easy on 21-st century ears used to crystal clear reception. But you might want to give it a try if you missed the show 70 years ago.

Listen to Radio Oranje’s Liberation Broadcast on Soundcloud.

The first reconstructed fragment is a news broadcast, 8 minutes into the programme. Recreated in 2005 by voice artist Cees Wijburg. He briefly returns on the 14th minute. The poem read by A. den Doolaard at 15’20, The Eighteen Dead by Jan Campert, was taken from a film newsreel soundtrack to replace the original reading which had gone missing.

Similar, but…
In 2015, Dutch domestic radio produced a number of period newscasts, voiced in classical style by stalwart reader Donald de Marcas. The events of May 1945 unroll before your very ears. The sound quality, however, is well and truly 2015. As is the modern slightly sloppy Dutch accent of the nameless reporter briefly appearing in the middle of the newscast…

Listen to NPO Radio bulletin with news of 5 May 1945.

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Newsline – a sideways look at current affairs

Although RN’s English service was quite a small operation by international standards, it boasted its own current affairs programme, Newsline. For a couple of decades, the station’s journalists sought out intelligent comment on the news of the day. It was not the usual talking heads that were heard on the show; that would have been a mere duplication of what other English-speaking broadcasters were doing. Instead, Newsline always tried to find a different take by interviewing experts, commissioning tailor-made dispatches from its own network of correspondents, or reworking material supplied by any of the other language sections.
And standing firmly in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, Newsline’s reporters could be ruthless inquisitors. Here’s a clip from 2010, with Marijke Peters (I believe) trying to get to the bottom of a Pakistani fatwa situation.

Newsline did not survive until the end of English broadcasts. As fewer people were available to produce the programme’s three daily editions, five days a week, it was wound down a couple of years before the end of the English service.

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Your weekly fix of news in Dutch

If you never cut the umbilical cord with the Netherlands, you could always rely on shortwave radio to keep you in touch with the news from the Dutch.

Maybe your Dutch grandparents emigrated to the US in the 1950s. Or your parents left Holland’s shores to settle in Australia in the 1960s. Perhaps you tried to find a new life far from Friesland, Groningen or Limburg in the 1970s.

Whatever your background, you lost your radio link with the old country in June 2012. But all is not lost! If you’re still yearning for your weekly fix of Holland’s news in Dutch, DWDW will supply you with all you need.

The diligent folks at DWDW (De Week Die Was) have just published their 10th weekly roundup. Listen to it here to brush up your Dutch: De Week Die Was .

Oh, and you can also listen to the show when you’re out on a remote campsite somewhere in Italy, Austria or France!


DWDW host Wim Vriezen with Peter Veenendaal

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Digging for gold, finding Earth Beat

There was a bit of a fracas over the past month when the old website was taken offline by the management of the new While most of the audio archives have found a safe home, no such luck for the old website. It contained a wealth of material published by Radio Netherlands, from the beginnings of the internet in the mid-1990s until June 2012. It served as an online archive of material produced by RNW when it was a public broadcaster. Ground-breaking productions by eminent journalists, from Robert Chesal’s child abuse investigations to Hans Jaap Melissen’s eyewitness accounts from Haiti or Tahrir Square, are no longer available to the public.
We will not repeat the whole discussion here; suffice it to say that despite many protests the management has refused to retrace its steps, saying that the old content is no longer relevant to the new target groups of RNW.
I would like to put a more positive slant on this. We had a good thing going, we understand why it is no longer there, but we, the makers, don’t want to disown what we did before June 2012. It’s amazing how much of the old Radio Netherlands is still lurking around in nooks and crannies of the web beyond the reach of the new management, or is even continuing in a new guise – witness the links to the right.
I just added a link to the Earth Beat channel on Youtube, with videos which give you a taste – in more senses than one – of the kind of topics the radio programme featured.

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