1938: "Lahti, Finland..."
YLE 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
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
Following 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
Finland 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."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
continued producing the daily bulletins in
English and French, and YLE handled the domestic languages
for expatriate abroad.
In 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
Because 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
1958: The Foreign Ministry
discontinues its output, YLE cuts back its role as
The 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.
Also 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
In 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 day.
The changes that took effect on
October 10, 1958, amounted to an almost total
demise of the service level introduced in
The radio critic of the Uusi Suomi took up
the situation, only to get a sarcastic letter from Max
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.
The 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
On 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
Within 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
There 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 quality.
See 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
Though 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.
Just 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
Following 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 Australia.
1977: First ever domestic
"First 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.
As short wave broadcasts skipped nearby
areas, this was the first time listeners inside
Finland were able to hear the coverage in
1978: Foreign language FM
From 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.
His suspicions were unfounded
though , as from 1977 hands-on control of the contents had
been introduced. And until that time, if there had
tilt, it was towards the right, not left.
But 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.
Foreign Ministry financing ceases
The 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
1979: Professional proximity to
the YLE News is established, though formal
organization is separate.
Radio 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
Major 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
A lot of coverage focussed on the
Finnish security policy , and the fact that Finland
was a democracy in the "western sense of the
In 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.
For 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
From 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
The 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
Some 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.
Juhani Niinistö wrote a plan in
September 1985 based on the idea that German would be
started without any extra funding, simply taking the
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.
The 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
A separate item about the political
connotations involved in the launch of German will
The 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
In 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.
The Head of International Relations
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.."
French 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
YLE 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
The 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
Director 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
Timo 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
The 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.
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
1991: Major domestic PR
The 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.
YLE 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.
In one of the early campaigns
a wellknown TV role character ("The casual traveller)
was seen en route along with a portable radio.
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
Radio 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 and 2006.
1993: Radio Finland enters the
satellite age in a hurry
In 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 service.
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.
This was a very fast moving
project. In January 2003 the plan was still uncertain, but
the broadcasts via Berlin started already on May
Co-operation between YLE and
Deutsche Welle widened then later to cover
satellite availability in Asia and Australia.
YLE also got some funding from the
Foreign Ministry for the launch and for free satellite
equipment given to stations abroad.
While primarily 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
The 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.
The 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
Radio 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)
1996: Serving the Finnish
short term expats was defined as the
primary task of Radio Finland
Upon 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 their ancestry.
This 1996 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" possible.
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 operations.
The "Siikala strategy" remained
valid until the early years of the 2000s.
1996: Radio Finland divided into
Radio 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
Radio 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
Radio 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
The CBC relay was available to YLE
at no extra cost and was one of the major channel of
distribution for the YLE English service.
The service continued until
the closing of English by YLE in October 2002.
1998: Presence at Travel
Radio 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
YLE 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 satellites.
1998: TV Finland starts
YLE 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.
The 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
Finland 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.
Later the Expatriate Parliament
became a key forum for the discussion of the
plans of the YLE to close down the
1998: Services in small
YLE 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 of Mari.
2002: YLE gives up English,
German and French as part of the international service
YLE took fairly fast paced
decisions to give up broadcasting in foreign
languages internationally, except in
The decisions were okeyed by the Administrative
Council, the highest parliamentary control body of
The Press 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
´Radio Finland, in its broadcasts
and responses to listener questions, remains fairly
neutral. A unit of a company cannot campaign against
corporate decesions or plans.
In 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.
English 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 French services.
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 whole
2003: YLE restricts marketing of
YLE 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 marketing information.
YLE had 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.
In line with the instructions, Radio
Finland cancelled all advertising comparing the
cost of radio to the cost of a mobile phone,
Suomi-Seura, an expatriate interest
organization, and Expatrium, a commerical operation
serving high end expatriates, continued giving
publicity to the marketing slogans of Radio
2005: Tough debates
The 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 wanted..
Suomi-Seura published a
mass circulation leaflet in support of keeping the broadcast
service on the air. The SS leaflet
looked somewhat like earlier YLE material.
In 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.
Key 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.
This 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
Having left YLE, Niinistö lived
for many years in Canada and divides his time today
between Germany and Finland.
Any comments to
juhani.niinisto AT ulkomaanmedia.net