On the air waves  from Finland

Recollections  of  international radio from Finland

 Last update  20.12.2015     Editor:  Juhani Niinistö       juhani.niinisto   AT  ulkomaanmedia. net  (spaces added)                  

This logo of  YLE Radio Finland was used for some ten years from the early ´90s. Those were also the peak years of marketing world band radios  as an essential companion to travellers.

Based here on a photo from a poster the logo is not seen in all detail.

These pages feature information about the Finnish international broadcasting  service, YLE Radio Finland, during recent decades. This is not  a YLE site and no YLE material has been used. Pictures of  ads  are  from public displays.  The writer, Mr Juhani Niinistö  worked  as  Head of International radio at YLE  for decades, until leaving YLE in 2005.

Any comments to: juhani.niinisto AT ulkomaanmedia.net

In brief: Foreign language broadcasts 
from Finland

A detailed  timeline of  the ups and downs of  the Finnish  International Service  here.

Number of languages used varied,  at the height there were seven languages.

Bulletins in  English and French produced at the  Foreign Ministry  Radio  Service  Unit were broadcast on YLE. The Ministry closes  the  service in 1958.

Some  radio enthusiasts get  permission  from  YLE to produce programming in English.

YLE  launches a modest daily English service, including news.

English programming is developed and  expanded.

YLE resumes  German  service (had been closed in 1945).

YLE and the state finance jointly a new SW broadcasting station in Pori (western Finland).

YLE resumes  French  service (closed in 1958)

YLE resumes  Russian  service (closed in 1945)

YLE launches "Special Finnish", at slow speed.

YLE  launches availability on satellites, by 1997 the service covers the globe, except South America. Placement on YLE foreign language programming mainly in Russia, Canada, Germany and Australia.

YLE adds weekly  bulletins  in languages related to Finnish, such as  Udmurt and Mari, spoken in Russia.

YLE closes down  international services  in  English, German and French. Russian and the small Finno-Ugric languages continue.

With the closing of  SW  the remaining foreign language programmes and Special Finnish continue on satellites and internet.



A  detailed  timeline  here.



































"Zero  cents  per minute"


"Listen to radio from Finland  at the rate of  zero cent per minute..."  

YLE used the language of contemporary advertising of  mobile media  in its promotion of world band  radio in the late 90s and early 00s, as seen here in an ad  prepared for the annual Travel  Fair in Helsinki in 2001.

The campaign was fairly succesful and sales  of  world band radios   increased in Finland. Tourists  rediscovered the world band radio  as  a reaction to invoices that had been awaiting them on arrival from recent trips at home.  Marketing was eased  through the  all-day availability of  Radio Finland in  western Europe: 11755 and  6120 kHz gave an almost complete coverage from Germany to the Canaries from morning till late night.  When 11755 faded, 6120 opened.   The Finnish  service of  Radio Finland  for  Western and Southwestern Europe was not a typical block broadcast of  a limited duration, but an all day  service, like   domestic radio.

The slogan was phased out in 2003 as it had been found within the company  to give "conflicting marketing signals".

The decision must be understood against the backdrop of the increased  interest  of YLE at the time in the mobile handset media.  The  phrase  lived on some more years though  as part of  a compaign by expatriate organizations  to bloc plans to discontinue  world band radio  from Finland.    


YLE  Radio Finland  appears to have been the first  European  international broadcaster to open an 800-line (toll free) in the US, and  later in Canada.  Done in the very early 80s  the  move  had  an  expensive look, though the cost actually  was not that  high.  The   calls  never  reached Finland, but an answering system  at the office  of  John Berky,  the YLE  Radio Finland  audience  and distribution representative in North America. 

First  Radio Finland audience events  were  arranged by the  German  service.

More here.

Background was necessary in the early 80s

"Finland is  a democracy in the western sense of the word"

"Northern Report" covered Finland and the North for an international audience.  Read about the ins and outs of covering Finland  for western audiences during the last decades of the cold war. 

Northern Report, also known later as Compass North, entered the international airwaves  in a situation where Stockholm had been the place for covering the North for the world, also in international broadcasting.


Audience  reactions  to  closing  in 2002

The German service
was missed the most

In October 2002  YLE Radio Finland broadcasts in  English, German and French were closed.  Domestic news in English and the  Russian service continued. 

There was not much of a response to the closing internationally, except for the German service and the  YLE presence on CBC Overnight in Canada.  CBC Radio One had been relaying YLE in its night format since 1996 and a half hour of English from Finland  had become  a regular part of the night schedule. 

The fact that audience response to the closing of the German service would stand out was no surprise.  The language service had been the best part of  Radio Finland, in terms of  audience relations.

The Press Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  had made an attempt to influence the decisions of YLE. With no impact though.  The  services had been financed totally by YLE on the basis of its licence fee recenue. The Ministry had no official role in the service.

Coverage of the Helsinki  CSCE   in 1975

Surprising achievement
under freelancer management

In early August 1975  Yle Radio Finland  aired  live coverage of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Euroope from the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.  At the time, the English broadcasts were part of the corporate international relations unit and far indeed  from the Yle news services, in terms of  resources and management.  One Yle staffer from the radio news was involved, but the producer of the coverage was a freelancer of  British origin.  The worst scenario of the effort could have been major gravitation towards the West, but that did not materialize. Read more. 

Radio  Finland  on  the  international  broadcaster  scene

International  broadcasting was a  sector  where  your   closest colleagues  may be  in another  country. 

There  were   groups  of  stations    formed somewhat on political  lines.  Thus,  Voice of  America, the BBC  and  Deutsche Welle   were  co-operating   as a  group.   Then there was  “Group of  Six” (also at a time  seven)  including   Radio Nederland,  Radio  Sweden,  Swiss  Radio International, Radio Australia, Radio Japan  and  Radio Canada  International.      Radio Finland  was not  in any grouping. There  were  Nordic  SW meetings  but   they did not  constitute  much more than  a  framework for  Sweden  showing it was  biggest,  until the   fast  expansion   of   Radio Finland, of course.

 Within the  large  broadcasting  unions    international  broadcasting  (or  external)   did  not have much presence  for  decades, except on the technical side.  It was  not  until  the  late 70s  that   initiatives   were  taken  to change the  situation.    The  idea  was  to  establish   a  forum  within the  EBU  to  share  and  solve  problems   that  external  broadcasters  had in common.    Juhani  Niinistö  of  Radio Finland  was very keen  on  getting something  created,  as  Radio Finland  was  outside  all the existing groupings.    The initiative – originally  from  the Director General of  Radio Nederland  Joop Acda - got intense  support  from the Director General of  Radio Vaticana  Pasquale Borgomeo, S.J..

The  creation of  a space  for  international radio  within the EBU  was  debated  in three  meetings of the  EBU  Programme  Committee, in Istanbul 1980,  Athens 1980 and Lisbon in 1981. Juhani Niinistö  attended  all three  - and  was  allowed  to  promote the  idea even though the  YLE corporate level had   reservations   as  such a grouping  could  entail political risks, with a view to the neutral position  Finland  pursued.

YLE  was  a member in both the  Soviet bloc  broadcasting   union OIRT  and the  Western  Union   EBU.   OIRT  was actually the original  European broadcast union, but had  been taken over by the  Soviet bloc countries.  The  West had generally pulled out of OIRT, but YLE had  remained. 

Even though  YLE  was  active  in many OIRT  working  groups,   the  OIRT international  broadcasting working group  never  invited  YLE  Radio Finland.  There was one invitation inthe early 80s, actually, a  telex  in Russian, but a  cancellation  came the next day in German.   Had YLE  Radio Finland  been obliged to participated in OIRT working groups,  many OIRT  campaigns, if  aired on Radio Finland,  would have risked its  credibility. 

After  approval  of  the plan in Lisbon,  the first  preparatory meeting took place in Geneva in June 1982.   Plenary meetings  continued then to  be  arranged then  at roughly  18 month intervals.  In the late 80s  YLE  became  a member in the “small group”  or "steering group"  that  met more often and discussed  upcoming issues.   The  group  often met  in the  Vatican.

YLE  representatives  at the EBU Programme  Committee  meeting in Lisbon that took the final decision to  accept the  establishment of  an international broadcasting forum in the EBU.   From the right  Paul v Martens, Programme Director of  Swedish language YLE radio,  Liisi Lahtonen, a specialist in International Relations,  Jouni Mykkänen,  Director of  YLE Radio 1, Keijo Savolainen, Programme Director of  YLE Radio 2,  Juhani Niinistö, Head of  YLE International Radio.    On the left  there is  Joe Gwathmey  from the US  National Public  Radio. 


"Finnish international radio
rose and fell the quickest"

A  German  media  student  wrote in 2009  a  compelling  thesis  about YLE Radio Finland,  Radio Sweden and  the Swiss International  Service  in comparison. Read here.