YLE Capital FM
brought foreign language international
news to the FM dial in Finland
In Mid-November 1991 YLE Radio Finland, the international radio service of YLE, launched a domestic station based on relays of leading international broadcasters as well as its own output, primarily produced for listeners abroad. Formal restrictions against being domestic had never existed, but due to the propagation situation YLE Radio Finland had no domestic audiences until the mid 70s. In 1977 air time had been given on two domestic MW stations and in 1978 a low powered FM was started in Helsinki, for relay the foreign language segments of YLE Radio Finland. While the medium wave stations were intended to be listened in neighbouring countries the FM was rather acquired as a platform for control. Members of the parliamentary control body could listen and find out what the external service was doing.
It was that "control FM" that was developed first as a temporary foreign language transmitter with special extended YLE coverage of events such as the 10th anniversary of the Helsinki Summit in 1986 - with president Ford returning to Helsinki for the occasion - and the Helsinki Summit in 1990 between George Bush and Michail Gorbachov.
With placement on local stations becoming very common, the idea was developed in the YLE external service to fill in the gaps in the day schedule with foreign programming. The BBC Finnish Section had become a part of the format of many Finnish commercial stations, and the same could be applied to the external service FM. However, YLE was not prepared to pay for any programming. Juhani Niinistö had taken up the idea at a meeting hosted by CBC in Hamilton (Ont) for a selection of international broadcasters. And it appeared to be feasible. The plan was given a go-ahead in late summer 1991 - and following the installation of satellite receivers and a somewhat elementary automation system the service was started in November 1991.
The first three programme providers used were the BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle (in German) and VOA Europe. Radio France Internationale in French was added in early 1992. VOA Europe was also swapped for the VOA Worldwide English channel. VOA Europe was part of the programming of many commercial stations in Finland at the time and the more serious Worldwide English was considered more appropriate.
YLE was apparently the first non-AFN station to use US public radio in Europe as FM placement. The program was the CSpan Weekly Radio Journal, a production by Beth Talesman for the CSpan audio networks. The feed comprised a telephone line from WAMU, but it was better than nothing. YLE also participated in the two week trial run of NPR in Europe and started using NPR when the service became regular. VOA remained as part of the Capital FM until - in 2001 - they themselves told YLE the service was being reduced and was no longer available.
The English output on the Capital FM expanded later to include ABC Radio Australia and the South African SABC, both via the World Radio Network in London.
Taken the fact that many Finnish pensioners had started spending winter seasons in Spain and Portugal, and having picked up some of the language at least, were keen on keeping abreast with news down there also while in Finland, an effort was made to bring in Spanish and Portuguese. The Spanish news channel, RNE Todo Noticias started in the mid 90s, but the Portuguese Radio was not interested. From Spain YLE wanted specifically the domestic news network, not the external service. The Finnish listeners would be familiar with the domestic news network, not with the external service. Efforts to include RAI were not successful, but as an alternative the Vatican Radio in Italian was obtained, with their weekday radio journal. For some years China Radio International (in English) was heard, available via WRN. Later Nordic languages, Danish and Norwegian were added, from the national broadcasters NRK and DR.
The FM service had a low power frequency in Helsinki. For some years in the mid-90s parts of the schedule were heard also over stations in Turku, Tampere, Kuopio and for a shorter period Jyväskylä.
With the introduction of DAB in Finland, two additional networks were created with complementing programming and some stations that were not heard in the main Capital FM, such as Voice of Russia in Russian. The BBC in Russian was added and later their news in Russian became part of the YLE Russian output heard domestically. One of the alternative services was all in English, another all in non-English foreign languages. The DAB networks were initially available in the Helsinki area, but were intended to be widened later. DAB, however, was called off for lack of receivers and popularity. See the schedules below.
In 2005 the name of the station was changed into YLE Mondo. The name had already been used for one of the DAB special networks. The channel was to be a radio service connected with the DVB based digital television in Finland. It became available later in the whole country as a side service of TV. The FM in Helsinki remained in use.
The foreign language services of YLE Radio Finland were reassigned in 1998 to be primarily serving the domestic audience though continuing to be available internationally. This meant that early morning broadcasts were created - while the traditional evening times - more suitable for Western European listeners, for example, were abandoned. The English half hour, for example, was now available at 7.30 am and 9.30 am Finnish time, with a morning flavor. The block was rerun during the day for Asia and North America.
In 2002 YLE Radio Finland production in English, German and French was discontinued, while Russian remained. The news unit of YLE television had started producing news for TV some years earlier and started producing news for radio as well.
For the latest phase in the story of the Capital FM/YLE Mondo consult their website, www.yle.fi/mondo.
The foreign language radio output at the time when the two DAB services were available as well.