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 1957. 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, 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 seems now 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 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 English and in Finnish.