Members of the English Section:
Ana Maria Palcu
Ana Maria Popescu
The Pioneers of the English Service:
The pioneers of the English Service were Edith and Max Eisinger, a couple of radio enthusiasts educated in England. They were followed by reputed intellectual and journalist, Catinca Ralea, who did a series of exceptional interviews with world famous people like writers Saul Bellow, William Saroyan, Alvin Toffler and Iris Murdoch, musicians Yehudi Menuhin and Arthur Rubinstein, sculptor Henry Moore and politicians Margaret Thatcher and Edward Kennedy. And later by another truly remarkable voice Alexandru Fole.
Once Upon a Time...
The first experimental radio broadcasts aired by Romania for listeners in foreign countries were music programmes. That was in 1927, a year before the National Radio Broadcasting Society was established, in 1928.
In the beginning, as only natural, radio communication was not limited by borders, save those of a technical nature. But the good times were soon brought to a halt by the dictatorial regimes - be it the Nazi or the communist regime - which discovered the role of interference and jamming and also of deceitful or simply hostile propaganda.
The first official broadcast in Romanian was aired on November the 1st, 1928, on a 400 Watt transmitter, in the 401.6 metre band. The address of the new Radio-Phone Broadcasting Society (as it was named in the beginning) was the same with our address now: 60-64 General Berthelot Street, right in the heart of Bucharest.
In 1932 the broadcasts could be picked up as far as the other side of the globe, in New Zealand.
However, the first formal broadcasts in foreign languages of the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation (SRR) were conceived in the early 1930s, in order to inform the diplomatic corps in the Romanian capital city. Eugen Denize makes the following remarks in his first volume devoted to the history of the Romanian radio Broadcasting Corporation: ”The first broadcasts of this kind started in 1932, namely Newsreels in French and English, aired before the end of the programme, a quarter of an hour before midnight.”
In August 1933, a letter sent in by Mr.John Hardle of Scotland confirmed, among other things, the good reception of the broadcast which apparently began with the announcement “This is Radio Bucharest - broadcasting on an experimental basis”, against the background of piano music. It seems that the first letter received from abroad came from Egypt.
A milestone for Romanian international radio broadcasting is February 12th, 1939, when a complex programme about Romania was launched for America; the magazine "Radio Universul" described it as a "propaganda instrument for Romania’s participation in the New York World Exhibition". That programme broadcast among other things George Enescu’s "Romanian Poem", a folk song performed by the great Romanian artist Maria Tanase, a folk dance tune performed by the orchestra conducted by Grigoras Dinicu, and Romanian folk songs performed by Valentina Cretoiu Tassian and G. Folescu.
The issue of February 19th, 1939 of the magazine ‘Radio Adevarul’ described that programme as a ‘historic event’. The programme included interviews and music and was re-broadcast on American stations. No record of it has been preserved, but we do have a recording of Maria Tanase’s performing in that programme.
The first confirmation of the fact that a programme produced in English by Radio Bucharest could be received in the United States is dated therefore February 1939, which is considered the birthday of Romanian radio broadcasts targeted at listeners across the ocean.
The broadcasts in foreign languages were introduced as a result of a government initiative. Although the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation was a joint venture made up of 60% state capital and 40% private capital, the decisions made by its Board would always reflect the best interests of the Romanian state. Those programmes were introduced precisely to make known to the world Romanian culture, realities and the events taking place in the Kingdom of Romania. They were a government initiative aimed at promoting Romania’s image abroad.
Following the anticommunist Romanian Revolution of December 1989, Radio Bucharest became Radio Romania International, the programmes acquired a whole new format, the staff welcomed young members, and the RRI services turned towards the future, towards once again building a bridge between Romania and the democratic world and re-establishing the link between Romanians living abroad and those back home.
RRI covers large areas in Europe, as well as urban areas in the two Americas, the Near East, Asia, Northern Africa, Australia, broadcasting or re-broadcasting programs on short-wave (analogue and digital), via satellite, the Internet and cable networks.
(A more extensive version of this story is available under “The History of RRI”).