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Radio Deutsche Welle

A brief outline of the Romanian-language department at DW

Radio Deutsche Welle
Radio Deutsche Welle

, 28.08.2023, 14:00


The German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle has a special chapter in the history of Romanian-language radio stations. The station aired its first broadcast on May 3, 1953 in Bonn. Deutsche Welle was Germanys apologetic voice in the wake of WWII. In his inaugural speech in the opening broadcast, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Theodor Heuss, said the mission of the German public radio station is best summarized by the French word deténte. The relaxation and reconciliation policy was a complex process, of which peace was an inherent component.



10 years after its inauguration, the Romanian-language department was set up at Deutsche Welle. Historian Tatiana Korn worked for ten years here, from 1963 to 1993. In 1962, Tatiana Korn left Romania after marrying a German national from Romania, and moved to West Germany to work as a journalist. In a 1998 interview for the Center of Oral History of Radio Romania, Tatiana Korn briefly outlined the history of Deutsche Welle:




“Deutsche Welle was created with the purpose of promoting Germany and everything German worldwide. Obviously, the foreign-language departments came later, first addressing countries in Africa, then in Asia, North America and Latin America. It was only later, when the Cold War intensified, that Deutsche Welle opened up to Eastern Europe, first in the Soviet Union. Then the station created Yugoslav and Hungarian departments, and finally, in 1963, the Romanian and Bulgarian services.”



As expected, the early days of the Romanian Service were difficult. Staff that would meet the appropriate requirements was scarce, Tatiana Korn says:



“Romanian-language editors were in great demand. We started out with a half-hour broadcast. We had two challenges to deal with. First, the possibility of broadcasting on shortwave to Eastern Europe, which was a difficult task for a relay station. Second, finding the suitable staff for our team, proficient in both German and Romanian. Their mastery of the Romanian language had to be flawless. Similarly, Germans who spoke with a Bavarian accent were not accepted, as newly hired staff had to speak perfect German. The same was required of foreign-language departments. Romanian staff had to speak without German or Hungarian accents, which was very hard to find. Besides, they also had to have a good radio voice. Not everyone can be a radio host or produce radio content.”




Efforts to find competent journalists paid off. At first, the Romanian language broadcasts also benefited from the voluntary support of people who offered their services as translators specialised in technology, medicine, culture, politics. The Romanian language department also got its information from Romanian publications, taking out subscriptions for various magazines for it was interested in the language used. The first editorial teams included names such as Nadia Șerban, Ioana Exarhu, Elisabeta Panaitescu, Mihai Negulescu and Virgil Velescu. It was the stations policy not to hire people who had supported fascism or communism. In the beginning, the programmes were shorter and then they bacame longer and increased in number. The Deutsche Welle used to broadcast in the Romanian language one hour three times a day. A broadcast featured 10 minutes of news, followed by a press review, topical issues, reviews from the world of science, technology, medicine and culture. Tatiana Korn explains:



“In the beginning, the broadcast started at 12 noon here, so 1 pm in Romania. We knew it wasnt the best time in terms of ratings, meaning the people we were interested in would not have been at home. Pensioners, however, did listen to us and they promoted us to others. And that was important, they passed on our messages to others. We couldnt broadcast at a different time, it was a matter of how frequencies were distributed. Secondly, short wave conditions were better in the day than during the night. And the technical means we have today, with satellites, etc, did not exist back then.”



Many compared the Deutsche Welle with Radio Free Europe. The difference was that the latter was an American radio station that reflected the politics of the Romanian emigrates in Europe, while the Deutsche Welle was Germanys radio station – indeed, a station with its own identity and personality that fulfilled its ethical and professional mission at the highest standards.





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