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The Media Network Vintage Vault 2020-2021

June 2020 - A message from Jonathan Marks

We're now six months into the new decade and the grip of the COVID-19 virus. Luckily you can't catch it via this website and maybe this time travel stuff to a much friendly world is a source of light relief.  I'm Jonathan Marks. If this is the first time you've visited the vault, then I'm glad you dropped by! There are over 575 editions of Media Network, representing just over half the episodes that we made and broadcast from the Radio Netherlands' studios in Hilversum. I'm pleased to say most survived in excellent studio quality (quite often in stereo). 

As you may know, I currently work with all kinds of high-tech scale-ups working in Photonics and TeraHertz technologies in many parts of Europe, but especially in the Eindhoven and Enschede regions of the Netherlands. I'm particularly fascinated because this country is where international broadcasting started in Europe and where the long-range properties of shortwave radio were first discovered in 1926/1927. Last year on November 6th 2019, we celebrated 100 years of radio in The Netherlands. This year this country is celebrating 75 years since liberation from Nazi occupation as well as 75 years of the UN. The current pandemic will overshadow many of the planned commemorations. Hopefully they will simply be postponed and not cancelled. Media Network made several documentaries to explain the very different contribution that Dutch international broadcasting made to media in other parts of the world. You can read more about some of the forgotten firsts in this article I wrote on the Medium platform here. A video of the presentation on November 6th will be posted here when I get a moment.

Reliving the Mainstream broadcast heritage of the 20th Century.

In early February 2010, I began an online experiment here on Libsyn with podcasting to understand how the distribution system works and see whether we could rebuild an audience. We wanted to recreate a place to listen to vintage editions of the Media Network programme as broadcast on short-wave by Radio Netherlands in the period 1981-2000. It is over 38 years since "Media Network" was launched as the name of the media show on Radio Netherlands, building on the rich heritage of programmes that went before it.

We ran the programme on the shortwave wireless from May 7th 1981 until the end of October 2000 with more than 1000 editions of the show. Many of the features are gradually making their way onto this website as a celebration of international broadcasting's second Golden Age.

Radio Netherlands no longer exists as a radio station in English in the way that we knew it. (They signed off at the end of June 2012 as documented on this site). The RN Classical Music station was around for a short while after, but that too had been yanked from the Interwebs. Join me in raising a glass to the great days of analogue adventures!

As of May 2020, we have now reached more than 875,676 downloads, numbers being boosted by interest in the programmes about Rwanda, Forces Radio, spy number stations and several documentaries about propaganda, during the Second World War and later. On average, when I am actively uploading, this site logs around 6670 downloaded episodes a month, which isn't bad for vintage material. 

First of its kind

Media Network was one of the first international communications magazines of its time. I hosted and produced the programme, but a lot of the content was made by a network of volunteer monitors, reporters and researchers located all over the globe. Diana Janssen also joined me as co-host during the last 5 years of the programme. She made a considerable contribution to our success.

Where do these shows come from?

I kept copies of most of the show, especially those that dealt with specific issues or were connected to current events in that period. Since leaving Radio Netherlands in 2003, I have gradually digitized the tapes as part of my research into international broadcasting and where it might go after shortwave. Personally, I find it amazing to relive this era, especially as most of it was pre-Web, pre-Skype, pre-YouTube, pre-email, when most people thought twice about picking up the phone to call a radio station in another country. There is also a lot to be learned from what worked and what failed. Too many recent media ventures could have learned a lot from those who went before them. 

I am always interested in your reactions, especially from people who may be discovering this material for the first time. It will encourage me to post more. Looking at the site stats, it would seem that around 13% of the subscribers are downloading via iTunes. The rest do so directly from the site or using 3rd party apps. Please tell friends about the vault and encourage them to subscribe. We have opened an email address for feedback. Just write to:

There are also radio related videos which I made more recently over on my video vault on Vimeo. You will find links to those videos here on this blog.

Finding a show 

This is a new form of the website now that Libsyn has updated the style of the podcast feeds. You can also subscribe in iTunes by searching for "Media Network Vintage". As each "new" edition is published, it will download automatically to your MP3-player of choice. I personally find the Downcast app to be the best for IOS. But other podcast apps are available.

I know some of the material here is niche stuff to many broadcasters - but I also know that people interested in international communications and broadcasting are very passionate people. Because of politics, it provided a constant wave of stories. I also believe that we developed one of the first collaborative formats on international radio, where individuals could do some detective work, report their results, and share experiences with those with a similar passion.

We have started to release video versions of Media Network. I have succeeded in filming on my travels, including in Washington DC, Bucharest, Caversham, Vienna and Berlin. Watch this space later in 2020.

Jul 29, 2010

This podcast is actually two Media Network programmes rolled into one. We originated the show from Berlin on November 8th and 15th 1990, a year after the fall of the wall. I was keen to visit Radio Berlin International, the voice of the GDR, located in a former furniture factory on the Nalepastrasse. Because of its former owner, the building had huge empty hallways where the furniture was built and rather smaller offices alongside. The English section had mostly been dispanded by then, but there was familiar GDR propaganda material lying around in the office. If you want to understand more about the media situation in the GDR before the wall came down, check out the fabulous interview with Wolf Harranth who runs the radio documentation project in Vienna. Those videos are to found here and . What amazed me was realising that the RBI staff could see the wall from their office windows and that some of the presenters, like commentator John Peet, had gone across the wall the other way.

Kai Ludwig
over eight years ago

Very interesting. Originating from Berlin? Details would be of interest...

The RBI presenters from the other side remained kind of ghosts. I have already been asked about RBI English, but that's something about which also former "local national" staff members know nothing. All I could add was that the guy who presented its farewell show appears to still live in Berlin and has erased broadcasting from his biography.

I did not know so far that Deutsche Welle in fact used studios in the Nalepastraße radio house. The question is until when. Probably for not much longer than in the case of all but one Königs Wusterhausen transmitter which they abandoned in spring 1991, followed by the last Königs Wusterhausen outlet (on the well-known 6115 kHz frequency) and the shortwave transmitter at Wiederau (south of Leipzig) which they gave up in autumn 1993, leaving only Nauen, and this in spite of an expensive equipment renewal also only until spring 2007. By the way, also in the GDR the transmitters (and in this case even the studio facilities) were operated by the postal office.

I'm quite surprised about the RIAS folks believing that they could be seen in the GDR in B&W only. It demonstrates the limits of their knowledge of the circumstances there, since GDR-made colour TV sets have been equipped with PAL decoders since the late seventies. By the late eighties this feature was almost a matter of course and had been openly demonstrated in shops. Still it was a good idea to make sure that the productions looked good in B&W, but for another reason: Colour TV sets were in the GDR so expensive that many people simply could not afford them, and so full-sized B&W sets remained in production until the end.

What should be also mentioned is that the regional radio studios were since 1986 on air daily for nine (on weekends eight) hours, Leipzig even for 11 (10) hours. So it was no surprise that they were able to go full-time in spring/summer 1990.

Let's in a hurry put up some photos I made in 2007...

Largest music studio (Saal 1):

Radio play studio H2, nowadays run by a production company with its old console (in other configurations used in live studios, too), still in use in 2007 but meanwhile being replaced and given to a museum:

Studio K1, formerly used by RBI:

Area of studios K1 plus K13 and K3/K4, the latter being the former live studios of Stimme der DDR / Deutschlandsender, in its final years until 1993 called DS Kultur:

The same, studios to the left, editing suites to the right:

One of the non-studio floors, with the original furniture factory layout. Note also the calling display under the clock, as installed everywhere in the buildings to call certain staff members:

The new office (background) and studio (foreground) buildings, called Block E and inaugurated in 1965, as seen from the office of the director:

A German-language article, with pictures in order: Detail of old console in H2; former "Rundfunk der DDR" neon signs on Block E office building (called E-R), crippled in 1990 and completely removed around 2005; announcers room of K1; main control room in Block E studio complex (called E-T) through which also all RBI outputs had been routed; studio K8 in E-T; production studio P9 in E-T; two pictures of K6 in E-T, too, used by DT64 from 1987 until leaving to Halle/Saale in autumn 1993.

Tom Gavaras
almost ten years ago

Great podcast, Jonathan! RBI's final English language broadcast can be heard here:

Part 1:

Part 2: