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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.

Sep 25, 2010

I remember this edition of Media Network because it had a superb story from China as part of the Memory of the Millennium. The author explained how radio had been a friend and foe in his life, especially to his father. It is only when you visit other countries where listening to foreign radio stations is discouraged that you realise the risks people took in the past, and (in some countries like Burma) risks that they still take today. This edition also contains a chat with the late Bob Tomalski on recordable DVD's (what a standards mess that was) and we hear from a listener in the UK who believes the BBC is trying to do too much. This edition was recorded at a time when BBC German was amongst a number of language sections threatened with closure. We also did film reviews: Henry Stokes writes from Green Bay Wisconsin. I remember in the dim distant past, Media Network ran a series of features about Motion Picture musings, a sort of film review section where the idea was to spotlight films that somehow involved radio in their plot. It seems incredible that films such as Good Morning Vietnam are now well over a decade old. Since then a few James Bond films have had a radio connection with fights on radio telescopes for instance, but these days’ secret agents are sent abroad to blow up satellite TV stations not clandestine radio transmitters. I live in an area with quite a lot of people from Polish origin and there has been some considerable discussion about a new film by Robin Williams called Jakob the Liar. It is actually a remake of an East German film from 1974 with the same name, although the new version gets more treatment from Hollywood special effects. This is a holocaust drama about a Jewish concentration camp. The critics have panned it because of the rather forced Polish accents by the American actors, especially Allen Arkin. It also disappeared from the cinema circuits here very quickly and I’m not sure whether it has been released yet in Europe, I doubt it. My reason for bringing it up is that it the star of the film, Jakob, is a lonely widower in 1945 who starts to become popular when he listens to allied broadcasts from the BBC and then relays the information to the others in the Polish concentration camp. Excited by the news that the Russians are on their way, he gives a lot of people hope in the midst of their despair. But since the news isn’t always want they want to hear, he starts embellishing. He also claims to own a transmitter so he can get secret news in and out. I enjoyed the way they portrayed short-wave broadcasting at the time. The rest of the film was only fair. The photo was taken at the entrance to the Shanghai metro in the days when being asked not to take explosives onto the metro was really quite funny. How times have changed.