Sunday, October 31, 2010

Farewell AM radio

The news that Swedish Radio (SR) are closing down their medium and short wave transmitters today gave me a good excuse to be a bit nostalgic (see article in Ny Teknik - in Swedish). We haven't really noticed it but hardly anyone transmits on those wavelengths any more and so a central part of my childhood and teenage media landscape is put to rest. The radio was a magic window allowing me to hear radio from other countries and although I understood nothing it was still exciting to listen a while to German, Dutch or even Russian stations. The short wave was a gold mine full of radio stations from all over Europe. In a way the closest we had to today's web.

ASA radio by Andrei!, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Andrei! 

Growing up in Scotland in the sixties there was plenty exciting new music but the BBC didn't play it more than a few hours a week. As a result we had to listen to Radio Luxemburg and the so-called pirate radio stations broadcasting from ships out in international water in the North Sea (familiar scenario isn't it?). Radio Luxembourg was great but the reception was unreliable. Just when your favourite song came on the interference increased and for a few minutes it was virtually impossible to listen to. The pirate stations were also great but sometimes were closed down for a while if they got raided. The best reception was from the Dutch Radio Nordsee and it was thanks to them that I first heard all sorts of great music. In the end the BBC realised that pop music was here to stay and created Radio 1 in 1967 and as a result the pirates gradually disappeared.

Disruptive technology that brings about a major change in the way mainstream media operate. Sounds familiar doesn't it?


  1. The national pop station BBC Radio 1 arrived at the end of September 1967.

    Mary Payne, Radio London Webmaster

  2. Thanks for the correction. I was so sure that I didn't even check the date. I have changed the text now.