WRTH 1947-58 on CD

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Before I joined Radio Netherlands, I spent 19 years working for the World Radio TV Handbook. The first eight of those years were in Denmark, the original home of WRTH. In the stockroom, hidden behind copies of the current edition awaiting despatch, lay a few copies of early editions. Whenever I had a few spare moments, I would pick up one of these early editions and look at some of the entries for long-forgotten stations in countries that no longer existed. For someone interested in the history of broadcasting, it was a fascinating experience.


Unfortunately, there was only one copy of some of the earliest editions, and I couldn't take one away with me. In fact, I don't believe I ever saw a copy of the very first edition published in 1947. On eBay, people are paying what I consider to be ridiculous prices for editions of WRTH from the 1970s, which are certainly not rare. So I wonder how much a serious collector would pay for a set of the first 12 editions? If the complete set were ever available for sale, I'm sure it would fetch hundreds of dollars.

A bargain
This makes a CD I received in December 2005 seem like an absolute bargain. It contains high quality scans (PDF files) of the first 12 editions of WRTH, covering the years 1947-1958. It so happens that 1947 was also the year in which Radio Netherlands was established, so for me its coverage of this station alone is worth the price being asked by the publisher.


I received my review copy quite unexpectedly, as I didn't know anything about this project. So I asked for more details of how it came about, and who was involved. Michael Schmitz, chief editor of the club's magazine Radio Kurier, turned out to be the person who did a lot of the work, and he explained just what the job entailed.


The first task was to locate places and people where the old copies of the Handbook could be found. When the original edition was in good shape the scanning and conversion to PDF could be done more or less within one day. Other copies with endless handwritten remarks took up to four days to prepare as the handwritten notes had to be removed from the scans. The whole scanning job took a few weeks.


When everything was ready, writer and radio historian Jerry Berg came up with the idea that a full text search would be nicer than an index search function. His words "nobody is ever going to do this again" motivated Michael to spend another three to four days to add the full text search function. In total the whole project probably took around one month of very hard daily work.


Michael did 99 percent of the actual work, but pointed out that production of the CD would not have been possible without the active help and support of those individuals who lent him the original copies of the WRTH which were missing in the ADDX archives: Harald Kuhl, Henrik Klemetz, Anker Petersen, Jan-Erik Räf, Lars Rydén, Thomas Schweder, Lars Wieden and Kaj Bredahl Jorgensen.


Insight into the development of radio
What has resulted from this hard work and cooperation is a fascinating set of PDF files that provide an insight into the development of radio, and the start of TV, across the world in the years following World War II. There were still many colonialised countries, such as Goa (Portuguese India), Belgian Congo, the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and many more. As interesting as the entries themselves are the advertisements for stations that have long since disappeared, and ads for some of the equipment that was being used 50-60 years ago.


Whether you are involved in serious research, or just want to spend some time looking at how broadcasting used to be, this CD is sure to provide hours of fascinating reading. We highly recommend it, and congratulate the ADDX on their initiative in producing it. We recommend that, to help put the information in these editions of WRTH into context, you also check the website OnTheShortwaves.com which contains a lot of information about the early days of shortwave broadcasting prior to World War II. A book of the same name is also available.


This review was done independently of the publisher of the WRTH and the publisher of the CD. Radio Netherlands has no financial connection with either, and provides the information above in good faith.