RNW history

Listening to the wireless in the early years of RNW

© RNW
RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947.

However, RNW’s origins as an international media organisation go back twenty years further. In 1927, Dutch overseas broadcasts began with a shortwave transmission to the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) from Philips laboratories in Eindhoven.

The Dutch electronics giant was pioneering the new shortwave medium at the time. Its efforts were given a boost when Queen Wilhelmina addressed the colonial population via its PCJJ transmitter later that year.

Radio Oranje 
PCJJ was soon broadcasting in English, Spanish, German and Dutch to a worldwide audience. These broadcasts from the Netherlands were interrupted by the German invasion in May 1940. The Dutch government in exile decided to set up Radio Oranje (named after the royal family) in London. The BBC provided airtime and facilities.

Radio OranjeThe radio broadcasts were placed under the control of the Dutch military. After Eindhoven was liberated, Radio Oranje’s head of programming Henk van den Broek started broadcasts there as Herrijzend Nederland (Netherlands Reborn) in October 1944.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide
International broadcasts to Dutch people abroad resumed in 1945. Following the government’s decision to separate  domestic and international transmissions, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (RNW) was set up on 15 April 1947. Henk van den Broek was appointed as its first director.

The new foundation was tasked with “putting together and preparing radio programmes to be received outside the borders of the Netherlands” and began broadcasting in Dutch, Indonesian, English and Spanish. Although receiving public funding, Radio Netherlands Worldwide was, and always has been, editorially independent from the Dutch government.

Greetings
In the early days, RNW had a ‘Greetings Department’ because making phone calls across the globe was difficult and very expensive. The station also broadcast news, current affairs and cultural programmes primarily from a Dutch perspective targeting Dutch nationals living abroad. In 1949, broadcasts began in Arabic and in Afrikaans for South Africa.

Music
Princess Beatrix addressing the nationIn 1950, a new department was set up to compile radio programmes and distribute them to foreign stations. At the same time music activities were launched together with partner stations abroad. In 1964, RNW’s music department was one of the first in Europe to make music recordings in stereo for foreign FM stations.

Training
The Radio Netherlands Training Centre was set up in 1968 to train radio personnel from developing countries. RNW launched a French department in 1969 and broadcasts in Portuguese to Brazil began in 1974.

Partners
In 1991, Radio Netherlands Worldwide was granted a licence to broadcast programmes directly by satellite for radio stations in Latin America. It was the start of extensive collaboration with local radio stations in Latin America. Collaboration with local partners in Africa, Europe and North America was also intensified. An RNW office was opened in West Africa in 1995 to serve listeners in the region via local radio stations.

Multimedia
Popular QSL card with Happy Station host Tom MeijerSet up in 1960, Radio Netherlands Television (RNTV) was in the business of selling Dutch television documentaries and animated films on the international market at the going rates.

In 1996, in collaboration with the domestic broadcasting umbrella organisation NOS, it started a Dutch-language television service for viewers in Europe entitled Zomer TV (Summer TV). This was the forerunner of het Beste van Vlaanderen en Nederland (the Best of Flanders and the Netherlands ) which was set up in 1998.

New organisation
BVN Television is still the Dutch-language public television channel for Dutch and Flemish people abroad, but it parted ways with De Wereldomroep following the Dutch government’s decision in 2011 to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs.

RNW Director Robert Zaal talks to guests from ChinaA major restructuring at RNW followed the cuts. Dutch broadcasts and other shortwave and satellite transmissions were terminated and a number of the regional editorial teams dissolved.

New Mission
The new slimmed-down RNW began operating in January 2013 with a new mission. It was  no longer tasked with plugging information gaps around the world or portraying a realistic image of the Netherlands abroad.

The new RNW was to be a web-based operation promoting free speech and positive social change through projects in countries with a lack of free media. It was no longer governed by the Dutch Media Law and therefore free to develop diverse funding. Robert Zaal was appointed director of the new multimedia company.

RNW now focuses exclusively on promoting free speech in countries where freedom of expression is severely restricted. The emphasis lies on reaching young people; adolescents and young adults aged 15-30.

Free debate
RNW staff in support of jailed Al Jazeera journalistsRNW offers these youths a variety of interactive platforms to engage in debate on fundamental themes such as democracy, human rights and sexual rights. These platforms include Love Matters and International Justice.

Brands
RNW is developing distinct brands to reach young people in China and the regions of Latin America, Africa and the Arab world.

In 2013, helanonline.cnhunasotak.com and eltoque.com went online. For trans-regional projects such as Love Matters, the existing websites were redesigned. New Love Matters sites in Mandarin Chinese and Arabic were launched in early 2014. Justicehub.org and Waza followed later in the year.