In november 1919 radio broadcasting in the Netherlands started with the station of radio pioneer Idzerda. Listeners from the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom could hear his channel PCGG. In 2019 a century of radio will be celebrated in the Netherlands. Vincent Kuitenbrouwer writes a chapter on transnational radio in a book on the history of Dutch radio, edited by Prof. Dr. Huub Wijfjes. A central theme in Kuitenbrouwer’s project is how people in the past have used radio to connect to other communities around the world.
Independent news gathering
News service was the spine of the RNW organisation. Broadcasts were not only about world politics, also regional issues were discussed in the local language. The station tried to offer independent and objective information about situations. For instance by telling about the articles in a variety of newspapers, thus offering different perspectives on the same issue, without taking a position. For many people it was an alternative to State media, essential to hear about events that were happening in their own region. RNW played an important part in former colonies of the Netherlands. This was the case in Surinam in the 1980s after the so called December killings and in the protests in Indonesia in the late 1990s. For the world services independent newsgathering was important for the reputation of the Netherlands and thus for the Dutch way of democracy. In the 1970s radio was used as development aid for third world countries. The RNW educated on public health issues and agricultural methods for a better harvest in radio shows.
Researching the RNW
The challenge of researching the rich and mostly unwritten history of RNW is in tracking down recordings of the original broadcasts, of which many are not available yet in the archive of Sound and Vision. The RNW had their own archives and handed over their material after their shutdown in 2012. Currently plans are being made to enable researchers to study the rich archival collections of RNW (paper and audio). Further research concentrates on connecting the broadcasts with the official view of the RNW and the practical views and standards of the presenters and producers, for instance by browsing through interviews in newspaper in which they tell about their work.