Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Radio Days: Best of Europe's satellite radio

Radio Days, Best of Europe's satellite radio

(first published in Satellite and Digital Choice July/Aug 2004
by Chrissy Brand

A relaxing summer evening can start by channel hopping through your favourite satellite tv stations. One eye on the basketball, cricket or rugby league match, an old sitcom or two or maybe a blockbuster movie. But why not use more of your satellite equipment's potential and open up new horizons, by tuning in to some satellite radio transmissions?

Most of us are probably guilty of concentrating more on the television and ignoring the huge array of diverse radio stations available on satellite. It's worth taking time to hear what radio has to offer. You will be pleasantly surprised and may become hooked. Sit back, close your eyes and soak in the midnight sun from Scandinavia, learn about a leading Dutch export in the shape of Royal Delft Porcelain, or go on a tour of the original Budweiser brewery in the town of Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic.

This issue we'll have a look at some of the best European radio stations you can hear via satellite, in English as well as some other European tongues. An ideal starting place is the World Radio Network (WRN), which, as you will have spotted by its name, broadcasts a selection of radio from all over the globe.

Based in London, WRN offers a mind-blowing range of programmes in English from a selection of the worlds radio stations. It will take you straight to the heart of a country's tourist hotspots and popular culture. WRN is on Sky digital channel 872 (Astra 2A satellite at 28.2 degrees East), Eutelsat Hotbird 6 satellite at 13ยบ East, Transponder 94, 12.597 GHz. Vertical, Symbol Rate 27.500 Mbaud, FEC 3/4, MPEG2 DVB audio stream.

First up from WRN comes Radio Netherlands from Hilversum, which broadcasts some feature programmes that you can really get your teeth into. Whether it's investigating European issues, such as the eastern-most German town of Goerlitz which was split in two into Germany and Poland at the end of World War II, or looking at the life of a historic figure, such as 17th century Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens who discovered the rings and moon of Saturn, you will be amazed at what you learn.

Radio Sweden has some really interesting transmissions. You can hear them on satellite via WRN and on WorldSpace AfriStar. The summer is a great time to visit anywhere in Scandinavia, with the midnight sun driving all that is good about outdoor life. Keeping tabs on Radio Sweden will enable you to enjoy many of the music festivals throughout Scandinavia, such as the Pori jazz festival in Finland, and Stockholm's Water Festival, which make the most of the long nights.

Recent highlights I have enjoyed included `Street Talk'. As summer in Sweden is looming and the shorts and bikinis come out of the closet, it's time to lose weight. Christine Demsteader on the streets of Stockholm asked if the Swedes are a nation of food lovers or diet freaks.
Another feature programme, the `S-Files' featured boats, trams, buses and trains with a look at the history of local transport in Stockholm. It's not as anorakish as you might think.

If you are a newcomer to satellite radio you have arrived at the party too late to appreciate the charms of quirky Radio Slovakia International. They started broadcasts in English and other languages in 1993 when the former country of Czechoslovakia split into two. But their programmes, broadcast from the strange Bratislava building they refer to as `the upside-down pyramid' has had the plug pulled in May 2004.
N.B as of May 2007. They did a dramatic turn around in 2006 and are back! Hooray. See

You can still hear what Slovakian radio and music in the native Slovak is like by going to transponder number F3S, frequency 12643H. There you will find gems such as Radio Expres, Twist and Fun Radio, playing all kinds of euro-pop.

Across the Slovak border in the Czech capital Radio Prague has been pumping out radio in English for nigh on seventy years, on short wave in the 20th century, and through the Internet and satellite in the 21st century. It has some highly polished programmes; some are quite high-brow whilst others appeal to a wider market.

The `Czech Books' show recently featured Tomas Mika, whose unusual literary career has taken him from lyric poetry to hip-hop. Personally I feel equally at home whether listening to the latest in Czech literature or following the fortunes of the Czech ice-hockey team in the World Championships.

If you are planning a holiday at one of Romania's Black Sea resorts and have a Worldspace satellite radio, you could acclimatise by listening to Radio Romania International's regular `Tourist Itineraries' programme. They have a half hour programme each weekend on WorldSpace AfriStar, the footprint of which covers the UK. News, features and a healthy dose of Transylvanian folk music is the standard fare here. There is also a transmission on WRN satellite.

Deutsche Welle, the voice of Germany, has a well-established German language television presence on Hotbird. Its English operation also has news and views from the heart of Europe which you can hear in half-hour segments at WRN. A truly wide output ranges from the bizarre, such as tracking dog DNA, to the latest from the Hubble telescope (the Ultra Deep Field Image which shows 10,000 galaxies), the return of wolves to western Europe and the first `University of Gastronomic Science' opening in Bra, Italy.

If you prefer to hear from Germany radio and television in German, then tune in via the Astra satellite, to networks such as ARD and ZDF.

Rounding off our whistle-stop summer tour for now, with two Mediterranean hotspots which can be heard on Hotbird; Italy and Portugal. The main national Italian speaking radio stations Radiotelevisione Italia (RAI) 1, 2, 3 and RAI International can be found on Hotbird 1 and 2. In Portugal, where many people will be flocking this summer in the wake of the European football championships, you can receive radio from Radiodifusao Portuguesa EP (RDP) and television from RTP. RTP International is the Portuguese entertainment television station on Astra at 11.568 GHz.

Hopefully you will have found something here to whet your appetite and to persuade you to try a taste of the European satellite radio scene. If you can't spend all summer mellowing on the Med or lazing in the lakes of northern Europe, you can at least bring some summer sounds of Europe into your own home. As the song almost said; `Summertime and the listening is easy…'

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