More pictures of the HF station at Schwarzenburg (1938-1998)

More pictures of the HF station at Schwarzenburg (1938-1998)

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, later Swiss Radio International (SRI) was not huge by broadcasting standards. It employed about 130 full-time personnel and also drew on the talents of many freelance broadcasters and writers. A program to update transmitting facilities began a few years before its closure. By the time it shut down completely its shortwave radio broadcasts in 2004, the SRI had eight powerful transmitters: three of 100 kW, four 250 kW transmitters, and a 500 kW powerhouse. The organization operated from three transmitting sites in Switzerland: one at Schwartzenburg near Bern, another at Beromunster in central Switzerland, and a third in the western part of the country, at Sottens.

Listeners could hear SRI on many frequencies throughout the day. Two especially good times for North American listeners were 5,965, 6,135, 9,725, or 11,715 kHz from 01:45 to 02:15 GMT/UTC, and at 04:30 to 05:00 on the latter two frequencies.

In 1988, our station, the Italian Radio Relay Service (IRRS), acquired a fully automated 10 kW Siemens transmitter from Schwarzenburg, and we obtained a second one a few years later. We moved both transmitters to Milan. Additionally, we assumed their European frequency of 3985 kHz when they ceased operations. These transmitters were later sold and our station in Milano was dismantled to make use of high-power AM/MW and Shortwave transmitters operating now between 50 kW and 300 kW from different locations around Europe.

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR) was the Swiss public broadcasting organisation, founded in 1931, and the holding company of 24 radio and television channels. Headquartered in Bern, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation was a non-profit organization, funded mainly through radio and television license fees (79%) and making the remaining income from advertising and sponsorship.

Switzerland’s system of direct democracy and the fact that the country has four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh) meant that the structure of Swiss public service broadcasting was rather complicated. The actual holders of the broadcasting licenses that enabled SRG SSR to operate were four regional corporations:

  • German Switzerland: Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF)
  • French Switzerland: Radio télévision suisse (RTS)
  • Italian Switzerland: Radiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana (RSI)
  • Romansh: Radiotelevisiun Svizra Rumantscha (RTR)

These four corporations maintained SRG SSR as a joint central production and broadcasting company. The fifth business unit of the SRG SSR was the ten-language news platform Swissinfo.

Swiss Radio International (SRI): The Voice of Switzerland on Shortwave

From the mid-1930s to 2004, Switzerland’s international service was Swiss Radio International (SRI). The first few decades of SRI’s existence were the heyday of shortwave – it was often the only way of getting news directly from other countries.

What began as the Swiss Short Wave Service in 1935 grew from broadcasting programs in German, French, Italian, and English to include other European languages and Arabic, eventually changing its name to Swiss Radio International.

The international service was considered a voice of neutrality during times of war, first during World War II, followed by the decades of the Cold War and up to and including the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.

However, the decade leading to 2004 marked the beginning of the end for Switzerland’s shortwave broadcasts. Shortwave transmitters gave way to relaying programs via satellite, and this, in turn, gave way to the internet when the service went online in 1999 as SRI’s website.

In 2004, the plug was pulled on SRI Shortwave and satellite services as part of budget cuts, to switch to an entirely online service called swissinfo.ch. Now producing exclusively online, the international service extended its linguistic reach by adding Russian, Japanese, and Chinese, and publishing text, video and audio reports.

Remembering Swiss Radio: The Old Schedule That Many Listeners Still Miss

The European and overseas services of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) published the following details about its programs. These programs are no longer available on the dial, though.

Swiss Broadcasting Corporation / Swiss Radio International Frequencies

SBC and later SRI used mainly the following frequencies: 3985, 6165, and 9535 kHz (75.28, 48.66, and 31.46 metres)

SBC and SRI programmes (all times were UTC/GMT):

Dateline

During the life of SBC And SRI, listeners could tune in for news, comments, and current affairs in Switzerland and around the world at the following times, from Monday to Friday:

  • 07:00-07:30 UTC
  • 11:00-11:30 UTC
  • 13:15-13:45 UTC
  • 15:30-16:00 UTC
  • 21:00-21:30 UTC

On Saturdays and Sundays, Dateline featured news and special programs. Whenever major events happened during the week-end. journalists were on call from home to fill in the gaps and update listeners in almost real time.

Music

Listeners enjoyed Swiss country music from various language regions at these times:

  • 06:45-07:00 UTC
  • 13:00-13:15 UTC
  • 15:15-15:30 UTC
  • 18:00-18:15 UTC

Each music program was followed by a transmission in English, and at 18:00 UTC, it was followed by a transmission in Italian.

Swiss Music-Makers (1st and 3rd Saturdays)

Twelve country music tours of the regions of Switzerland, bringing the happiest sounds on shortwave.

Swiss Shortwave Merry-Go-Round (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Bob Thomann and Bob Zanotti (the “Two Bobs”) investigated problems on the DX scene and kept listeners up-to-date on international radio around the world.

Bob Zanotti and Bob Thomann, the dynamic duo behind “The Swiss Merry-Go-Round” on SBC (later at Swiss Radio International), were much like Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Tappet Brothers from “Car Talk.” Both pairs became beloved figures in their respective niches, providing listeners with a mix of technical expertise and engaging entertainment. The Two Bobs tackled the complexities of DXing and shortwave radio reception, offering advice on antennas, signal propagation, and troubleshooting reception issues. Their friendly banter and deep knowledge made the show a favourite among shortwave enthusiasts, much like how Click and Clack’s humour and expertise drew in car lovers on American public radio.

Much like Zanotti and Thomann, Tom and Ray Magliozzi captivated audiences with their show “Car Talk,” where they addressed automotive issues with a blend of humour and practical knowledge. The Tappet Brothers answered callers’ questions about car troubles, provided maintenance tips, and shared insights into automotive repair, all while engaging in playful and witty exchanges. This interactive format not only offered real-time solutions but also built a loyal community of listeners who tuned in for both the advice and the laughs.

Both programs excelled in making technical subjects accessible and entertaining. The charm of the Two Bobs lay in their approachable style and the way they infused technical discussions with warmth and humour, akin to Click and Clack’s engaging and humorous take on car repairs. By blending expertise with entertainment, both “The Swiss Merry-Go-Round” and “Car Talk” created memorable listening experiences that resonated with audiences long after the shows ended.

In His Name (every Saturday)

A weekly inspirational message.

Listeners’ Choice

Listeners could request Swiss topics they wanted to know more about, which were covered on Dateline.

Folk Music

Daily at 06:45, 13:00, 15:15, and 18:00 GMT on 3985, 6165, and 9535 kHz.

Sunday Programs

International News Summary (followed by):

The Name Game (1st Sunday)

Programs contained information on specific places in Switzerland, but one essential fact—the name of the place—was missing. Listeners were invited to guess the correct names and win Swiss watches.

After Hours (2nd Sunday)

Personalities from all walks of life in Switzerland talked about themselves and their lives outside their customary roles.

Sunday Supplement (3rd Sunday)

In-depth expansions of subjects first introduced on Dateline.

Jazz-Panorama (4th Sunday)

Featuring the best jazz from Europe.

Repeat Performance

On fifth Sundays, SBC broadcast repeat performances of especially well-received programs. Listener comments helped choose these bonus features.

Although SBC converted to a 100% online service, many old-time listeners in remote countries, unable to connect to the internet due to the digital divide, were left without access to information from Switzerland. The decision to shut down the station was mainly dictated by costs, but it has left a significant gap for those who relied on shortwave broadcasts for news and connection to Switzerland.

Check the full article on the Swiss the HF station at  Schwarzenburg here

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