Radio Luxembourg

From Academic Kids

Radio Luxembourg (1933-1992) was an important forerunner of pirate radio and modern commercial radio in Europe. It was a cheap and effective way to advertise in the UK, France and (since 1957) in Germany by circumventing the broadcasting restrictions in place at the time. For many years complete English programmes were pre-recorded in London and flown to the tiny independent grand duchy of Luxembourg on mainland Europe. German programs were produced in a studio in Luxembourg. A powerful transmitter enabled broadcasts to be received throughout northern Europe.

Luxembourg was special, because while radio stations all over Europe were exclusively government-owned and operated well into the 1980s, Radio Luxembourg was right from the beginning privately owned. A radio amateur (Ham) managed to get a licence in 1924 and used the license to broadcast military music, too. French businessmen bought the license from the radio amateur in May 1929 and managed to get a broadcasting monopoly in Luxembourg in November 1929. In May 1931 the Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Radiodiffusion was founded, which started to build the transmitters. Transmissions in French and English started in 1933.

The station was closed three weeks after the beginning of World War II, because the grand duchy of Luxembourg wanted to keep neutral. However, Luxembourg was occupied by Nazi-Germany, and the station became part of the Großdeutscher Rundfunk. The usual propaganda was broadcasted, e.g. fabricated news stories delivered by William Joyce ('Lord Haw-Haw').

Luxembourg was occupied by American troups in September 1944. Between April to November 1945 the station transmitted the programming of the Voice of America. Radio Luxembourg produced and transmitted an own programming during this time, too. But not under the name "Radio Luxembourg", but as a "United Nations Station".

The station reached its peak in the 1950s after it switched its wavelength to 208 metres (1439 kHz, later 1440) the number with which it became synonymous, in 1951 (""2-0-8 Power Play"). Propagation conditions meant that this frequency could be well received in Germany during daytime and could only be heard at night in the UK, so the English service began broadcasting at 7:00 PM. The German service was launched in 1957 with a one hour experimental program at 2:00PM, later expanded to a full daytime program. The UK commercials aimed at Ovaltinies and Horace Batchelor's 'Infra-Draw Method' for winning money on football pools (little more than a scam) were particularly popular and successful. Radio Luxembourg also launched the careers of many UK presenters including Jimmy Savile, Hughie Greene and Pete Murray and German presenters like Desirée Nosbusch, Thomas Gottschalk, Frank Elstner, Anke Engelke. Its cultural influence in the UK was immense and it is rightly regarded as one of the main forces for the popularisation of rock'n'roll in Britain; those who equate popular culture with politics argue that this is ironic for a station based in mainland Europe.

In the 1960s the station had to compete against the pirate radio stations located closer to the UK on ships or abandoned World War II sea forts, and was disadvantaged by its inability to broadcast by day. The tendency of its signal to keep fading in and out also put many listeners off. In the 1970s its audience continued to decline as BBC Radio 1, Capital Radio and other local radio stations competed for its audiences. At one point it became an all disco station. The station's 50th anniversary in 1983 was a rather low-key affair in the UK.

In 1989 the station began broadcasting in stereo via the Astra satellite which could be received throughout Europe, and expanded its satellite service to 24 hours with daytime programmes in English but aimed at Scandinavian audiences. But the station's owners had lost interest in the English service, as well as the German service. The 208 m wavelength was unceremoniously reassigned to German language programmes of a sucessor station RTL RADIO, and a programming with no resamblance to the original German program. The satellite service was closed down on December 30, 1992 (one day before New Year's Eve to avoid clashing with listeners' New Year celebrations).



Today, as of 2005, the 1440 kHz frequency is still in use by the remodeled German sucessor RTL RADIO. Since the first of January 2005 the transmission has mainly switched to digital (01:00 AM until 05:00 AM and 09:00 AM until 06:00 PM). During the evening hours airtime is sold to international broadcasters (currently China Radio International) and religious organisations. In addition the station utilizes a few FM frequencies (93.3 and 97.0 MHz) targeted to Germany, has slots on analog and digital cable, and transmitts analog and digital signals via the Astra 1A and 1H satellites.


For many years, due to British advertising restrictions, Radio Luxembourg was the only station available in the UK that could advertise tampons.

By the 1980s Luxembourg claimed to be broadcasting with 1.3 megawatts, making it the world's single most powerful commercial broadcaster in the medium wave range, at least in terms of individual transmitter power. It was certainly the most powerful commercial medium wave station in Europe, at least. The transmitter of Radio Luxembourg is situated in Marnach. Only some governmental stations,e.g. Transmitter Solt in Hungary and the Voice of Russia, used higher powered transmitters in the medium wave range.

Transmitters for the French programme

In the longwave range, a French speaking program is transmitted on 234 kHz with a directional aerial with 2000 kilowatts over the longwave transmitter Beidweiler, which replaced the older longwave transmitter Junglinster.

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