This week host Olivier Catani braves extreme heights as he climbs the Junglinster radio transmitter tower, telling you all about the history of Radio Luxembourg, one of Europe's most famous radio stations - a fearless reporter, that man!
RTL Today has teamed up with PISA, the Luxembourgish science magazine, to reproduce their original videos in English for our site. Watch all English videos on RTL Play, or discover the wide range of subjects previously covered in Luxembourgish here (there are 13 seasons, mind you! We'll try and catch up).
Our previous episodes covered the history of the tram, Luxembourg airport, explained how the coronavirus vaccine works, asked why traffic lights always seem to be red, investigated where our tap water comes from, looked at Luxembourg's railways since 1859, took a dive into the Moselle Valley and its underground Dolomite mines and more...
From Luxembourg to Europe
You wouldn't necessarily draw a direct line between Luxembourg and European radio domination, especially a country of this size, would you? Well, a few decades ago, Radio Luxembourg was one of the biggest stations on the continent, directly rivalling the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) with its avant-garde programming and a great line-up of hosts.
But how did Radio Luxembourg make its historical mark?
Impressed by a new invention called the radio, François and Marcel Anen installed a home-made transmitted in the attic of their home in 28, rue Beaumont in Luxembourg City in the autumn of 1923. Within a year the brothers had produced regular programmes, mixing news and sports coverage in several languages, including Luxembourgish, German, English and French.
In 1928 the Anen brothers founded the Association Radio Luxembourg to run the station. A DIY broadcast and receiving antenna was set up over the roofs in Rue Beaumont. This is what it looked like!
Broadcast and receive antenna over the roofs in Rue Beaumont / © Photo Aloyse Anen
The power of the transmitter was boosted to 125W in 1926, with subsequent improvements to bring it up to 250W in 1928 after the Association Radio Luxembourg was granted a subsidy by the Luxembourgish State.
In the 1930s the CLR (Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Radiodiffusion) was founded, quickly becoming a European leader in multilingual broadcasting of programmes on the same frequency.
On 15 March 1933, the first programme of Radio Luxembourg was transmitted. The first shows were not in Luxembourgish, but in French, German and English - it took 25 more years for the first Luxembourgish shows to be aired. Stephen Williams was the first British presenter to move to Luxembourg.
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Radio Luxembourg's huge success in Germany, UK, France and Belgium shocked its competitors, especially the BBC. Due to its powerful transmitter, Radio Luxembourg could broadcast throughout Britain, challenging the BBC's monopoly. And, unlike its conservative competitors, Radio Luxembourg was also playing cheeky rock 'n roll music.
Advertising revenue was so huge that Radio Luxembourg was even able to establish the Radio Luxembourg Symphonic Orchestra in 1933. Today, it is known as the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.
With the outbreak of World War II, radio operations ceased to exist between 1939 and 1945, but was used by the Nazis for propaganda purposes. Radio Luxembourg's famous first words on 12 November 1945 were “Bonjour le Monde, ici Radio Luxembourg.” The station was back on air, this time growing and developing its reach rapidly. The construction of a TV transmitted began in Dudelange, and CLR became CLT (Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Télédiffusion).
Radio Luxembourg became known for its upbeat programming, funny presenters and unique guests - the Beatles even performed on the station at the Paris office. Beginning 1955, the first private commercial television shows were also produced here for the first time, and famous music stars would shoot music clips at the studios of RTL.
With the appearance of ITV and Radio Caroline, the offshore British pirate station, Radio Luxembourg lost popularity. Radio Luxembourg stopped broadcasting on 30 December 1991, but from it flourished RTL, the mother company of this site!
The transmitters in Junglinster
Junglinster is famous for its three radio pylons, built in the 1950s, from which Radio Luxembourg was transmitted. With a height of 215 metres, these long-wave transmitting towers take an hour to climb up. The antennas are operated by the BCE (Broadcasting Center Europe), which has its offices in Kirchberg as well.
Yves Thielen is one of the experts who climbs up the pylons twice per year for checks and installations. Before you ask: Yep, people have climbed up the tower illegally before. Now they've installed security cameras, so you may not want to try that yourself on your search for an adrenaline rush...
What about using the toilet? Well, you either wait until you get down or...no, he wouldn't do the other option, he says.
In July 1981, a Belgian military aircraft crashed into one of the pylons for reasons still unknown to this day. The pylon, which stood 300m tall at the time, was cut in half. A RTL technician and his wife lost their lives.
There is also a 285m pylon in Dudelange, maintained by RTL. RTL, Eldoradio and 100,7 are all broadcast from there.
The end of LW transmission on 1 January 2023 from Junglinster was the end of an era. The future is digital, through DAB+, and so the pylons are no longer required.
What will happen to them, is still to be decided.