Saturday, March 09, 2013

Bit spooky - ghosts of broadcasts past in Hilversum

Radio Netherlands broadcast centre. Completely empty by May 2013
Strange to be wandering through the now empty corridors of Radio Netherlands on the Witte Kruislaan in Hilversum. I was programme director there for 12 years until 2003. And for a large part of the time I was also a programme host and producer of the weekly Media Network programme. I believed in management by example, which is why my office was at the "pilots end" of the 1960's building (shaped, deliberately like an aeroplane) and not in the management wing. There needed to be a healthy separation between editorial and finance. And, I'm pleased to say, that worked.

Editorial was always separate from management
But now, external broadcasting from the Netherlands is taking on a very different form. And the new teams do need to make a clean break with the past. With a 70% budget cut, the strange situation has arisen that they have to move into an extended floor on top of the Radio Netherlands Training Centre building next door and abandon their purpose built main building. That's going to happen at the end of next week.

Radio Netherlands will move into what was the Radio Netherlands Training Centre
The "new" newsroom in the main building will be empty as from next week
The new Radio Netherlands will be based here as from March 15th 2013
So, one last wander through the building. I actually had offices all over the building - moving office every few years as I changed jobs within the organisation or a department moved. The only thing that moved with you was the phone number.

Mission Control

The last office I occupied in the main building was on the first floor, also used for the production of Media Network when I was programme director.

The old office of the Programme Director, from where we also ran Media Network

I see the sign I bought back from Shanghai has survived ten years without me

The cove where the Media Network prep equipment was housed.

Facilities never managed to spell Andy's surname right

The specially sound-proofed studios on studio square are also being abandoned. Where there was once BVN transmissions on TV screens, now that channel showing is Al Jazeera English and BBC World least for a few more weeks.

Studio square. Actually never looked better than now. Used to be an awful colour

Al Jazzera plays on the TV screen outside Studio 4. Packing cases are ready...

The skip in the yard is full of the past. Mainly CD's of long obsolete office software, publicity posters and signs.

I also spotted the movie poster of Hotel Rwanda on the wall of the Broadcast Facilities Nederland office, the organisation that supplied a team of excellent sound engineers. That brings back a particular memory because what we did in March 1995 was used as background material for that film made in 2004. That was the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. We built a hate-media dossier on the Media Network website and the film website quoted from it. 

We knew that Radio Milles Collines incited genocide in Rwanda in 1994. But in March 1995 when the programme below was made, we didn't know the full extent of the tragedy. That would be revealed several years later at the trials in Arusha, Tanzania. Eric Beachemin did a lot of travelling in the Great Lakes region of East Africa and brought back with him some unique insights into how media could help repair the social damage as well. This was one of the first programmes which featured the voice of Diana Janssen, at that time  Head of Strategy. 

Everyone is curious as to what will happen next
And so, onward to other things.

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