AGAINST THE MAINSTREAM :: AGAINST THE NORM
Radios Sylvia's eventful history starts in the 70s. The beginnings of our broadcasting activities were inspired by the radio scene of that time. The ships of the now legendary pirate stations were anchoring off the Dutch and Belgian coasts: Radio Northsea International, Radio Veronica, Radio Mi Amigo, Radio Atlantis etc. - and of course Radio Caroline. Furthermore, there was a lively land pirate scene in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, the Scandinavian countries and Germany.
This radio scene encouraged us - intensified by the dullness of the official public radio stations - to start our own station and come on the air with alternative programmes. As we were broadcasting illegally, we often had severe problems with the police and the German post office...
Radio Concordia Nord (RCN) was founded in May 1972 and initially transmitted with low power on long wave 212 kHz. Due to small coverage and missing listener feedback, RCN began with regular broadcasts on 100.5 MHz FM in August 1974; a short time later the frequency was changed to 101 MHz. The transmissions took place Monday to Thursday from 2.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. and on Friday from 2.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
In 1975 a more powerful FM transmitter was installed. Broadcasts went out regularly every Saturday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on 101 MHz FM; however, due to technical problems we had to shorten some transmissions.
In May 1975 Radio Concordia Nord celebrated its 3rd anniversary. To commemorate this event, we planned to be on the air with a 30-hour special live broadcast. The transmission was scheduled to begin on 24th May at 2 p.m. and to end on the following day at 8 p.m. As a new bisquare antenna on a newly erected 8 meter aerial mast was used, a wide coverage was achieved; accordingly listener feedback was good. But then, after having broadcast for nearly 20 hours, the inevitable happened: German post office and police officials appeared in direct vicinity of the broadcasting site; our guards, who were present at the location, could only just switch off the transmitter and get away. Later on we saw a large number of detector vans and police cars - that was when we recognized that it really had been a close shave.
During the next months RCN remained silent. Recommencing transmissions seemed to be impossible with the constellation used so far. FM transmissions were temporarily discontinued but the station was not dead: Under the new name Radio Triumph International (RTI) we began with monthly broadcasts on short wave 6225 kHz in December 1975. However, due to technical problems the transmissions were stopped in September 1976. But in the background new plans were already on the way...
Radio Sylvia - the Early Years
As RTI's successor, we founded Radio Sylvia on 7th July 1977. The station's name was taken from the single "Sylvia" released in 1972 by the Dutch band "Focus" - until the present day this is our station theme. As a start, tests and regular broadcasts began on medium wave 1345 and 1562 kHz. However, these transmissions suffered from permanent technical difficulties and were ceased in June 1978.
Our new aim was to restart transmissions on FM with a more powerful transmitter using new broadcasting sites: In November 1978 Radio Sylvia began regular broadcasts on 100.5 MHz FM, which were aired on every first Sunday of the month and lasted four hours. For security reasons, all programmes were pre-recorded in a secret recording studio. The transmissions were conducted from various sites without any persons being present during the broadcasts. After a period of undisturbed activities, the authorities increased the pressure. Several times the German post office and police arrived at our broadcasting sites and confiscated the equipment - without getting hold on any of us. Even so we managed to continue our regular transmissions for a long time. The problem was that the authorities knew about most of our broadcasting sites and we could not switch to other - more distant - sites without massively moving our target reception area. We only had two possibilities: Close down or change to short wave again, which would enable us to use sites that were far away from each other, without affecting the reception area.
We decided in favour of the second option and changed to short wave 6225 kHz. From then on we were back on the air regularly once a month. Listener feedback was very positive; letters from all over Europe reached us via our P.O. box address in Hamburg. However, as so often in the past, Radio Sylvia's short wave activities did not go unnoticed by the authorities. After several attempts that were in vain, they finally had their big success on 9th December 1984: The transmission on 6225 kHz had run about 90 minutes when the German post office and police arrived at the broadcasting site. There was no time to get away. Four persons were temporarily arrested; the broadcasting equipment (consisting of short wave transmitter, SWR meter, half-wave dipole, car battery, DC/AC converter and two cassette decks) was switched off and confiscated. During the subsequent four house searches, two short wave receivers as well as programme tapes, promotion material and several listeners letters were seized. The recording studio was not found.
To commemorate the raid of Radio Sylvia, we had an obituary printed, which we sent to our listeners. Some months later we were sentenced to heavy fines.
After the (from today's point of view: temporary) end of Radio Sylvia, it seemed to be too risky to restart broadcasts with an own transmitter. In March 1985 we changed the station's name to Radio Scorpio and contacted various foreign short wave pirates with the intention to hire airtime. Negotiations with the Belgian station Radio Delmare, which had been broadcasting since autumn 1984 with a strong signal on short wave, were successful. So we were soon able to broadcast a four-hour programme to Europe on every first Sunday of the month via Radio Delmare on 6206 kHz. Once again listener feedback was very positive. The regular transmissions continued until the end of 1985, when Radio Delmare had to close down temporarily for security reasons. In June 1986 the station returned to 6206 kHz, and also Radio Scorpio was back on the air on 6th July 1986 with regular broadcasts. However, ten months later, on 17th May 1987, the Belgian authorities finally silenced Radio Delmare.
So we were forced to give up our broadcasts via Radio Delmare. During the following months we contacted the Irish station Radio Ireland International and were soon able to air our regular transmissions via their transmitter on 6312 kHz; unfortunately reception in Central Europe was poor. Several months later we moved to the Scottish pirate Scottish Free Radio Network on 7423 and 7428 kHz. But the problem remained - reception in the German target area was too poor and listener feedback declined. We had to face the fact that the whole thing no longer made any sense. So we ceased our broadcasting activities at the end of 1989 with a heavy heart and let our station fall into a long sleep - hoping to be back some day.
Radio Sylvia - the Comeback
In 2007 we began thinking about reactivating Radio Sylvia legally. However, this did not result in any specific activities. At last preparations started in September 2008, and after a test period regular internet broadcasts were launched on 8th January 2009. The station was broadcasting daily from 8 p.m. to midnight, initially with a bit rate of 64 kbit/s and since 10th February 2009 with 128 kbit/s. At first the transmissions consisted of nonstop music only. At the end of February 2009 we introduced presented shows: On every Saturday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. the programme "Blackout" with Mark Andersen was aired, followed by the show "Alles was Recht ist" from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. presented by Brewford T. Justice. However, on popular demand, on 4th July 2009 these two shows were replaced by the co-presented programme "Veitstanz", which ran every Saturday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
After installation of new broadcasting computers, we extended our transmission times on 1st December 2009 and were on the air for 12 hours daily from noon to midnight. Since 1st September 2010 we broadcast 24/7.
On 16th May 2011 Radio Sylvia was added to the iTunes radio directory.
Meanwhile it became more and more apparent that the functional range of the broadcast and production software used since January 2009 did not meet future requirements. So in August 2011 we evaluated various other software solutions. Finally we were able to put a new professional software into operation in September. After some adjustments, this system is now running around the clock since 25th September 2011.
In order to offer our listeners an additional low-bandwidth access, we started the second Radio Sylvia stream on 11th May 2012. This stream ran at a bit rate of 32 kbit/s and was coded in the aacPlus format.
On 25th May 2014 "The Overflow" with Garry Lee came on the air on Radio Sylvia for the first time. Since then the show can be heard on every Sunday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. with brand new Alternative and Underground releases.
To intensify the communication with our listeners, the Radio Sylvia Hotline was launched on 18th December 2014. Suggestions, criticisms and music requests are always welcome.
Some time later we implemented a powerful professional multiband soundprocessing system, which now takes care of the good sound on Radio Sylvia.
After a long preparation period the Radio Sylvia Shop started on 1st May 2015 offering fan articles and records. Our product range will be expanded continuously.
To increase our server capacities, the 128 kbit/s stream moved to a new server on 31st August 2015, followed by the 32 kbit/s stream on 3rd September 2015. Radio Sylvia now broadcasts via servers in France.
On 5th December 2015 at 8 p.m. we were able to put our new live studio into operation: For the first time the "Veitstanz" was broadcast live - we were on the air for more than six hours...
At the beginning of the following year, on 8th January 2016, our new colleagues Artschie and Tom presented the first edition of their show "Harte Zeiten", which from then on ran every Friday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
After more than 26 years things came full circle: We celebrated our return to short wave. On 2nd April 2016 from 8 p.m. to midnight Radio Sylvia transmitted on 6070 kHz in the 49m band. The feedback was overwhelming. Reception reports came in from all over Europe. Amazingly many listeners still knew us from our early years.
As of June 2016 there were some changes in our programme schedule: The "Veitstanz" was extended to four hours and the first two hours could be heard on short wave 6070 kHz in parallel.
On 15th June 2016 our brand new homepage went online.
We extensively celebrated Radio Sylvia's 39th anniversary with our big live show "39 Special", which started on 2nd July 2016 at 6 p.m. and ended after 7.5 hours on 3rd July at 1.30 a.m. Presenters were Dom van Hool, Thomas Alpha-Beta, Piet van der Straaten, Artschie, Tom, Brewford T. Justice and Mark Andersen.
On 13th July 2016 we extended our stream offer. Radio Sylvia now broadcasts on two MP3 and two aacPlus streams.