History of Radio in Portugal



Fernando Gardelho Medeiros created, in 1914, Rádio Hertz, in Lisbon. In spite of being rudimentary, these were the first Radio experiments in Portugal. Regular broadcasts begin in Lisbon, on the 25th of October, 1925. The station is called CTI AA and it’s owned by Nunes dos Santos. The milestone year of the history of Portuguese Radio is 1928: Major Botelho Moniz founded Rádio Clube da Costa do Sol, later named Rádio Clube Português.

Radio Pioneers

Fernando Gardelho Medeiros created, in 1914, Radio Hertz, in Lisbon. Despite being rudimentary, these were the first radio experiences in Portugal. Hertz was suspended little after, and then reappeared in 1929, remaining open for about a year. In late 30s, it became Rádio Continental. Other stations followed: Rádio Aliança, in Campo Santana, Rádio Lisboa, in Rua Serpa Pinto, and ORSEC, in Porto.

Until 1925, emissions are broadcasted in very particular circumstances. Sometimes they are broadcasted from a room or improvised facilities. They were transmitted at night, when the aficionado was available. The emissions also depended on his private investment on the equipment intended for the emission.

The beginning of regular emissions

The first regular emissions occur in Lisbon on 25th October 1925. The station is named CTI AA and it is Nunes dos Santos’ propriety. But the milestone year in the History of Portuguese Radio is 1928: it is born, in Parede, Rádio Clube da Costa do Sol, later converted to Rádio Clube Português. Founders: Major Botelho Moniz and Alberto Lima Bastos.

The State is concerned about the radio in 1930 and calls to himself the monopoly of radio telegraphy services, radiotelephony, radio and TV broadcasting. The General Administration of Radio Electric Services is created. It is dependent on the CTT.

The first Northern station is born in 1930 and it is called Rádio Sonora. A couple years later appear Invicta and Rádio Clube Lusitânia, also in Porto, Rádio Luso, and Rádio Amadora and Rádio Graça, all in Lisbon.

Rádio Graça, owned by Américo Santos, kept active until 1974, and it was one of the four stations that created the popular Associated Transmitters of Lisbon (Emissores Associados de Lisboa).

The state interest on the radio

After the legislative initiative of 1930, the State becomes interested once again in the Radio, three years later. Duarte Pacheco, the minister of Public Works, encourages the creation of Emissora Nacional. The official inauguration occurs on the 1st of August of 1935.

Such as many other countries in Europe, also the New State (Estado Novo) realises the new medium’s potential. Emissora Nacional is, for decades, the main public communication medium of the regime.

Still in an experimental phase, Rádio Renascença starts broadcasting in 1936. In 1937 the Catholic station’s emissions in medium wave begin. The triangle that dominated the national supply of the Portuguese Radio in the 20th century was now completed: Rádio Clube Português, Emissora Nacional, Rádio Renascença.

The domain years

The Radio began showing the potential of its expressive capacities in the decade of the 50s, and became the dominant communication medium. In 1950, the theatre on the Radio started to gain a popular and commercial shape with the appearance of the famous feuilleton Tide. Two years later the Rádio Comédias appeared.

The Radio served as a distraction for the population, and the programming’s main goal was the entertainment. The first stage of the Radio – the entertainment phase, based on direct emissions, was followed by the cycle of creating programmes of spinning record and talks show between two announcers, as well as humorous programmes.

Emissions such as Voz dos Ridículos, Parada da Paródia and Graça com Todos, from the producers Lisbon Spoofs (Parodiantes de Lisboa), were some of the most famous national radio programmes, and the most successful feuilleton was The Strength of Destiny (A Força do Destino). Concurrently, programmes where the listeners requested music records were born, such as the ubiquitous When the Phone Rings (Quando o Telefone Toca), which broadcasted different emissions in many commercial stations.

The increasing impact of Television, which was accentuated on the late 60s, caused Radio to adopt new formats and modernise itself. Rádio Universidade, which attracted young students, was the training tool for the majority of new professionals, and it started a reform movement that spread to the main Portuguese stations.

The night-time emissions from commercial stations, that had then began to broadcast 24 hours a day, were the first ones to mark the change to more informal formats, new musical tendencies and the introduction of social interest themes.

The 2nd announcer model ended. The new announcer, who was also the director, spoke directly to his listeners while the beginning and the ending of the musical tracks were playing on the background.

Rádio Clube Português begins to broadcast in FM

In 1954, Rádio Clube Português begins its emissions in Frequency Modulation. The station divided the Frequency Modulation emission – firstly only in Lisbon – and dedicated it to a young audience. Em Órbita was born, dedicated to the cult of the Anglo-Saxon music, as well as the Produções Espaço 3 P, which lead the studio to the streets and to the beaches. In Rádio Renascença, Página 1 stood out, created in 1968, which linked Portuguese music of protest to the social issues.

Up until 1974, the emissions of private stations were based on independent productions. The stations rented the majority of its schedules to producers who undertook and commercially explored its own programmes.

In the last years of the 60s, independent producers bet on formats with more informative content. PBX and Tempo ZIP bet on TV personalities such as Carlos Cruz and José Fialho Gouveia, and on young broadcasters like Adelino Gomes, Joaquim Furtado, João Paulo Guerra and José Nuno Martins. At the same time, Rádio Clube Português and Rádio Renascença bet on short and impacting hourly news reports.

The radio on 25th April

The command role of the Radio on the political events of 25th April 1974 exemplarily attest the impact it had as a dominant Portuguese public communication medium. In the short-term it was substituted by equal measure by TV.

The specialisation ways

In 1998, Rádio Comercial implemented a model in which the radio programming was made according to the development of a business idea. The concept of doing radio just for pleasure fell flat and the concept of service delivery, with growing levels itemised billing for companies, was established.

The public segmentation, namely according to specific interests, increased the creation of specialised radio stations. Therefore, the broadcasting stations seek to offer a product that satisfies these interests, through the creation of formats that fulfil the needs of an alternative programming.

Many radio stations adopt an attitude of specialisation. Mega FM, created in 1998, in contrast to Rádio Comercial, does not undertake a musical specialisation. It cannot be defined as a station with specialised content, but rather a radio station addressed to a given audience.  Mix FM was born in 1999, from the market study that confirmed that there was an audience for a rhythmdance radio station.

Rádio Comercial’s rejuvenation shaped the radio market in Portugal. Not only this station innovated the format and the way of communicating with its listeners, but also developed a strategy to conquer audiences.

With the transference of Pedro Tojal from RFM (Renascença Group) to the Media Capital Rádio’s administration, Rádio Comercial parted from its original project. In parallel, Best Rock FM was created in 2003, in order to tackle the space previously fulfilled by Comercial.

In contrast to the idea of a simple replica, of the formats’ simplicity and the speech’s triviality, some radio stations take on very particular characteristics, differentiating them from the rest.

One of such examples is Marginal, born in 1987 under the name Rádio Kit. Despite some similarities in the daily programming, there are other author programmes that make the difference and seek to cover all the rock musical spectrum.

On one hand, the planned layout is the emissions’ quality guarantee. Therefore, the majority of radio stations bet on a format that regulates the entire emission, through a playlist with organised themes, pre-defined phrases, jingles and structured advertising. However, there are still room for each broadcaster to express their “me”.

Just like Voxx case, which was born in 1998 from the ashes of the extinct XFM, and which programming was left to the personalisation of each announcer. Always aiming to please the audience, the station gives room for the authors to show a little of their personalities through their musical choices, as they follow the evolution and announce the news.

Voxx’s “word” programmes prove that radio in not all about music, and that radio can fulfil the role of instigator of thought, through the creation of new concepts in the listener.

Integrated in the group of State channels, Antena 2 is appointed to fulfil part of the broadcasting public service. Furthermore, and because it does not have any commercial goals, the radio station withdraws from the others, establishing itself as a privileged space to the radio culture.

The initiatives of an erudite nature are, most of the times, doomed in the private stations, namely for economic reasons.

However, Rádio Luna is the living proof that classical music can survive in a private station. Addressed to the listeners of classical and jazz music, the station, created in 1999, leaves out the conferences, the radio theatre, the biographical programmes about great artists, pop culture or folklore from its programming.

A common aspect about specialised radio stations is the generalist tendency concerning the information editorial treatment. For example, Best Rock FM, Marginal, Mega FM, and Mix FM present a news component about current events, complemented with rubrics and other informative spaces directed to the station themes. Therefore, they cannot be considered theme radio stations, but instead specialised radio stations.

The Information Radio

TSF is a theme radio station, of information, but it still has not implemented a narrow conception of information, because its emissions’ structure combines music and information.

The specialisation within the specialisation is still yet to come to Portugal, with theme specialised radio stations. This format, which gathers information in one content only, is really common in the United States, due to the audience’s dimension, to the market’s sophistication and to the high advertising investment made on this medium.

Although possible, there is not yet an organisation that offers listeners informative content within a scope established by himself, or information services that satisfy specific needs.

The information customisation is already common in newsletters that the listeners/users subscribe to in information sites. However, the convergence between the analogue communication system and the digital system, with the sending of written or sound messages to the mobile phone, has not yet been put to practice in Portugal.

Open array antenna programmes and the radio’s interactivity

In the 30s, when the creation of Emissora Nacional was on the table, it was said that radio could be the world’s most democratic instrument, because it educated people and because it could reach everywhere. The truth is that the radio sought the interactivity since its beginning.

When compared to other media, radio is a cheaper medium, thus freer. Given the fact that the installation, production and maintenance costs are smaller than other mass communication media, radio can host the plurality of opinions and a wider ideological representation.

In the interactivity context, radio adopted open array antenna programmes to reach its different goals. Open array antenna programmes are very common in the radio spectrum of the United States and cover from the most controversial themes, to the more eccentric or conservative themes.

There are three types of open array antenna programmes: “the exhibitionist phone-in,” “the confessional phone-ins” and “the expressive phone-in.” The North-American tradition targets the confessional tone, where listeners report their personal problems and yearnings.

The Listeners Voice

In Portugal, the success goes through programmes that establish the connection between the public and private domain, allowing the expression of dissident voices about public issues. What cannot be ignored is that, despite the fact that open array antenna programmes allow listeners to voice their opinion, the situation that is given to them by the station obeys rules and a pre-determined theme.

Still, radio, for giving its guests and listeners the opportunity of changing ideas between them, can surpass the remaining national media, asserting the egalitarian opinion principle. Besides, other experiences and valid opinions are confronted with the vision of the “specialist,” allowing the plurality of group opinions and the expression of individual positions.

It becomes important to understand how the “in-line listener” formula works: the fact that the audience stays tuned creates the illusion that the radio is a communication bidirectional medium. In a time that the audience’s participation was limited to the programmes where the listeners asked for music records (from which the programme “When the Phone Rings” from Renascença became famous), it was the “Night Passenger”, in Rádio Comercial, that began the free-themed open line programmes in Portugal.

However, it is worth mentioning that the participation forms are not limited to this open array antenna scheme. We watch the increasing attempt of stations to involve the listeners in its communication, whether through the telephone, whether through messages sent over the Internet. Later, the most requested music is presented, as well as the the recordings of listeners who choose “that” station as the best one, or yet, the several made contests.

The programme “Good Night” in Renascença maintains this open array antenna format, but undertakes a companion aspect, for a lonelier audience. Thus, the radio becomes not only a vehicle to broad democratic participation possibilities, but also an instrument that allows people to keep in touch with others.

This type of open array antenna programmes work as a tribune, for the defiance of dominant conceptions, and as a court, for the sub-represented groups in the media who, in this way, can give their contribution to the most important public issues.

On TSF, the programmes “TSF Forum” and “Bancada Central” are good examples of the passageway from the dialogic communication model that surpasses the radio’s passive reception system.

According to studies, it is proven that these programmes stimulate the political communication and promote free expression, namely for civic and political issues. They are programmes that allow the citizen to enjoy a debating space where common sense is qualified as real knowledge, as it is based on experience, it becomes differentiated from the experts’ knowledge.

The radio, aiming to give a voice to people, presents two great advantages: it is more heard than the newspapers are read, and it becomes easier to pick up the phone and call the newsroom than giving your written opinion and sending it to the newspapers.

The mediated debates on the radio, besides presenting themselves as a “meeting point” where the audience can change ideas, give an excellent base for social representation. They position themselves as debating spaces in which people can defend their ideas, constituting a crucial factor to the construction of a cultural identity.