Curated Playlist: Finding and Understanding International Radio in the Media Suite
Mary-Joy van der Deure, Utrecht University
The Media Suite provides access to many audio-visual collections from institutions in The Netherlands, and is therefore centred around Dutch cultural heritage. However, this does not mean that one cannot find international or internationally oriented material in the Media Suite. This curated playlist will engage with international radio specifically, as it has long been characterised “as a medium capable of quickly transcending national borders; [..] as a mode of cultural production based on both sound and language that can strengthen local bonds within transnational communities; [and as] transnational communities of practice and standardizing transnational sounds.” (Badenoch and Föllmer 2018, 16). I will investigate these modalities of international radio with two specific (new) user groups in mind, namely lecturers and students in the international classroom at Dutch universities, as well as researchers interested in international radio in The Netherlands. While reflecting upon the different conceptualisations, this playlist will also present multiple search techniques that users can deploy in order to find this data.
But what is international material? Language is not restricted to national borders, and even those borders themselves are not a historically set given, as they have formed and changed over time. As Benedict Anderson (1983) argued, nations are ‘imagined communities’, where individuals identify as part of a socially constructed group without there truly being signifiers that distinguish them from others. As Chiara de Cesari and Ann Rigney (2014) argue, cultural remembrance too, has agency in this matter and has the ability to “reconfigure” these imagined communities. The audio-visual material present in the collections within the Media Suite is one form of cultural remembrance. This content can therefore reinforce the idea of the nation, just as much as it has the ability to make us question these borders in the first place. Looking through these collections from an inter- or transnational perspective can therefore provide valuable insight into the content itself, and its historic context.
This playlist will therefore engage with multiple approaches to the concept of international heritage, and international radio specifically. This will show how an awareness of these different approaches is important in order to both find, as well as understand the data that can be found in the Media Suite. Through the discussion of examples from four different categories of ‘international radio’, this playlist will engage with these different approaches. This will show how a reflection upon the origin of the material can both broaden the boundaries of what is considered ‘international radio’ as well as define our own search strategies.
In short, this curated playlist will have the following three functions:
It will provide a cross-section of approaches towards the concept of ‘international radio’. Through highlighting four different categories within this concept, this playlist will provide insight into its complexity while presenting examples of the different definitions this can have.
It will discuss a number of fragments in order to highlight the international material that is present in these rich radio collections. While the collections that the Media Suite provides access to are centred around Dutch audio-visual heritage, these examples will feature the international material that can be found here as well.
It will be a search guide for users who are interested in international radio within the Media Suite. Through embedding search paths in this playlist, including the used settings, users can reproduce the same queries and therefore gain insight into the different strategies for finding international material.
I would like to thank Alec Badenoch and Jasmijn Van Gorp for their feedback on earlier versions of this curated playlist.
To follow this curated playlist, and to use the embedded queries in this text, you have to be logged into the Media Suite with your Dutch university account. This can be done by clicking login at the top right corner of the screen. After logging in with your institute credentials, you enter the overview of your saved user projects. It is recommended to create a user project if you want to follow along, so you can save the different queries linked in this curated playlist. For more information, see this tutorial.
Category 1: International radio in another language
In my search for international material, I will focus on the collections of the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision. This institute has collections of radio as well as television, video games, programme guides and broadcast websites. Within the Media Suite, there are different entry points to its collections. These can be accessed through going to the tab ‘Tools’ > ‘Search’ after which you can click on the left drop-down menu to see an overview of the different collections. In this, you can find the overall ‘Sound and Vision Archive’, but this playlist will specifically focus on the ‘Sound and Vision Archive - Radio’.
Browsing through broadcasters
My first attempt to find international material contains a manual search of the different broadcasters present, as this will simultaneously provide me with the opportunity to get to know the contents of the overall collection a little better. Without any search terms, I first go to the search facet ‘Broadcaster’ on the left side of the screen, and start manually looking through the 96 terms that this facet contains (see screenshot below).
Screenshot of the Broadcaster Search Facet (Media Suite, 2022).
In this list, I find the British broadcaster, BBC . As I am already familiar with this British public service broadcaster, I also know that this will probably provide me with many fragments in English. When manually scanning the 25 results, I find an interesting English-language BBC report during the Second World War occupation of the Netherlands. In two more items in this BBC query I find Canadian-British reporter Stanley Maxted , who is famous for his wartime radio reporting. The first, describes his experiences live from the village of Oosterbeek during the Battle of Arnhem, where food and supplies were dropped from the aeroplanes of allied troops. The second result, describes his experiences right in the middle of these allied troops. Around 05:05 min. into the fragment, while Maxted describes the troops’ frightening journey back from the front, he says: “I felt as naked as if I were in Piccadilly Circus in my pyjamas because of the glow from fires across the river.” His detailed report provides a unique insight into the horrendous experiences of soldiers in the front-line during this time.
Additionally, both fragments are good examples of the worth of international radio. They are defined as such by their language, not to mention Maxted’s clearly North American accent, as well as their production by an English broadcaster and the fact that they were aired in the United Kingdom. However, they were recorded in The Netherlands and provided insight into the situation there at the time. This already complicates the notion of international radio, as it shows how location can be a determinative factor in this conceptualisation.
A more straightforward example can also be found in the results of the BBC selection. Still without actually entering a specific query, I go to the second result, a fragment from the BBC music programme, Rockline . The first 00:54 seconds of the fragment exist of the song “Message in a Bottle”, by *The Police, *after which presenter Andy Finney interviews *Sting, *singer of the British band. When looking further in the query results, it turns out that 16 from the overall 25 BBC fragments in this radio collection are from Rockline (see screenshot below).
Screenshot of the BBC broadcaster query (Media Suite, 2022): Link to query (login required) .
All these results follow the same format, but with other, often British, artists like: Bob Geldof, Johnny Rotten, Marianne Faithfull, Paul McCartney and Roger Hodgson. These interviews are all examples of international radio from a Dutch perspective, as they originate from a British broadcaster, are recorded in the UK, are in English and are meant for British listeners. Further research is needed to explain how these episodes entered this collection. However, because of the quantity of episodes, this is a useful find for English speaking users of the Media Suite who are looking for material they can understand.
Searching with the ASR Search Functionality
Another search technique to find international material in another language than Dutch is through the ASR Search Functionality in the Media Suite. ASR, or Automatic Speech Recognition, is able to identify spoken language into text. This functionality makes it possible to search through these ASR speech transcripts in order to find specific data.
Screenshot of how to search in the ASR Speech Transcripts (Media Suite, 2022).
You can search through these transcripts by going to the drop-down menu in the search bar, and selecting the search layer “Speech transcripts (ASR)” (see screenshot above). After selecting this, you can enter your search query in the left field. More detailed information on how to work with this functionality can be found in this tutorial .
Regarding international radio it is important to know that currently, the ASR-files as available in the Media Suite are the result of automatic recognition of Dutch (and Flemish-Dutch) speech. However, this does not mean that this search layer cannot be used to find radio programs in other languages. As my colleague Alec Badenoch discovered, the tool is also able to recognise written-out numbers in different languages. As he describes in the tutorial “Searching and analysing the Sound and Vision Radio Collection using Automatic Speech Recognition”, this means that you can enter numbers from different languages in this search layer and increase the chances that you will find data in that language.
I attempt to do so by clearing my search, selecting the general Radio collection once again, and searching for ‘Ein’ , the German word for ‘one’, within the Speech Transcript layer (see screenshot below). The first two results are immediately interesting, as these are two parts of a German broadcast called “Zeugen des Jahrhunderts” . The descriptions of the fragments are in Dutch, but can be translated using an external translation tool (more information on how to use these tools while working with the Media Suite, see this tutorial ).The episode itself, however, is completely in German and presents an interview with the conductor Herbert von Karajan. After a small fragment of his musical composition, the interview starts at 00:45 and lasts for the remaining hour, with an additional hour of interview in part 2 .
This number search technique is fruitful, because when I look through the metadata, it turns out to have an empty field where its broadcaster is supposed to be. This means that this result would not have turned up with my previous search technique. When interested in international data, it is therefore useful to experiment with this ‘ASR hack’ and see how this influences your search results.
Screenshot of the search for the German number ‘Ein’ in the Speech Transcript search layer (Media Suite, 2022): Link to query (login required) .
Searching through Speech Transcripts in the Resource Viewer
Another search technique to find material in a different language is to analyse the speech transcripts of a specific item manually in order to retrieve other search queries.. This works best when you are not looking for one topic or fragment specifically but if you simply want to find material in that specific language. It is additionally a requirement in this search technique to be able to recognise the language that you are searching for.
In order to do so, I go to the German programme that I have already found and search the speech transcript for words in German that the tool has recognised. For this, you can go to the metadata on the right side of the Resource Viewer, select the tab ‘Content Annotations’ and choose ‘Speech Transcripts’ in the drop-down menu. As stated, the transcripts from other languages than Dutch are often gibberish, but besides written out numbers, it turns out that the ASR has also recognised the German words “kein” “nicht” “musikalische” “für” and “wiener” (see screenshot below).
Screenshot of the speech transcripts of the German programme Zeugen des Jahrhunderts (Unknown, 1983): Link to audio (login required). It shows how the transcript is not coherent, but how certain German words can be identified by the ASR tool.
It also recognises words like “der” and “das” but as they are Dutch words too, they will not help me any further. This will be different in every search but it provides the opportunity to try these words out as search terms in the general archive. Some provide me with more international oriented results than others, but again the percentage of German videos in my search results has suddenly become a lot higher (see screenshot below). Additionally, I can combine certain names or events with commonly used words like “oder” in order to narrow down the search results. While the success of this technique will differ with every query, it is a way to play around with the search terms in order to find specific languages present in the collection. If language is the determinant factor in the chosen definition of ‘international’ radio, this search technique will serve as a tool to find this data.
Screenshot of the search for ‘Nichts’ in the Speech Transcript search layer. The information shows the descriptions of the audio in the metadata. The German in these descriptions show the international nature of the results. (Media Suite, 2022): Link to query (login required).
Category 2: Dutch radio in another language
The ASR tool, however, can also provide us with a different form of international radio, namely Dutch radio fragments in another language. This means that the episodes or fragments are produced in the Netherlands, for a Dutch audience but that they are not completely in Dutch. To find these results, I use the same technique as before and search through the Speech Transcripts layer.
This time, I enter the Turkish word for the number two, ‘iki’ . This offers ‘209 results’, and with a few exceptions where ‘iki’ refers to a name, most of these results are in Turkish. The second result in this query, for example, is Dutch news in Turkish, aired by the Dutch public service broadcaster, NPS. It is a full-length broadcast and when scrolling through the rest of the results, I see that there are many other similar episodes. What makes this result even more interesting, is how the Turkish numbers in the speech transcript are embedded in the context of a Dutch address that is mentioned in the broadcast, making this exemplary for the international nature of this fragment (see screenshot below).
Screenshots of the NPS programme ‘NIEUWS EN ACTUALITEITEN IN HET TURKS’ (NPS, 2022):
Link to audio
These Turkish results also provide me with the opportunity to search with a snowball method, meaning that I look through the results and their metadata in order to find something that I can use in my further search. I find another fragment called NMO-Turks , where the description states that it is a programme with “a general character with the emphasis on emancipating.” When looking further into the broadcaster, it turns out that the NMO is a Dutch abbreviation of the Dutch Muslim Broadcaster . As I was not familiar with this name, I did not recognise it as possibly international when manually searching through the list of broadcasters before. Now, however, I can return to this list and use this as a search facet. When selecting the NMO in this list, it provides me with ‘1768’ results. Some data in these results is in Dutch, but the percentage of videos in Turkish is a lot higher than it was before. This makes retrieval of these videos easier as I can now search for specific topics and go through the results manually.
These results show me that the concept of ‘international’ can also simply apply to the language being spoken. This means that other search techniques can also be attempted, like filtering the radio collection with the facet ‘language’. For this, you have to go to the left side of the screen, and select this category manually (see screenshot below).
Screenshot of how to select the ‘Language’ search facet in the Media Suite (Media Suite, 2022).
Not everything in the collection has a language label attached to it, as 234.449 results are categorised under ‘empty field’, but I can still see many languages that apply to at least one fragment, like Greek, Irish or Hindi (see screenshot below).
Screenshot of the different facets in the ‘Language’ search facet in the Media Suite. (Media Suite, 2022).
I decide to focus on ‘Portugees’ which results in 4 fragments . While one would perhaps not immediately categorise these results as ‘international’ as they are produced and aired in the Netherlands, and contain quite a lot of Dutch spoken text, a closer look shows that, at least somewhere in the fragment, Portuguese is spoken. For example, the second result in this list, a radio report about Brazil in which different people are interviewed. While this fragment actually starts with a Dutch song, this transfers around 02:20 min. into a Brazilian song, sung by children. While the rest of the audio also contains a voice-over that translates parts of the interview in Dutch, a considerable amount of Portugese can be heard. As this language is present, and the audio does contain an ‘international report’ from the viewpoint of Dutch listeners, results like this one could be considered to be a form of ‘international’ radio.
These examples and this specific approach towards international radio, show that language is not a clear-cut determining factor in deciding what is, and what is not, deemed ‘international’. In all of these examples, one could argue that they are ‘national’ radio as well, due to them being produced by a Dutch broadcaster and aired in the Netherlands. However, with reports from different countries or speaking other languages, one could also make the argument that they are a prime example of how the medium of radio is not easily restricted by borders. The discussion of this category shows that it is important during the data collection process, to clearly describe how ‘international radio’ is defined in that specific research. Only then, the right data can actually be gathered and analysed. The same goes for researchers simply interested in data they can understand. In that case, the language itself can serve as a tool to gather the data that is required. In both cases, this category shows that international radio is not as straightforward as it would appear.
Category 3: International radio in Dutch
Having established that language is not a determining factor in deciding if radio is international, also highlights the category “International radio in Dutch”. This category can be formed when considering production country, broadcaster or participants involved as contributing factors to the ‘international’ label. “International” broadcasting is generally broadcasting intended for reception beyond national boundaries. While it typically serves a number of different purposes, connecting the ‘home country’ with travellers and emigrés overseas is quite common. The Netherlands has a long history of international broadcasting for such populations (Haslach 1983, Kuitenbrouwer 2019). Within this category, historic context is often important. A good example of this is
, the Dutch World War II radio broadcasts that were aired by the BBC when the Netherlands was occupied. These broadcasts were in Dutch, by the Dutch government and meant for the Dutch public. However, they were also recorded and aired by a British broadcaster the United Kingdom and are a good example of international radio collaborations that come into being through political circumstances. It is also this characteristic of radio, the “promise of listening in to intended voices from over borders” that is often defined as ‘international’ by radio researchers (Föllmer and Badenoch, 2018).
Screenshot of the BBC query in which it shows the Radio Oranje fragment called “NIET VAN TOEPASSING: Proclamatie op gezag van de geallieerde opperbevelhebber met instructies over de aanstaande voedselafwerpingen boven het bezette deel van Nederland”(BBC, 1945): Link to query (login required).
These specific Radio Oranje recordings can be found when manually searching through the list of broadcasters in the collection, within the search field of the BBC (see screenshot above). Here, I find one recording that consists of presenter Bertie Winand announcing aid in the form of food drops (which, seen the location and year, are not the same as presenter Stanley Maxted reported). In the 15 minute fragment, he discusses specific instructions while also warning the occupier not to prevent these drops from happening. This is a good example of how these forms of international Dutch broadcasts do seem very dependent on specific contexts and often require further research in order to fully understand.
Category 4: International exchanges
In my search for international material in the radio collection, I also encountered the broadcaster ‘Radiodiffusion Francaise’. While I would expect French language material in this search, I also found a recording called
DE FRANSE WETENSCHAP EN FILOSOFIE (LA VIEW SCIENTIFIQUE ET PHILOSOPHIQUE DE LA FRANCE.
The description states that this is an overview of French science, but in Dutch (see screenshot below). Apparently, this is presented by a Dutch speaking doctor called Van Deinse, who works at the Pasteur institute in Paris. From the metadata it is hard to determine the exact nature of the recording, but when I search further through the 8 videos labelled under the same broadcaster, I encounter
where the description explains that this was part of an international programme exchange between a French and a Dutch broadcaster in 1948.
Screenshot of the fragment from Radiodiffusion Francaise called *DISCOURS DE D. STIKKER SUR LA PRESTATION DE SERMENT DE LA REINE JULIANA - DISCOURS DE D. STIKKER SUR LA PRESTATION DE SERMENT DE LA REINE JULIANA *(Toespraak van D. Stikker ter gelegenheid van de eedaflegging door koningin Juliana) (Radiodiffusion Francaise, 1948): Link to audio (login required).
In this second fragment, Dutch minister of Foreign affairs D. Stikker presents a narration of the coronation of Queen Juliana, while simultaneously discussing the difficulties The Netherlands faced in the reconstruction in the years after the war. While the metadata description is in Dutch, the entire fragment itself is in French and presents an interesting example of what an international radio exchange can look like. It would appear that the first recording I found is also part of this exchange, as it is recorded in the same year, but it is difficult to determine this for sure.
Programme exchanges like this, show that the medium can not only create or strengthen national communities, but can also be deployed across borders. The concept of European heritage, for example, shows how the imagined communities previously discussed are not necessarily limited to nations. Exchanges like this, between Dutch and French broadcasters, can therefore also serve as political tools.
To summarise, this playlist has identified four different conceptualisations of international radio. Through these descriptions, it has shown the complexity of the concept and the importance of defining the required material in the preliminary stages of research. Additionally, it has highlighted the diversity of the material that can be found with the Media Suite, and presented a number of search techniques that can help a user to retrieve this data. Both the categories as well as the search techniques are not exhaustive and users are encouraged to rethink the boundaries of what they consider to be international. This way, the richness of the collections present in the Media Suite can be discovered in its full potential.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1991.
De Cesari, Chiara and Ann Rigney. “Introduction”. In Transnational Memory: Circulation, Articulation, Scales. Edited by Chiara De Cesari and Ann Rigney. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014.
Föllmer, Golo and Alexander Badenoch. “Transnationalizing Radio Research: New Encounters with an Old Medium.” In Transnationalizing Radio Research: New Encounters with an Old Medium. Edited by Golo Föllmer and Alexander Badenoch. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2018.
Haslach, Robert D. Netherlands World Broadcasting . Media, Pa.: L. Miller Pub.1983.
Kuitenbrouwer, Vincent. “Band Met Nederland. Radio Voor Nederlanders in Het Buitenland.” In De Radio. Een Cultuurgeschiedenis . Edited by Huub Wijfjes. Amsterdam: Boom. 2019.