Broadcasting has changed enormously in the past four decades, yet in some ways radio is the same as ever: an intimate, flexible medium with a loyal following. Something else that has not changed in radio since 1977 is the presence at EBU Member NPO of Henk van de Pol, who celebrates this week his 40th anniversary with the Dutch broadcaster.
Now Euroradio Coordinator at NPO, Henk began work in the organization's sound archives before becoming an assistant for radio programme exchanges. In a recent interview, Henk retraced the 360° change in working methods and technology that he has witnessed since then.
Henk is not only a pillar of his own organization, but a constant and reassuring presence at EBU meetings and events, and a member of the Euroradio International Relations Group. One of the things that he is most proud of during his lengthy career is his close involvement with the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen since its very beginnings in 1986.
A: I started my radio work back in 1977 in the sound archive, where my colleagues and I took care of all the tapes of radio recordings. In 1981 I became assistant for the Radio Programme Exchanges, where the work was done by 4-5 persons. Nowadays, more or less, I do everything on my own. Back then, there was no computer, only paper; no photocopy machine, just carbon paper and a typewriter; no e-mail, but a telex machine. We were lucky to have one of the first electronic telexes, which enabled you to prepare your whole text in the memory. One of our biggest annual projects was reporting to and paying music publishers when EBU stations had broadcast one of our concerts. Imagine a sheet of A-4 paper, sliced into 16 small pieces, on each piece one title, one broadcast date and one station. Everything was laid on the floor and sorted by publisher, title and date. Now, all you need are a computer, an Excel programme and e-mail. Audio copies had to be made by a studio engineer. If you were lucky, you could make three copies in one run, but it could be done only in real time. For a popular concert requested by, say, 15 EBU stations, this meant about 40 hours of studio working time. Then came DAT cassettes. I was able to make eight copies in one run, in real time still, but a big step forward. After the DAT decade, the first FileTransfer came into sight. Remember the modem with the characteristic bleep-bleep sound? Transferring the file sometimes was almost as slow as real time. Now it takes about 45 seconds to transfer a complete concert from my computer to the EBU.
A: The pink offers – so called because of the coloured paper they were printed on – came in by post, 30 copies each in English and French. When the actual tape copy was received, it was processed, one copy of the pink was taken from the piles on my desk, and this was brought to the relevant producer. The people who transported all those tons of paper and tapes deserve a big hand!
A: I was about the very first one in Hilversum allowed to have audio hardware (like 3 Telefunken M15s, a mixing desk, speakers and so on) in my office. This enabled me to do the copying work without the help of a sound engineer. One of the job requirements for me back in 1981 was “some knowledge of authors’ rights”. And nowadays I am one of the experts, not to say the expert, in the field of musical material hire fees and Grands Droits for our classical station NPO Radio4. Regrets? Somewhere in the past, I should have taken the decision to go to university and study law, with, of course, authors’ rights as my speciality. But that will remain a dream!
A: There is our weekly Saturday afternoon series at the Concertgebouw, "The Matinee", full of extraordinary works, specially commissioned works, adventurous programming and much beloved by the audience and listeners. Also I’d like to mention our weekly Friday evening series in Utrecht. And how about our weekly Sunday morning programme live from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam? An average of 95% hall occupancy and quite high listener ratings. About 3-4 evenings per week, we make recordings somewhere in the country, and not just Amsterdam and Utrecht: we record regional orchestras, well-known concert series and festivals. Many of them are broadcast live-live. If you ask me for a specific stand-out activity for myself, there is only one answer: Eurosonic! Think of 80 gigs recorded and offered to EBU Members, and some 35 hours of live-live broadcasts to EBU countries. I was there at the birth of this festival exactly 30 years ago, and every edition remains a real joy.
A: I am very proud that NPO, despite the current difficult financial situation, is still willing to invest in new technologies and always looking for new ways to reach its loyal listeners. NPO has always been a pioneer in new developments and technology: - one of the first to contribute live-live to Euroradio 2See, and the one who really introduced live-live mixing in the world of pop and rock music; - one of the initiators of SMP90, the first version of the current MUSNew project. To conclude, someone would have to ask me a really extraordinary question before I would reply, “No, not possible”, but rest assured that I would have done everything I could to help!