'Attention. Spain speaking' - RNE makes its first broadcast

An early studio.
An early studio. / SUR
  • The first Spanish public radio broadcast was made 81 years ago today

Nowadays, Spain's national radio, Radio Nacional de España (RNE), is comprised of six stations, which diffuse a variety of content nationally and internationally, but at the time of its foundation, during the height of the Civil War in 1937, this type of public radio was not available.

Radio Nacional de España was opened in Salamanca on 19 January 1937 by founder and first commander of the Spanish Foreign, Legion José Millán-Astray, acting on Franco's orders.

It was entirely dependent on the recently created Delegación de Estado para Prensa y Propaganda (State Delegation for Press and Propaganda).

The founders branded the radio ¨national" as this is what Franco's supporters called themselves.

RNE's first ever programme was aired on that day, presented by Fernando Fernández from Cordoba, opening with the words "Atención. Habla España." ("Attention. Spain speaking").

The station's first transmitter, constructed by Telefunken, was a gift from the government of Nazi Germany to the Francoist New State.

The creation of the national radio was a turning point for the Civil War as it was thanks to this that the immense propaganda potential of the radio became apparent.

A power exploited by both sides. On 14 June 1937, RNE became the nationalists' leading radio station, a mantle previously assumed by Radio Castilla de Burgos.

During his dictatorship, Franco issued an order decreeing that the RNE was the sole broadcaster that had the right to transmit news.

This order was in place until after the death of Franco, in 1975. In the years following the order, RNE collaborated with the Axis powers to retransmit Spanish news across Italy and Germany.

The end of the 1950s saw the invention of FM radio and transmissions in stereo, advancing the station's broadcasting potential.

In 1964, with the main studios now in Madrid, RNE built a network of regional broadcasting centres equipped with powerful transmitters that had an output of over ten times that of their first transmitters.

These gave RNE full coverage of Spain, and also of the rest of Europe. It was in this year that RNE Radio 1 was created.

In November 1965, RNE created a second radio station, specialising in music, taking advantage of the superior sound quality offered by modern transmitters. This station became Radio Clásica.

Following Franco's death, RNE progressed rapidly.

The stations which had previously only had permission to retransmit RNE's news bulletins, merged to create Radiocadena Española in 1978 and this combined with RNE in 1989 to produce the current six programme format of RNE today, with different stations for news, pop music, classical music, and Catalan broadcasting.

The network is publicly financed and does not air adverts in its programming.

A clear indication of the progress made since its creation, RNE today has the role of "state public radio service, which is an essential service for the community and for the cohesion of democratic societies."