Book about the first Hungarian commercial radio in Romania

The history of the first Hungarian commercial radio in Romania is being highlighted in a recently published book entitled Two decades of Príma Radio – the voice of Udvarhelyszék.

From left to right: Attila Csizmadia, Levente Orosz-Pál, Enikő Verestóy, János László, Zoltán Molnos and Zoltán Katona standing with the book in their hands in front of Príma Radio’s late headquarters. (Photo: Bálint Előd Erdély/liget.ro)

The first broadcast of Príma Radio was aired at 6 a.m. on October 5, 1997. For the founders of the radio, it was obvious from the very beginning that live shows would be the most cost-effective. “But this caused problems at the same time too because we didn’t have the capacity to edit the programs and cut out the mistakes,” the first chief editor of Príma Radio, László Szőke, told liget.ro. He added that it was also a nice challenge because

this was the first Hungarian language radio license in Romania, which aired 24/7.

According to the ex-director and chief editor of the radio, Zoltán Molnos, in the beginning, it was a long process to get everything together. “We formed a partnership with the BBC, for example; we were also the first one (in Romania) where the Hungarian language news of the Deutsche Welle was aired. We broadcasted the Hungarian programs of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe… The (commercial) radio itself was such a new thing in Székelyudvarhely/Odorheiu Secuiesc that we could hardly sell our commercial slots because entrepreneurs did not understand why the radio would be good for them. Or, for example, we created different contests for our listeners to motivate them to turn on the radio in their cars while driving instead of listening to their tapes.”

Editor Árpád Balázs (on the left) interviewing musician Tóni Murányi in the Príma Radio studio. (Archive photo)

Levente Orosz-Pál, who became the chief editor of Príma Radio in 2000, pointed out that they wanted to create a community radio for the area (Udvarhelyszék) and also aimed to include some public service functions while keeping it a commercial radio. They were able to involve a lot of people on the radio’s team, from the arts and different parts of life.

“There were times when more than 50 people came into the studio regularly. They edited, read fairy tales, etc. There used to be some unbelievable energy in radio back then.”

– he said.

Loyal audience in hard times too

In 2008, the advertising market completely died as a result of the economic crisis, and the radio almost went bankrupt because of this. After making some drastic changes, they tried to survive with a much smaller team and a reduced number of programs. According to the radio’s associates, their listeners were grateful and stayed loyal to Príma Radio.

Attila Csizmadia who has been working at the radio for 23 years, since the very beginning – thinks that the radio meant a lot for Székelyudvarhely in the beginning when they were the only Hungarian language radio in the area. “Then, after the first two years, competition, Star Radio, appeared and caused changes for Príma Radio. The audience split, and some co-workers left us and went to work for the competition, but it was a natural process. We saw how important the radio was for our audience by the numerous phone calls we received from people who wanted to share their opinion.

They sent us handwritten letters too.

The atmosphere within the editorial team was like a family from the very beginning. We always gathered at a colleague’s home on the weekends, we went hiking together, we did a lot of things together.”

Team building weekend in Hargita/Harghita in 2007. (Archive photo)

Another associate, Enikő Verestóy, also recalls that the phones were continuously ringing and that Príma Radio used to be like a “family member” at the homes in Udvarhelyszék. “They loved us so much. Some listeners would even bring freshly baked donuts to the radio because they felt they had to give a gift to the radio associates.”

Zoltán Molnos also recalled a case when

a small girl phoned the radio during a live show asking her mother, who was at the neighbor’s house, to come home because the milk that she had put on the stove was about to spill over.

“This also showed that many people back then thought that people in every house were listening to our radio channel,” said Molnos.

These and similar stories are coming to life via flashbacks and photos in the book about the first 20 years of the first Hungarian commercial radio in Romania. (liget.ro)


Title image: Cover of the recently published Two decades of Príma Radio – the voice of Udvarhelyszék. (Photo: Bálint Előd Erdély/liget.ro) 

Author: Attila Szoó