The Evolution of Croatian Radio and Television

In a world in which development and technological growth prevails, radio and television have come to be the ultimate media sources.

Croatia was among the first countries in Central and Eastern Europe to establish a radio station - to be more precise - on 15 May 1926 . Croatian television made its appearance on the same date thirty years later and, at the time, it was perceived as quite the phenomenon.

The Beginnings

The earliest beginnings of the radio originated in America and Western Europe. In 1906, numerous tests were carried out throughout the United States and the first commercial radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, began scheduled regular broadcasts on 2 of November 1920.

Six years later, scheduled broadcasts were introduced in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, the USSR, France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Spain, Finland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, and in Croatia where Radio Zagreb was the first radio station to broadcast in Southeast Europe.

"Halo, halo! Ovdje Radio Zagreb!" were the first words broadcast live on the air on 15 May 1926, marking the beginning of radio broadcasting in Croatia.

22 April 1925 marks the first successful transmission of live pictures on television, although the fete was carried out at a distance of only a few meters. The transmission took place at a house in London where rather primitive, but, at the same time, sensational portable equipment was used to broadcast the first image ever on television.

By the mid 1940's there were 23 television channels. Although TV broadcasting was brought to a standstill during World War II, the development of television resumed immediately after the war ended. The 1950's saw tremendous progress in TV broadcasting, both in Europe and worldwide.

One of the veterans of Croatian television vividly described the beginning of television, notably in his hometown of Zagreb , as an "array of pictures whirling in the air above Europe". They traversed the skies over France, England, Italy, the USSR, but were invisible and unattainable to those who had no technical means of bringing them to the TV screen.

In the evening of May 15 1956, an image reached Zagreb from Vienna via Graz and Slovenia. The emergence of television was seen as a phenomenon on Croatian soil. All that was needed at the time was a transmitter repeater on the top of Mount Sljeme and a TV set at home. A daring creative spirit, the essential knowledge in radiophonics, minimal technical resources for the production of images and sound and the pure determination of the staff of Radio Zagreb ultimately led to the establishment of Television Zagreb. These TV pioneers relied on the modest output of radio transmitters and rudimentary basic equipment installed at the Tomislav Dom Hotel on Mount Sljeme just north of Zagreb.

Significant Years in HRT History


In March 1924, a group of radio devotees from Zagreb formed the Zagreb Radio Club and elected Dr. Oton Kučera, an astronomer and physicist, as their first president.

One month later, the Radio Club began publishing a magazine called "Radio Sport". The magazine played an important role in promoting radio in Croatia. By then, the club had 136 members from Zagreb and other parts of Croatia.

The management of the Zagreb Radio Club sent a petition to the Government of the "Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca (the Kingdom of SHS - Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) in Belgrade asking permission to "immediately set up a broadcasting station in Zagreb".


The Government passed a statutory declaration for shareholder's rights in Radio Zagreb in March, after having granted the concession to a group of members of the Zagreb Radio Club (1925).
The convention of the newly found shareholder's company- Radio Zagreb was held in May. A board of directors consisting of 13 members was elected with Å andor A. Aleskander as President and Velimir Stiasny, an engineer, as Vice-President. The Managing Committee consisted of Dr. Ivo Ražem, Dr. Ivo Stern, Dr. Rudolf Rodanić, and Eng. Dragutin Joachimsthal . 

 At 8:30 p.m. on 15 May 1926, beginning with the sounds of the Croatian National Anthem and an announcement read by Božena Begović, followed by a speech by Dr. Stern, Radio Zagreb was heard for the first time on the frequency MW 350 m. That night, the listeners were able to hear the radio station's official bulletin, music by L.v. Beethoven, J. Haydn, F. Chopin, J. Ph. Rameau, and C. Saint-Saens, concluding with a 15-minute news program.

The first on-site broadcasts began in the autumn, while the first live coverage took place at the unveiling of J.J. Strossmeyer's monument in November. Later that month, two more live broadcasts of the operas, "The Sea" and "The Rusalka" were aired from the Croatian National Theatre. It continued with broadcasts of the masses from St. Mark's and other churches.

By December, Radio Zagreb was among the first radio stations in Europe to invite public participation in the creation of original manuscripts for radio plays.


International cooperation and exchange of programs with different radio stations began in February 1927. Radio Zagreb retransmitted a program from the USA, which was transmitted by a short-wave radio station at Schenectady. In March, based on a contract with the Management Board of RAVAG, Radio Zagreb linked up via telephone cables to broadcast Radio Vienna's gala concert to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's death. The same concert was broadcast by Radio Prague and Radio Warsaw.
Radio Zagreb established good relationships and maintained intensive cooperation with Radio Prague, Radio Warsaw, Radio Budapest, and Radio Berlin.

In April, the first Croatian radio drama "The Fire", by Ivo Å repel was broadcast by Radio Zagreb. The first live broadcasts of football matches began in the summer, followed by motor races and other sporting events.


Radio Zagreb's first broadcast outside of Zagreb was aired from the city of Varaždin with "Miss Peotica", by B. Širola. A broadcast from Osijek followed, as well as broadcasts from other Croatian towns and regions.

At a conference in Lausanne, at the beginning of June, Radio Zagreb became a full member of ITU (the International Telecommunication Union).


A gala concert to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Radio Zagreb was held in May 1931 at the Croatian Music Hall in Zagreb. The concert was broadcast live by Radio Budapest, Czechoslovakian radio stations, Radio Ljubljana, which began broadcasting in 1928, and Radio Belgrade, which began broadcasting in 1929.


The radio transmitter from the Upper Town of Zagreb was relocated to the shores of the river Sava, where Radio Zagreb had already erected a new system of antennae and a new building. Meanwhile, at an adapted concert studio in the centre of town, the first recordings were made on "soft records" using Philips technology.


The Government nationalized the property of the shareholder's company - Radio Zagreb, and a new Managing Board led by Vladimir Kovačević took over the radio station. The Government authorities of what was then the Banovina of Croatia, made it possible for the radio station to acquire new equipment and to move into a new, considerably larger premises at the beginning of November.

During the year, the number of employees rose significantly. The members of the Orchestra doubled in number and, at the same time, the members of the Tamburitza Group and Dance Orchestra became full-time employees of the radio station.


The transmitter in Zagreb was upgraded to 10 kW. Local radio stations Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, and Banja Luka also began broadcasting.


A local radio station in Osijek started broadcasting.


Radio Split began broadcasting in April, while Radio Rijeka went on air in September. Radio Zagreb 2 also started broadcasting.


A 135 kW Radio Zagreb transmitter at Deanovac was put into operation.


The local Radio Zagreb 2 stopped broadcasting.


Radio Zagreb moved into its new premises at 4, Jurišićeva Street.


Radio Sljeme began broadcasting in the Zagreb region.


The world famous string ensemble "Zagreb Soloists" began performing under the leadership of Antonio Janigro.


On 15 May, which marked the 30 th anniversary of Radio Zagreb, the first TV transmitter began operating from the Tomislav's Dom Hotel on Mount Sljeme. It retransmitted RAI UNO programs.

The first live TV broadcast from the gala opening of the Zagreb Fair was aired on 7 September, while the first test programmes of Television Zagreb were broadcast on 29 November.


In May, the first live TV coverage of a sports event took place from the stadium at Maksimir Park. A soccer game between Italy and Yugoslavia was successfully broadcast. It was the first time a Marconi OB van equipped with three cameras and image and sound transmission equipment was used.

The first radio transmitter on Mount Sljeme also began broadcasting radio programs.


The very first Croatian TV play, "The Search", by Krešo Novosel was broadcast in January.

The TV studios moved to new premises at 20, Šubićeva Street.


Radio Pula began broadcasting on New Year's Day.


A large TV studio was set up in the Worker's Hall.

Transistor technology was introduced and a part of a foreign satellite program was retransmitted by Radio Zagreb for the first time.


Radio Zagreb underwent programming and organizational restructuring, which created three separate radio channels: Radio Zagreb 1, Radio Zagreb 2, and Radio Zagreb 3. Each channel had separate editorial boards.
During this and the following year two new TV OB vans were acquired.


 A 10 kW VHF TV transmitter was set up on Mount Sljeme and Channel 2 of Television Zagreb began test broadcasts with occasional programs in color. Radio Zagreb and Television Zagreb, respectively, celebrated their 40th and 10th anniversaries.

Programs produced by Radio Zagreb and other local stations were broadcast by 38 SW transmitters with a total power output of 254 kW, and by 13 transmitters and translators with a total output of 90 kW.

On the other hand, TV programs were being broadcast by 15 transmitters and translators with a total output of 52 kW.


In line with a decision adopted by the European Broadcasting Union, the Zagreb TV Centre became the Eurovision Technical Centre for the entire JRT - an umbrella organization of Radio-Televisions in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.


Radio Zadar began broadcasting, while Television Zagreb transmitted a pop music concert from the sea resort of Opatija - live and in colour for the first time.

Channel 2 of Television Zagreb began permanent broadcasting.


Television Zagreb programming was aired in colour and the TV Center in Miramarska Street (SBF) was put into operation. The year was also marked by the beginning of daily news broadcasts. "The Chronicle" and "The Zagreb Panorama" brought coverage of regional, communal, and urban life in Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka, Split, Varaždin, Bjelovar, Sisak, Karlovac, and Gospić.


Radio Zagreb 1 began broadcasting around the clock and new TV studios were opened in Rijeka and Osijek. The 50 th anniversary of radio and the 20 th anniversary of Television were celebrated.

Radio Zagreb programs, along with those of local radio stations were now being broadcast by 39MW transmitters with a total power output of 626 kW and 22 VHF transmitters and translators with a total power output of 158 kW. By this time, 75 transmitters and translators with a total output of 174 kW were transmitting Television Zagreb programming. By July a project to modernize regional TV studios was well underway. The studio of Radio Rijeka was the first to undergo reconstruction for the needs of television and radio broadcasting.


Television Zagreb introduced an electronic news gathering system (ENG), and a new TV studio was built in Osijek.


A local TV studio was opened in Split.


The first TV production studio was installed at 3, Prisavlje.


A new MW transmitter with an output of 1200 kW began broadcasting in Zadar.


The new Broadcasting Centre at 3,Prisavlje became a permanent domicile for the entire radio and television production, although parts of some programs had been produced there since 1983.

Channel 3 of Television Zagreb began broadcasting.


On the occasion of the Eurovision Song Contest in Zagreb, the EBU transmitting/receiving satellite earth station, as part of the Eurovision Satellite Transmission Network, was set up at 3, Prisavlje.
Teletext was introduced as a permanent TV service.
In June, the Croatian Parliament adopted an act to rename Radio-Television Zagreb to Croatian Radio-Television (Hrvatska radiotelevizija: HRT ).


The period from July 1991 to February 1992 was marked by a brutal aggressive war waged against Croatia. During the war, 80% of Croatia's transmitters and more than 30 TV translators were either occupied or damaged - some were totally destroyed. The TV transmitter on Mount Sljeme was hit by a missile at 4:10 p.m. on 16 September 1991. Although the majority of transmitters were damaged, they continued to transmit with reduced power from reserve locations until they were repaired in 1992 - something that makes HRT proud of its technical staff.


As one of the successors to the former Yugoslav Radio-Television (JRT) umbrella organization, the HRT gained full "active" membership in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).


In October, Croatian Radio News was aired from the HRT Broadcasting Centre at Prisavlje.


In February, the main controls room at Šubićeva Street was relocated to the new main controls room at Prisavlje. This meant that all three channels of Croatian Radio, alongside Radio Sljeme, were aired from the new HRT Broadcasting Centre. On 4 May Radio Okučani began broadcasting, less than two days after the Croatian military operation 'Flash' liberated this occupied town.

Following the Croatian military operation 'Storm' on the 4 of August, Radio Knin and TV Marjan Express began broadcasting at 5 a.m. on the 6 of August. Other stations in the former occupied territory, such as Slunj and Korenica, also began transmitting programs after the military operation 'Storm'. A number of RTV buildings and translators were repaired, as well as transmitters on Čelavac and Lička Plješevica.


In February, Croatian Radio-Television took over the (until then occupied) transmitting facilities in Belje in Croatia's eastern region of Slavonia.


In January, Radio Sljeme brgan broadcasting around the clock; in October Channel 2 of Croatian Radio, and in December Channel 3 of Croatian Radio.
In September, Croatian Radio began test broadcasts of all three of its programs using digital technology simultaneously via a T-DAB 800 W transmitter installed on Sljeme.

The first satellite earth station at Prisavlje was put into operation in November for broadcasting all three Croatian TV channels and Channel 1 of Croatian Radio, on the Eutelsat Hot Bird 3 satellite, covering Europe and the Middle East.


Channel 2 of Croatian Television began using panoramic cameras to air tourist destinations.

The EBU satellite earth station for program exchange was upgraded to digital technology. This was done concurrently with the rest of the EBU-TV membership. The new TV OB van RK8 became operational and was used to broadcast the visit of Pope John Paul II to Croatia.


In October, all three channels of Croatian Television began broadcasting around the clock.


The construction of the new Block 30 building at Prisavlje was completed. The building's main features include the offices of the HRT's Senior Management and large state-of-the-art studios.


HRT celebrated it 75 th anniversary of radio broadcasts and 45 th anniversary of television broadcasts.


In line with a decision adopted by the Croatian Government in April, the HRT was divided into two entities - the public broadcasting organization HRT and the trading company OIV (Network & Transmitters). In this process, the HRT lost its Channel 3. However it retained and expanded programming on the 3rd satellite channel under the name HRT PLUS.


In May, "Voice of Croatia", a radio program for Croatians abroad in Croatian, English and Spanish, began airing around the clock. The program began airing in 2001, but in a more condensed form.

Later in the year, coinciding with the third Papal visit to Croatia, Croatian Television began using its first SNG vehicle.

"Picture of Croatia", a 24-hour TV program (3 x 8 hours) for North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand, went on the air in September. This program was launched in 2001 as a 3-hour broadcast to North America only.


Apart from fully equipping its new recording studio and obtaining two modern (multi-track) digital OB vans, Croatian Radio also built an integrated system for the acquisition, production and broadcasting of 5 channels - something that included the digitalisation and unification of the existing sound & archive libraries.

Croatian Television equipped two large digital production studios, obtained two modern digital OB vans and completely digitalized acquisition, production and broadcasting in the News & Current Affairs Department.


At the beginning of 2005, HRT introduced Project IPIS, an integrated computerized business system, designed to reorganise administrative, financial, and production processes at all organizational levels.

Both of the two new large studios housed at Block 30 became fully operational.
By the end of the year, the Technical Departments of Croatian Radio and Croatian Television had fulfilled most of their five-year Modernization & Digitalisation Projects (begun in 2001).

HRT Today - at the age 80 (radio) and 50 (television)

The HRT is a national public service broadcaster, mainly financed by viewer/listener license fees and advertising. It has well exceeded a million radio and television listeners/viewers. Its headquarters, alongside Croatian Radio, Croatian Television and Music Productions, are housed at the new building complex at 3, Prisavlje, on the bank of the river Sava, just south of the centre of Zagreb.

The HRT has seven regional radio stations and five regional TV centres. It has three national and seven regional radio channels, two terrestrial TV channels and one satellite TV channel broadcasting in Croatian. Since 1997, HRT radio and television programs have been also broadcast digitally via satellite throughout Europe. The two international programs, "Voice of Croatia" on radio and "Picture of Croatia" on television, are broadcast throughout Europe and overseas, notably in countries with large Croatian communities, such as Australia and the Americas.

The HRT Music Productions Department together with the Symphony Orchestra, Choir, Big Band and Tamburitza Orchestra play an important role within the organisation.

The good reception of radio and television programs (viewer/listener surveys) is enabled by a combined system of transmission networks and terrestrial transmitters supported by a diverse and comprehensive infrastructure.

Since January 1993, Croatian Radio-Television has been an active member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) - the largest organisation of Public Service Broadcasters in the world.

Significant achievements, which need to be remembered on the occasion of the 80 th anniversary of radio and the 50 th anniversary of television, include the following major projects: the European Figure Skating championships - Zagreb 1974, Colombo 1976, the Mediterranean Games-Split 1979, World Cup Gymnastics 1982, the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo 1984, the University Games-Zagreb 1987, the European Basketball Championship 1988, the Eurovision Song Contest - Zagreb 1990, the European Athletics Championships 1990, the Papal visits to Croatia in 1994, 1998, and 2003, two Central and South-East European summits in Zagreb in 2000 and 2005 and two World Skiing Cup competitions near Zagreb in 2005 and 2006.

The HRT also boasts success in its programming, supported by the numerous international radio and television awards its has received. Over the years, the Croatian Radio's Drama Program alone won 30 awards at reputable festivals such as PRIX ITALIA, PRIX FUTURA, PRIX JAPON, PREMIO ONDAS, PRIX CIRCOM and Croatia's own international festival PRIX MARULIC.

However, the most memorable contribution made by the HRT (radio and television) was its coverage of Croatia 's War of Independence at the beginning of the decade. Several journalists, cameramen and other radio and television employees were killed or wounded while filing their reports from the battlefields in occupied Croatian territory. Even the HRT Broadcasting Centre in Zagreb was under enemy fire at one stage.