Three hours in German on shortwave: DW first went on air with this radio format in 1953. Sixty years later DW has become a multimedia organization, providing information in 30 languages to people on all continents.
Germans and people with German roots were the initial target audience of Deutsche Welle. Since the fall of 1954, DW has also reached out to listeners abroad whose native language is not German - initially with news in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese for five minutes each. Additional programs soon followed. In the years thereafter, the lineup expanded with more and more languages - reaching 44 in total at times. The languages represented included Farsi for Iran, Turkish, Spanish for Latin America, Portuguese for Brazil, Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Arabic, Kiswahili, Hausa, Chinese, Indonesian and Urdu. DW's multilingual radio programming has shaped the image of Germany's international broadcaster for decades.
"The voice of freedom"
DW radio has responded with flexibility to political and technological developments. In many crises - from the "Prague Spring" of 1968 or the era of dictatorship in Greece during the 1970s to the crises in Afghanistan and Iraq - DW earned a reputation as a "voice of freedom." Time and again, DW has expanded its airtime in order to meet the needs of people in zones of conflict and war. In 1992, during the wars in former Yugoslavia, it launched programming in Albanian and, in the following year, a service in Bosnian to help refugees find their lost families and friends.
DW places special emphasis on language courses in its radio programming. "Learn German with the Deutsche Welle" started in October 1957 in four languages. This was the beginning of a successful radio format for learning German as a foreign language. Since 1970, the language course "Familie Baumann" has encouraged people to learn German with DW. And the lineup has expanded ever since. Today DW offers a virtual classroom on the Internet, which opens up new interactive possibilities for language students and teachers.
Keeping up with the times
The law of supply and demand also applies to international broadcasting. In 1998, DW withdrew from a number of media markets and stopped shortwave broadcasting in Danish, Norwegian, Dutch and Italian. Meanwhile, though, the Russian program expanded. A Ukrainian program was launched in 2000, and programming started for Belarus in 2005. While DW ended its broadcasts in Sanskrit to South Asia, it started a lineup in Romany.
At the end of 1999, DW ceased its radio broadcasts in Japanese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Czech and Hungarian - a decision taken as a result of extensive budget cuts by the federal government. Even the German-language shortwave broadcasts came to an end on October 30, 2011. Instead, a German-language multimedia website, which enables information seekers to access content whenever they wish, is the best way to meet the needs of DW's target audience.
Shortwave and mobile offerings
The importance of shortwave has decreased dramatically almost everywhere as a result of the dominance of the Internet and the improved possibilities for radio reception. DW still broadcasts on shortwave to sub-Saharan African countries and parts of Asia - and even here its target audience is making less and less use of shortwave radio.
At the same time, a growing number of mostly young people is using DW's audio offerings on mobile devices. They not only provide better sound quality than shortwave but also enable interaction with DW: Users can participate directly in live shows and get in touch with the studio by SMS, whether with questions, suggestions, or criticism. DW adapted early on to changing times with its online offerings. It was the first German broadcaster to offer podcasts for audio and video content. Users can access most of DW's programming in 30 languages on their mobile devices at http://mobile.dw.de.
In view of rapidly advancing media convergence, DW started in 2008 to merge its radio and online departments into multimedia editorial teams. In most departments at DW's headquarters in Bonn, content is thus produced for both radio and the multimedia website dw.de.