A Few Notes On Radio Helsinki

radio-helsinki_logo_valkReports of the decision to shut down Radio Helsinki in October have probably reached most Finnish people who has even the slightest interest in popular music. With ‘interest’, I mean those who are not automatically content with what’s being fed to them via mainstream channels. Cats on Fire has, like countless other Finnish groups, received invaluable support from Radio Helsinki, and with international behemoths like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Wilco now joining the campaign to save the station, I’ve felt that some kind of statement from us would be both superfluous and slightly presumptuous.

However, there is something irritatingly familiar with this decision that I just have to address with a few sentences. I don’t know quite how the big guns on the board of the massively big media house Sanoma have reasoned, but the bottom line is apparently that the small, alternative radio station doesn’t generate enough dough. I’m certainly not going to contest that, since I don’t know the details at all. What I find irritating is the obvious lack of pride. In a statement regarding the decision, the business director of Helsingin Sanomat (the parent newspaper of Radio Helsinki) Petteri Putkiranta acknowledges that Radio Helsinki has been appreciated for its talk shows and speciality music programmes. That’s an understatement so gross that you could argue it misses the point completely. Radio Helsinki should be a source of endless pride for any respectable media house. To run a playlist-free station like Radio Helsinki, with its enormous musical and cultural braintrust, in the airheaded, watery, streamlined media landscape we live in today is a show of strength and willpower. Let me assure you, they have nothing like Radio Helsinki in Sweden. It gives you the bragging rights. Or, if you want to reduce it to terms of competition, look at what evolutionary biology teaches us – it can be very advantageous to show your competitors that you can indeed afford to bleed a little. In case you shut it down, all everyone sees is that you are cultural buffoons in financial distress, and every mother-in-law knows just how unattractive that is.

Shutting down things that are slightly difficult, precious and different is of course a sign of the times in the media business. In other words, a shutdown is precisely what you could expect would happen to something like Radio Helsinki, because it is all that. But what’s to say it is the right thing to do in the long run? Has ‘playing it safe’ been proven to work when it comes to turning around the negative trend in media ad revenue? What’s to say that the shutdown of this unique media outlet isn’t going to cost Sanoma News dearly in the future? I don’t know the answers, but I have a strong feeling that the people who have rallied behind the campaign to save Radio Helsinki have done it partly because they dislike the ongoing trend of standardization and conformity in big media, and that these enlightened people will be a lot more likely turn away from Sanoma media products in the future.

Find ways to support the campaign by liking the Save Radio Helsinki facebook page.

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