Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Microgroove Sensation: Radio and TV

Ever in search of the curious or obscure historical development in Mallorca, it was with keen interest that I discovered the other day that on 15 November, 1964 the first television set at the social centre in Colonia Sant Pere was installed. I have no more information but I am guessing that this was a pretty significant moment in the lives of the people of this one-time farming colony turned small resort on the bay of Alcúdia. Fifty years ago, owning a television set was all but unheard of. Indeed, there wouldn't have been a lot of point in having had a TV set anywhere in Spain until eight years previously. On 28 October, 1956 the first broadcast was made by TVE, the national broadcaster. To say that its subsequent development was swift would be an overstatement, but at least Mallorca was part of the reach by the time the TV was being installed in Colonia Sant Pere. By 1964 only 80% of the country was actually covered by the network and it could enjoy nine hours a day of broadcasting.

When they were tuning the TV in, they were probably benefiting from the original test card that TVE used. This comprised what looked like a games board with five mysterious circles. Prior to that first broadcast in 1956, there must have been households who were glued to the test card, listening to the voice reminding them that 28 October was the big day.

It is worth bearing in mind that in Britain the first commercial television channel, ITV, started in 1955. The development of consumerism was a factor of 1950s Britain as well. At the same time as ITV was launching, in Mallorca and most of Spain there was no consumerism and certainly no telly. So, in the absence of television, it was the radio which was the main source of home entertainment, and in Mallorca that meant, unsurprisingly, Radio Mallorca.

Founded by the brothers José and Onofre Fuster, Radio Mallorca first broadcast in November 1933. Ten years later it became part of the Sociedad Española de Radiodifusión and it enjoyed a monopoly until two other stations emerged. One was called Radio Juventud (youth radio, if you like) and the other was Radio Popular, which started broadcasting in 1959. It was under the auspices of the Bishop of Mallorca, so you can probably imagine that it adopted particular attitudes to content, but one thing that was notable about Radio Popular was that much of its programming was in Mallorquín, unlike the other two stations. Though it was essentially a church broadcaster, it didn't deal only in religious shows. It came to be highly significant because, in addition to using the local language, it put out programmes which discussed local culture and heritage. It played, therefore, an important role in starting a revival of Mallorcan culture that hadn't been subjugated by the Franco regime but which equally hadn't been given any great deal of prominence. 

It would be wrong, though, to think that Radio Popular was all religion and culture, because enter into the equation a young presenter by the name of Miquel Vives Martí. He was to transform Radio Popular by introducing youthful programming, including a sort of Top 40 music show. Radio Popular and Radio Mallorca, from the early 1960s, went pretty much head to head, but if Vives was the mastermind of music on Radio Popular, over at Radio Mallorca there was another young presenter who arguably became the most important voice ever of Mallorcan radio. And he was Miguel Soler.

Born in Murcia in 1939, Soler's ambition was to be a journalist. As it happens, he became one - with "Ultima Hora" - but he also became, at the age of twenty-one, the driving-force behind youthful music shows at Radio Mallorca. In 1961 he came up with the idea for a show called "Torneo en microsurco" (tournament of microgroove). The show which went out every week day at quarter past two was a sensation.

Of course, what both Soler and Vives could play was subject to restriction. It was primarily Spanish music that wouldn't fall foul of a regime that could no more understand Elvis than it could permit him; which was to subsequently also be the case with The Beatles. But some American music was allowed: Paul Anka, for example. So long as it was bland and uncontroversial, it was ok.

Radio Mallorca still exists. It celebrated its eightieth anniversary last year, and earlier this year Miguel Soler produced a book - "El club de los 60" - a collection of writings for "Ultima Hora" from back in the day and of stories of others who were to the vanguard during the unforgettable years of the 1960s. 

The television set in Colonia Sant Pere doubtless caused its own sensation, but in 1964 radio dominated, and so did Miguel Soler.

Photo: The TVE test card.

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