> [Archived] Interviews

Archived : 2024 | 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 |

RRM 25 - Interview with the first director of Radio România Muzical, Mrs Mihaela Dobos

Thursday, 10 March 2022 , ora 15.59

I have the honour andpleasure of talking to Mihaela Doboș, the first director of Radio România Muzical and the initiator of this project. Thank you for this dialogue.

Thank you, Gabriel Marica.

This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the launch of Radio România Music Station and I think it is a very good opportunity to remember the early moments of this idea that has become a perennial reality. How was Radio România Muzical born and what motivated you to start on this challenging path?

I would like to make a correction, however. I was not the initiator of the project, but I was, to quote the late composer Liviu Dănceanu, "at the head of a group of Radio Broadcasting's despair, fed up with so many wounds and driven by innocent follies", published in România literară on the 28th of May - the 3rd of June 2003. A group, then. And now comes the answer to the question. I was the editor-in-chief of the Music Editor's Office, I was always talking with some of my colleagues and friends, Olga Grigorescu, Iosif Sava, Gruia Stoia, Olga Dăescu, Veronica Zbarcea about starting an exclusive classical music station. In fact, years before the Revolution I had been dreaming of such a thing, but obviously it was impossible then. The December 1989 moment gave us wings, we were studying the grids of some of the stations from broadcasters in France, Germany, Belgium and of course, we were all lobbying. Until one day, when Eugen Preda, who was in charge of broadcasting, called me in and asked me to design a programme schedule for a 24-hour classical music station. You can imagine, what a joy that was, especially since at that time my colleagues at the Sports Editor were also pushing for a special station for their field. We were overcome by creative fever, we gathered again in my office, except for Iosif Sava, who, I had learned, was preparing one such channel for Media Pro, where he was already employed and had organised competitions, for which he had secretly called colleagues from Radio. But it was not Eugen Preda who signed the act of birth of Radio România Muzical, but Prof. Dr. and philosopher Tudor Cătineanu, a prominent personality of Romanian culture who had become President and Director General of Radio România.

You also asked me what motivated me, what urged me to embark on such a challenging path. My love for music, but first and foremost, the belief that Radio, as a public broadcaster, has the task of meeting the expectations of a large sample of listeners deprived of access to the universal values of cult music during the Ceausescu era. After all, the nation's music lovers must be seen as a minority and, like any minority with recognised rights in Romania, they too must have access to the values that define them. This would be, in short, the motivation. I had a feeling that it would be difficult, but many times I found it almost impossible to come out. But I don't regret anything I did to overcome each obstacle. It was worth it, I say.

Even today, Radio România Muzical is the only station broadcasting mainly classical music in our media landscape. In order to appreciate the present and build for the future, I think it's good to know our past. What were the beginnings of Radio România Muzical like? Personally, I remember it as a challenging period. For you, who were in the front line, so to speak, what was that period like?

Radio România Muzical was, as you know, set up, or maybe not all of you know, it was set up by Order no. 27 of the 16th of January 1996, of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Romanian Broadcasting Corporation, following the Decision of the Board of Directors of the 6th of January of the same year on the reorganisation of the public radio's programme activity. The new structure consisted of four national channels, News, Cultural, Youth and Music, and radio production sectors, i.e. the editorial offices. The four structures were complementary and, through strict specialisation, balanced the diversity of tastes of potential listeners with the desire of our institution to offer different categories, identified by significant samples, programmes with a precise destination, thematically unified. Radio România Muzical was aimed directly at classical and jazz music lovers.

In April 1996, following a competition, I won the post of director. România Muzical was defined as having a national network in the western band, broadcasting 24 hours a day in stereo. The debut date for all four structures, Actualități, Cultural, Tineret and Muzical was scheduled for the 1st of November 1996. From April to November, six months, a very short time for organising competitions for staff in the schemes, finalising the programme schedule, preparing the station and programme signals, obtaining the broadcasting licence from CNA, securing the technical basis for operation, transmitter network, frequencies, stereo broadcasting booth and much more. My concern was also to keep in balance the forces that were moving from the Music Editor's Office through competition with those remaining in the Music Editor's Office. In both areas we needed quality people. For România Muzical, the time was stretched unnecessarily, but none of the technical data was finalised. Even now I am sure that if I had not brought to the microphone of the radio personalities like Zoe Dumitrescu-Bușulenga, Horia Roman Patapievici, Ana Blandiana, Dan Grigore, Vasile Grigore, Valeriu Râpeanu, George Bălăiță, Răzvan Theodorescu, His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Father Ion Robu, Archbishop of the Catholic Church, Nicolae Cajal, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, many of them deceased, but who at the time, through their word, supported the need to establish a classical music station, România Muzical would have dissolved before it began broadcasting.

The saying kept coming to my mind: before reaching God, you will get eaten by the saints. And so it was in our case. Before reaching the president of the institution, Tudor Cătineanu, the deputies would block us. It was with difficulty that we obtained, only on the 21st of February 1997, the frequency of 72.08 MHz in the east band, taken from Radio Romania Actualități and only for Bucharest.Out of 24 hours there were still 16 left anyway, we still didn't have a broadcasting booth, so, what can I say, we were far from keeping up with the other three channels, but, in full offensive, to always find other ways, other solutions for Romania Muzical to exist. And every moment, every day, every month was a challenge for me, a nervous consumption, all the more so as I was trying to keep you, the station's employees, as far away as possible from the backstage of the period in question.

And you did. We felt protected by you. I would like us to remember that day, March 24th, 1997. At 8.00 a.m., wasn't it, on that day Radio România Muzical started broadcasting and you were in front of the microphone.

Indeed, a very tense period leading up to it. "Announced with great fanfare several months ago", as Paul Grigoriu wrote in his words printed in the station's first flyer, a statement that undoubtedly stemmed from the campaign initiated by us and carried out by the station's coordinators, to bring to the microphone personalities arguing the need for such a specialised programme, România Muzical began broadcasting on the 24th of March 1997, at 8 am sharp. Finally, a first step. The behind-the-scenes excitement of the last four days had not yet faded. You may remember, Gabriel Marica, at 6 p.m. on Thursday March 20th, you were all in my office preparing for the press conference the next morning, when the director of the Technical Department casually announced to us that we would not be broadcasting, as we did not have a licence from the National Audiovisual Council. Telephone conversations with the Radio spokesman, who even scolded me for organising the press conference the next day, even though we had the necessary approvals, and then with the DeputyDirector of the Radio station, under whom we were subordinated and, finally, with Professor Tudor Cătineanu, ended in an early morning meeting, before the conference, on Friday the 21st of March, where we were to announce that we were not going on air. I don't need to say what mood our little group was in. Remember of course, a few colleagues burst into tears. The disappointment really can't be described in words. The next morning, however, the president of the institution, Professor Tudor Cătineanu, announced that we were going on air. His discussions with the National Audiovisual Council have borne fruit. From agony to ecstasy, then. The station's staff made up of editor Luminița Arvunescu, coordinating producers Ligia Ardelean, Olga Dăescu, Ioana Tudor, Liliana Staicu, Anca Romeci, Ileana Ursu, Gabriel Marica, editor Cristina Radu Sebastian, economist Mirela Enăchescu, assistant Violeta Crăciun, as well as good colleagues from the Music Editorial Office, gathered their energies and began the final preparations. We only had the weekend left. On Monday, March 24th, the great adventure began, in a random cabin. It wasn't until the 26th of June that the booth for the Musical was ready, a booth which, at our request, was named after Theodor Rogalski, a musician who for over two decades was conductor of the Radio Symphony Orchestra and for five years was music director of the Radio Broadcasting Corporation.

You wrote in a material that you offered me before this interview, thoughts that awakened many of the feelings I felt then and I want to quote you: "a good thing is achieved through hard work on which only the strong do not give up". And you did not give up, neither then nor after Radio Romania Muzical was launched, as you said, and not infrequently threatened with abolition. Can you tell us where you found your energy? Why didn't you give up?

The answer is simple. Because I believed with all my mind and soul in the importance of such a post for Romanian culture. My conviction was also reinforced by the authority of the words of academician Răzvan Theodorescu, who, at another time, in 2005, when the National Audiovisual Council was threatening România Muzical with abolition, said, and I quote: "No private broadcaster in Romania performs the huge cultural service that the Romanian Broadcasting Society does through România Muzical. We - he continued - have privatised broadcasting and you are talking to one of the people who participated earliest in this privatisation of Romanian broadcasting, but there are some riches in the air that must remain of the public form of radio and they may be surprised that they will not succeed in this".

Obviously, when I decided to lead the project for the organisation and operation of Post România Muzical, I had no idea it would be so difficult. I had no idea, for example, that people inside Radio would be playing with the frequencies, today one, tomorrow another. România Muzical began broadcasting on 72.08 MHz mono in Bucharest with difficulty, only to formally receive the frequency of 105.3 MHz in September 1998, which was withdrawn in October of the same year for 101.3. In December 1999 it was also taken away, and on the 1st of December 2000, at the persistent demands of Mr Andrei Dimitriu, President-Director General of Radio, with the direct support of Prof. Dr. Eng. Sergiu Stelian Iliescu, President of the National Agency for Communications and Informatics, it received the frequency in the western band 97.9 MHz Bucharest. It loses this frequency in 2004, and the institution, at the insistence of some members of CNA, Răsvan Popescu, Dan Grigore, Gabriela Stoica, Emanuel Valeriu, Șerban Pretor is forced to allocate another frequency. Thus 104.8 MHz appears. But in 2003, in September, in the midst of a scandal over the radio tax law, the Romanian Broadcasting Corporation allocates 97.6 MHz to the station, covering a good part of the country. Of course, you can't keep listeners loyal by moving them from one frequency to another, often giving them inaccurate sound, as sound comfort is very important for listening to music. This fluctuation has always created the impression of instability, of unreliability in the eyes of music lovers. I said earlier that I didn't suspect it would be this difficult. But I think that even if I had guessed, I would still have been totally and unreservedly involved.

You said in an interview that master Pascal Bentoiu also advised you in those years, and I quote: "to fight tooth and nail and not to give up this idea for anything in the world".

I can say that I was motivated to do this primarily by you, the professionals of the Post and the Music Editor, the technical, artistic and economic staff, who work in teams to offer listeners timeless music. The sense of responsibility works for me at the highest levels. I could not leave those who have committed themselves alongside me in a pioneering work with the aim of giving music lovers quality broadcasts, pertinent commentaries from great national and international events, keeping them permanently connected to the current music of the country and the world.

Then the listeners, through their appreciation and words of encouragement.

Of course, I am also thinking of the direct interventions by word and deed of the philosopher and writer Gabriel Liiceanu, the professor and historian Adrian Cioroianu, Dr. Radu Dop, the writer George Bălăiță, Mrs. Mona Muscă and Mrs. Nora Rebreanu or musicians like Pascal Bentoiu, Liviu Dănceanu, Theodor Grigoriu, Grigore Constantinescu, Alexandru Moroșanu.

I am thinking of the culture committees of the Romanian Parliament, which, irrespective of the political colour of their members, have collectively supported the România Muzical station, which, and I quote: 'has earned a well-deserved prestige among listeners over time through the high quality of the programmes it broadcasts and the competence of the producers of these programmes', calling on the National Audiovisual Council to stay the proceedings taken to cancel the licence in question. That was in 2005, eight years after its creation. I am also thinking of Mrs Maria Țoghină, who was appointed President and Director-General in 2005, and who, vehemently and argumentatively, supported the maintenance and development of România Muzical as an important part of a public institution such as the Romanian Broadcasting Corporation.

I would like to make one more small comment: all these personalities did not support me, Mihaela Doboș, they supported Romania Music Station, which year after year, until 2005, was always threatened with extinction. Gabriel Liiceanu's reply when I thanked him for accepting to lead the debate at the Social Dialogue Group following the National Audiovisual Council's address threatening Radio Romania Muzical with the withdrawal of its broadcasting licence, gave me the certainty that România Muzical will live with me, but also beyond me. It was a lasting work. I had succeeded in building something lasting over time. He said to me: "Don't thank me. I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it because it's the only radio station I listen to".

We fought, Gabriel Marica, we did, with our claws and teeth. We used every opportunity. That's how we got on the air on March 24th, later extending the program to 24 hours. So, we used every opportunity, every inattention of those in the radio who wanted to disband Muzical, even with the merger with România Cultural. This was also tried, as you know. We brought to the attention of various personalities from all media the internal maneuvers and the intentions of the National Audiovisual Council.

If someone had asked you in 1997 how you see Radio Romania Muzical in 25 years' time, what would you have answered?

What a question, Gabriel Marica! I don't know, I think I would have laughed bitterly. How could I see the future of Radio România Muzical in 1997, when everything was unclear, nothing was certain. And I say this because, although Radio had sent the CNA the file, a month before going on air (at least that's what I knew), it was only on March 25th, the day after we went on air, that the National Audiovisual Council approved, at the insistence of Professor Tudor Cătineanu, at the time President and Director General of the institution, the experimental broadcasting until May 1st of the same year, so about five weeks, the broadcasting on 72.08 MHz on the Bucharest-Herăstrău station of the programme România Muzical, and then on the 23rd of September, also at Radio's request, the CNA agreed to extend the duration of the licence granted on a provisional basis to the station România Muzical, which broadcast only in Bucharest, mono, 16 hours, "until the date of the discussion in Parliament of the situation of the national public radio and television networks". So, everything was provisional; provisional licence, no own broadcasting booth, listeners disillusioned by the reality of the initial promises (stereo western band 24 hours a day, whole national territory), the staff of the station and of the Music Editorial Office producing for us, with their morale affected.

And yet, as I had promised myself not to somehow give in and withdraw from this battle, covering my state of disappointment, I would have said that I see Radio România Music Station as equal to the other national public radio stations in every respect.

Beyond these challenges, what beautiful moments lived alongside Radio România Muzical have remained most dear to you?

I remember how much joy I got from the hours spent with you, the coordinating producers of the station, and with some of the producers of the Music Editorial Office at that time, when we launched a new project and when the free discussions, often contradictory, but always with very good results, completed and correctly traced the ways of approach.

Nice were also the times when we relaxed on each other's birthdays. There was not a shortage of jokes and humour. Then we would recharge our batteries and get back to work, seemingly more motivated, more full of energy.

I also had a great time in the booths and in the broadcasting room, where I went quite often. After all, filmmakers, illustrators, directors, production managers, we were one. Each one with specific contributions to a quality end that listeners would agree with and appreciate.

But a concrete moment that brought me the certainty that in Romania at the end of the 20th century, Post România Muzical must exist as a cultural event of great importance and that can contribute, along with other fields, I would say even in the first place, to the deciphering of the road to freedom, was the day of March 24th, 2002. Five years of life for Romania Muzical. The intellectual elite was present at the anniversary in the foyer of the Mihail Jora Hall, directly or by telephone: writers, visual artists, doctors, musicians, bankers, joined by politicians and music lovers. It was a real celebration that I will never forget.

But before that, there were several big events organized by Radio România Muzical, events that were enormously successful, thus contributing to the station's notoriety. In 1999, the Frederic Chopin International Festival, in 2000 the Dinu Lipatti International Festival, for both of which Carmen Dincă Pârvan was an advisor, the Marin Constantin Anniversary Concert, the George Enescu Commemorative Concert at the end of the millennium. Of course, I have many beautiful memories. Maybe one day they will find their place in a volume.

I think it's safe to say that Radio România Muzical is your soul child. How do you see it today, at 25?

Today, at a quarter of a century of existence, I say a quarter of a century and not 25 years, because it seems to me that time is longer, my soul child has become a strong, stable young man, confident in his existence and in his mission: to offer listeners the best music of all times and all eras. Technology has come in unexpectedly handy, making up for the lack of a national terrestrial network, as other stations have, Radio România Muzical can be accessed through various other means, not only in the country but also abroad. And I also believe that it stands on an equal footing with other stations in Europe and the world. In fact, at the end of 1997, the renowned composer Theodor Grigoriu wrote in România liberă on 18 December, and I quote: "A station with a carefully conceived and sometimes even more interesting programme schedule than many Western channels, with long experience. România Muzical presents itself as a mature force, thanks to its programmes and the passion of its editors".

And in the years since, the station has grown. It is alive, it is mobile, it is always involved in national and international artistic events, it is a producer of quality events and, above all, it belongs to all generations, trying to educate in an original, non-rigid way. It is undoubtedly thanks to you, the producers, the editors and the two ladies who took over in 2007 after my departure, Liliana Staicu and Cristina Comandașu.

What are your expectations for the future of Radio România Muzical?

Oh, my expectations are very high. I have always aimed for the best.

I believe that we must never give up on what quality and therefore value means.

I believe that the creative staff of Radio România Muzical of the current and future generations must always bear in mind that Radio România Muzical is an instrument from which soothing and profound sounds emerge, but above all, it is an instrument of normality for a society that is in an avid search for itself and for true reference points. It has an enormous role and responsibility. With skill and science, intelligence and versatility, it must find ways of insinuating itself into the emotional plane of children and young people in order to awaken in them first their curiosity and then the joy of penetrating the mysteries of the Great Music. It will open unsuspected doors for them. Their world view will take on new dimensions, they will live involved, they will contribute to changing society for the better. And beyond their emotional development, music also develops many other skills: distributive attention, all kinds of cognitive abilities, memory. These are enough reasons for Radio România Muzical to become a standard-bearer in a battle that I believe can still be won.

Happy Birthday, Radio România Muzical!

Happy Birthday, dear colleagues, former and current servants of Public Radio.

Mrs. Mihaela Doboș, there is always room for improvement, for something better, to try to rise to the demands of our listeners, and this is what you have taught us to think, right from the beginning. Thank you on behalf of my colleagues and I wish you Happy Birthday Radio România Muzical-25!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Interview by Gabriel Marica
Translated by Andreea Grințescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu