Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Argentine Anniversary: Their first radio broadcast

Teatro Coliseo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1910
A recent email message from Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Biener in Nürnberg Germany informs us that August 27 is an important date in the history of radio broadcasting in the South American country of
Argentina. It was on that date in the year 1920, that three young medical students presented a live radio broadcast of European classical music from the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos  Aires. This is what

Back during World War 1, the medical Dr. Enrique Susini from Buenos Aires in Argentina served over in continental Europe and at war’s end, he found himself in France.  He took the opportunity to obtain several different radio parts, including the newly developed tube or valve, all of which he took back to Buenos Aires in South America. 

Dr. Susini shared his recently acquired radio components with three of his young medical friends who then began experimentation in an attempt to construct not only a receiver, but also a broadcast transmitter.  These three young medical friends were his nephew Miguel Mugica, and his two friends Cesar Guerrico and Luis Romero Carranza.

Now, on his return to Argentina from continental Europe, Dr. Susini acquired a city property block at 1125 Charcas Street in Retiro, suburban Buenos Aires.  This lot had previously been in use as an old circus site and the good doctor transformed it into a public venue as the Teatro Coliseo, in which a series of public performances were planned, a presentation of several popular European style operas.

In mid August 1920, the three young men under direction from their mentor Dr. Susini, erected a simple single wire antenna system that stretched 120 feet from a tower on the roof of the Teatro Coliseo to a rounded dome on a commercial building nearby.  The small home made radio transmitter, built up with the French made components, was installed in an empty room in the newly renovated theater.   

Sharp at 8:30 pm on Friday evening August 27, (1920), the 5 watt transmitter was switched into service and Dr. Susini, in his reportedly famous baritone voice, announced in Spanish, the evening’s opening musical program.  This well documented event was the presentation of musical selections from a German opera, with a German musician as the conductor for the performance. 

The three hour musical program in the Teatro Coliseo in Bueno Aires, beginning promptly at 9:00 pm, was broadcast without interruption.  It is reported that a small audience that gathered at about twenty different suburban locations heard the wonder of music by radio, the first in the history of South American Argentina.  Among those avid listeners were many prominent business and society leaders, all of whom spoke well of what they had heard.  It was also reported that the radio operator on board a ship in the Bay of Santos, Brazil, also heard the radio broadcast at a distance of some 2,000 miles further north.

During the following evening (Saturday August 28, 1920), the music from another opera was presented, this time Aida from the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi with its ancient Egyptian setting.  You heard Verdi’s popular Triumphal March from Aida as the opening music in this edition of Wavescan.

These different nightly radio performances were on the air for a whole month, but that was not the end of this little radio station.  For two whole years it was the only radio broadcasting station on the air in Argentina, and ultimately it grew into what is now the nationwide government system of radio broadcasting known as Radio Nacional Argentina, LRA. 

The auspicious inaugural day for radio broadcasting in Argentina was August 27, 1920, exactly 102 years ago, last Thursday.  The postal authorities in Argentina issued a special postage stamp in 1970, honoring this historic radio event.
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 601)