Elsewhere in Europe and North Africa (on LW and Satellite)
103.9 MHz (Paris)
89.2 MHz (Marseille)
107.3 MHz (Lyon)
Full list of frequencies on FM in other areas
234 kHz (Beidweiler)
First air date
|15 March 1933|
Former call signs
|Radio Luxembourg (1933-1966)|
RTL is a French commercial radio network owned by the RTL Group. Founded in 1933 as Radio Luxembourg, it broadcast from outside France until 1981 because only public stations had been allowed until then. It is a general-interest, news, talk and music station, broadcasting nationally ("category E" as classified by the CSA) in France, French-speaking Belgium, and Luxembourg. RTL also broadcasts on long wave frequency 234 KHz from Beidweiler which can be picked up in large parts of the continent. It has a sister station called Bel RTL tailored for the French Community of Belgium. As of 2018, RTL is France's most popular radio station with an average of 6.4 million daily listeners that year.
On 19 December 1929 the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg established a state monopoly on broadcasting, but the law provided for possible concessions to private companies who wanted to use radio bandwidth, with the state charging a fixed amount for private use of radio.
The Société Luxembourgeoise d'Études Radiophoniques (SLER) was founded on 11 May 1929 with the aim of obtaining an eventual broadcasting contract from the Luxembourg government. This company was run by Luxembourger François Anen, French publisher Henry Etienne, and French engineer Jean le Duc representing the Compagnie des Compteurs de Montrouge, which possessed 84% of the project's capital and had signed a secret agreement to work with the group CSF, the main stockholder in Radio Paris. Radio Paris wanted to set up a powerful peripheral radio station in Luxembourg, outside of the strict French regulations that only allowed public stations. An agreement between the SLER and the Luxembourg government signed on 29 September 1930 with a duration of 25 years ensured the Luxembourg government a fee of 30% on future profits of the station. The agreement also set up a committee for programming and a technical committee which allowed the government to regulate the private station.
The Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Radiodiffusion (CLR) was founded on 30 May 1931, officially replacing the SLER.
On 14 January 1933 experimental broadcasts by Radio Luxembourg began at 1191 mètres (200 kW), an unauthorized wavelength, from the longwave transmitter at Junglinster. The official opening of broadcast was on 15 March 1933 at 19:00 with a pre-recorded concert of light music. Radio Luxembourg broadcast each evening from 19:00 to 23:00, in German, French and Dutch and was therefore the only French-language private broadcaster available in France and Belgium. Programmes in English débuted on 3 December 1933 under the editorial guidance of Stephen Williams.
The station closed down at the outbreak of World War II in 1939, but it resumed service after the War.
Beginning in 1946, it could be heard easily in France. Until the 1980s, only the French public radio networks could transmit from France itself. Radio Luxembourg was one of private "peripheral" networks transmitting from abroad.
Radio Luxembourg quickly gained a large audience in France. In the 1960s, it was faced with the success of another peripheral network from Germany, Europe 1, which adopted a modern tone and attracted a young audience.
Radio Luxembourg's changing environment led to the station being renamed "RTL" on 11 October 1966, less obviously mentioning its connection with Luxembourg (the acronym being short for Radio Télévision Luxembourg).
During the May 1968 crisis, the French public radio networks were on strike and TV was not independent from the government. RTL and Europe 1 were the main ways of obtaining independent information for the French people. They were nicknamed "barricades radio".
Unlike the British government's treatment of the Luxembourg English service, which was never allowed to have a landline from London, the French service has long had its main studios in Paris, with a landline from there to the transmitter. Consequently, it appears to the listener as simply a big French national radio station, as the Luxembourg connection is downplayed.
In 1981, under president François Mitterrand, privately run radio stations were allowed to broadcast in France. RTL, now broadcasting in France mostly at 104.3 MHz, was the radio network with the most listeners from 1981 to 2002.
Whereas Luxembourg's English service was always centred on light entertainment and popular music, RTL France is a mixed station. About 50% of its broadcast is information and talk focusing on news and current affairs with a large team of respected journalists.
Radio Luxembourg's two main national competitors are Europe 1 (another out-of-country commercial station, broadcasting from Saarland, again with Paris studios) and the state-owned France Inter. All three stations have very high-powered transmitters occupying long-wave frequencies that date back many decades.
The French service has called itself RTL for many years. It still broadcasts on 234 kHz long wave using the Beidweiler Longwave Transmitter, but nowadays also utilizes a network of FM transmitters throughout France, as well as the internet, cable and satellite.
In 1991 a separate RTL Belgian service in French, called Bel-RTL, was established. Intended for the French-speaking part of Belgium with studios in Brussels, this station is licensed (along with many competing commercial stations) by the Belgian Government with a network of FM transmitters covering Brussels and Wallonia. It has no particular connection with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg other than its ownership by the RTL parent company.
Since 2000, it has gone through a crisis. In order to stop the aging of RTL's audience, station managers imposed changes which have alienated some listeners. From 2000 to 2002, RTL lost a third of its listeners, falling to second in the ratings behind NRJ. In November 2006, it re-took the lead in the French radio ratings only to succumb again in July 2012 to NRJ.
RTL features a popular daily talk show named Les Grosses Têtes, which has been broadcast since 1977. Other past or current programmes on RTL include:
List of RTL/Radio Luxembourg presidents:
List of director-generals/heads of programming:
List of directeurs de l'antenne:
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