Radio Monte-Carlo: radio under the sun
The millions of French people who tune in to the radio station RMC appreciate its focus on local information, its sports programmes and the way it constantly interacts with the audience, which has become its trademark for the last ten years. But what many people don’t know is that these three letters reveal the station’s beginnings in Monaco.
The idea of setting up a ‘station’ in Monaco existed as early as 1923. The Parisian station Radiola, created in 1922, suggested creating a station whose vocation and content would focus on broadcasting the many events and happenings that had made Monaco such a lively place for over 40 years. The Société des Bains de Mer was all for it, seeing it as a modern way of promoting its activities. France, however, cast a disapproving eye on the Radiola-SBM project, and the Principality of Monaco had to first address the International Radiodiffusion Union to obtain a frequency, to which it was entitled as a sovereign state. This was done in 1933 but paradoxically, listeners had to wait until the war for the first Radio Monte-Carlo programmes to be broadcast in 1943. The radio took up its quarters in the Sporting d’Hiver, premises owned by the Société des Bains de Mer. On 17 and 18 July 1943, Radio Monte-Carlo was finally inaugurated. The first two famous voices heard on the air were those of Sacha Guitry and Maurice Chevalier.
The post-war period on Radio Monte-Carlo
Of course, it was only once the war was over that Radio Monte-Carlo really took off, becoming the radio station of the arts, culture, shows and entertainment. It worked with some big names in the 1950s such as Marcel Pagnol, Georges Simenon, Francis Blanche and a talented Monaco-born poet by the name of Léo Ferré.
In 1954, Radio Monte-Carlo witnessed the arrival of its television sister station, Télé Monte-Carlo, the first privately run television station in Europe that broadcast the ‘wedding of the century”: that of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and the very famous Grace Kelly.
RMC in the big leagues
In 1974, Radio Monte-Carlo stepped beyond the borders of Monaco and the French Riviera. It gained national coverage with the installation of a long wave transmitter enabling it to join the big leagues alongside RTL and Europe 1.
In Monaco, radio’s role was no longer limited to just promoting Monaco’s festivities, as initially planned by the Société des Bains de Mer back in 1923; it had become an industry in its own right. RMC Italy broadcasts to all of Italy from Monaco, whilst RMC Middle East broadcasts programmes designed in Monaco, in Arabic, to the entire Middle East area via a powerful transmitter based in Cyprus. Radio Nostalgie and Montmartre FM have since joined this large radio group, which is now called MFM.
In the 2000s, the RMC group was privatised and dismantled. It branched out into other sectors and grew, creating a powerful private group with RMC, BFM and the television news channel BFM TV as its base.
Does anybody today suspect that the RMC adventure began in Monaco? Perhaps the early bird listeners tuning in at 5 am for the beginning of the day’s long-wave broadcast that inevitably starts with… Monaco’s national anthem!