Throwback Thursday

In this section, you will discover the rich and interesting history of RTL Group. 



Big day in Junglinster

On Friday 16 October 1931, Luxembourgish VIPs gathered on the plateau in Junglinster, about 15 km north-east of Luxembourg City. Prince Félix of Luxembourg and the former Prime Minister and President of the national Parliament were attending a special event on that day: the foundation stone laying ceremony of CLR’s transmitter site.

This broadcasting centre, which was already operational in summer 1932, was the most modern and powerful long wave transmitter in Europe. Radio Luxembourg began broadcasting regular long wave multilingual radio programmes to European listeners on 15 March 1933. The building is still in use today and forms part of BCE’s teleport, transmissions and datacentre facilities.

Early cartoon 

This rare satirical cartoon from early 1934 (author unknown) mocks the fact that no one could block the airwaves from the recently launched Radio Luxembourg, including its religious programmes, reaching deeply pious families in France. French secularism and neutrality were indeed no barriers to the broadcasts – caricaturised as ‘little beatitudes’ – from neighbouring Luxembourg.

Father Lhande preached sermons on Radio Luxembourg from 7 January 1934, as he had done previously on the then private station Radio Paris from 1927 to 1933, until it was nationalized and the French authorities banned his sermons due to the principle of the separation of church and state. 


Early cartoon from 1934

And here is the news…


In September 1987, the French-speaking TV landscape in Belgium saw the arrival of a new channel: RTL-TVI, the ‘I’ standing for ‘Independent’. Right from the start, the channel promised viewers ‘another truth’ through its famous ‘L’Autre Vérité’ campaign. News has therefore always played an important role in the channel’s programming, and RTL-TVI was a true innovator back in 1987 by launching a 13:00 news bulletin. 

An avant-garde studio


Studio Relax was situated at the entrance of RTL Radio (France). It was created for a special radio programme called Un homme, Une femme (A Man, A Woman) that RTL Radio broadcast live twice per week in 1972. Way before the current dating TV shows, this radio show aimed to help singles find their soul mate, with some encounters ending up in weddings. An unprecedented formatat that time, which already reveals the lack of human contacts and the obvious courage of some to face public exposure in order tofind someone. The concept of this show was down to Jacques Antoine, director of RTL Radio at that time .


The French-speaking Swiss Television (RTS) had shot a report on this programme.


Photo shared with Backstage readers by our colleague Laurent Marsick, Service culture / médias / jeunesse, RTL Radio (France)

Winning smile

The colourful character, Zappy Max (real name Max-Yves Doucet) was one of the most prolific and popular French radio presenters in the 1950s and 1960s. He was on air on Radio Luxembourg until 1966 when the station in Rue Bayard became RTL. Zappy Max also appeared on TV when Télé Luxembourg was launched in 1955.

A chemist and physicist by training, he assisted the inventor of CinemaScope, Henri Chrétien, in 1939. During the Second World War he was sent to the Zapp factories in Germany as a forced labourer, which is where his nickname came from, but managed to escape to Paris in 1943. Before joining radio, Zappy Max was tap dance teacher and singer. He also exercised his talents as actor, composer and writer. Grand master of ceremonies of the touring Radio Circus, Zappy Max presented iconic radio shows like Quitte ou DoubleCrochet or Ça va Bouillir.

All the fun of the fair 

Every year at end of August and beginning of September, Luxembourg's oldest and most popular funfair, the "Schueberfouer", thrills the city. Founded in the 14th century as an agricultural and crafts fair, nowadays the "Schueberfouer" is dominated by numerous funfair attractions, so it’s no surprise that the Radio Luxemburg crew left the neighbouring Villa Louvigny with their ‘captain’ Frank Elstner to join in the fun.




The Radio Luxemburg team enjoying themselves
in the 1970s.
Photo: Peter Langenbach

Golden Lion


In 1992, Michael Jackson was delighted when RTL Plus Programme Director Marc Conrad presented the famous Golden Lion to him, a much sought-after trophy crafted in 1958 by Auguste Trémont.


National monument


Villa Louvigny, the former headquarters of CLT with its radio and TV studios, as well as home to the Orchestre Symphonique de RTL, is classified as a national monument.

Villa Louvigny – built on a 17th century fort in the heart of Luxembourg City – was leased by CLR in August 1932. With the continuing success of Radio Luxembourg, CLR bought Villa Louvigny in June 1937 and extended the premises.

The renovated, enlarged Villa Louvigny, which had been damaged and plundered by the Nazis during the Second World War, was inaugurated in May 1953. In 1996, the impressive building was sold to the Luxembourg state and currently houses the Luxembourg Ministry of Health.

Shooting Star


Original trophy of Fry's Chocolates Shooting Star award presented to Bob Dylan. This sponsorship trophy awarded a musician whose song rose fastest up the charts ladder on Radio Luxembourg's Top 20 show in the mid-1960s. Other artists who received this award include Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Petula Clark, The Kinks, Billy Fury, The Searchers and Dusty Springfield.


Mister Télé Luxembourg 



Jacques Navadic was still working at Télé Lille when four supposed Philips engineers paid a visit. Navadic received the annoying guests with a cool and business-like manner, not realising that they were in fact CLT managers who wanted to gain a personal impression of him. The result: Navadic was recruited, and formed an emblematic duo with Robert Diligent at Télé Luxembourg - the historic francophone channel launched in 1955.

 They created, developed and presented the evening news from September 1955 onwards. As one of the main contributors to the channel’s popularity, focussing in particular on getting close to viewers, Jacques Navadic played an active role in the development of Télé Luxembourg (which subsequently became RTL Télévision) until the end of the 1980s; as Director of News, Artistic Director, Director of Programming and an adviser to the senior management of CLT.


Picture: Jacques Navadic 

Part of the pack 



The 2016 edition of the world’s biggest cycling race – the Tour de France – began on Saturday 2 July. RTL Radio (France) once again went out on the road to cover the Grande Boucle for its sport-loving audience, as it did in 1934 when it first broadcast live from the race.

 One of the most popular journalists covering the Tour was undoubtedly Alex Virot. He commented on the race for Radio Luxembourg in the 1950s, following the cyclists on the back of a motorcycle, until the fateful day of 14 July 1957 when he and his driver were killed in an accident during the Barcelona-Ax-les-Thermes stage.


Picture: The Radio Luxembourg team covering the Tour de France with Alex Virot (wearing a white cap on the motorbike to the right) and André Bourillon (standing on the motorbike to the left) 

Going the extra mile for the listener


Here is a photo impossible to realise today, since the overflight of Paris is now forbidden to any plane other than the police or the army .... But in 1976 the situation was very different. RTL Radio (France) in order to better inform the Parisian listeners about the traffic conditions in Paris, decided to specifically train the journalist Jacques Boutelet to inform listeners from the air. 

At that time, the car was king, and RTL Radio (France) needed to be closer to its listeners. What better way than an aeroplane? This aircraft was also used as a "transmitting relay" during transmissions of the Tour de France.


Photo shared with Backstage readers by our colleague Laurent Marsick, Service culture / médias / jeunesse, RTL Radio (France)

A man from the golden age of radio


On 16 June 2019, Zappy Max, one of the most iconic presenters for Radio Luxembourg passed away at the age of 97. Multi-talented presenter Zappy Max, with his wide eyes and signature moustache, was the central character on Radio Luxembourg’s legendary show Quitte ou Double. He hosted the gameshow for many years out on the road in France and Belgium with ‘Radio-Circus’.

The stand-out moment on Quitte ou Double came undoubtedly during a Radio Circus event in 1952 when Abbé Pierre, then still relatively unknown at the time, answered the first eight questions correctly and won enough money to buy a new truck and plenty more for his Emmaus charity, set up in 1949 to help the poorest in society.

Fever pitch 

With the start of the Uefa European Championship in France, football fever has spread among the many fans and even to otherwise less interested members of the public. In the 1950s this sport was very popular on the French-speaking station Radio Luxembourg. Reporters such as Patrick Saint-Maurice and Jacques de Ryswick thrilled listeners with their live broadcasts from the stadiums.

Jacques de Ryswick, also a journalist at the sports newspaper L’Équipe, commentated on the matches with his distinctive voice from the edge of the pitch to be closer to the action.

Together with his colleagues Jacques Goddet and Jacques Ferran from L’Équipe, he supported and promoted the idea of the newspaper’s editor Gabriel Hanot to launch a 'European Cup' for football clubs in 1954. With Uefa's approval, this vision was turned into reality the following year. Today, we know the competition as the Uefa Champions League. 


Roll up, roll up for the 208 tour!

In the early 1950s regular bus tours were organised from London or Sheffield in England to Belgium and Luxembourg where the highlight was undoubtedly a visit to the Radio Luxembourg studios at Villa Louvigny and the chance to meet the ‘Two-O-Eight’ presenters.

From mid-June to end of August these weekly bus tours to the Continent allowed the tourists to “leave all their cares and troubles behind” – for the price of 25 to 28.5 guineas.


Photo : Advertisement from the 208-View magazine

Musical patterns

Famous French singer Edith Piaf is patiently knitting while her husband Jacques Pills records in the studio located in rue Bayard in Paris.

The photo dates from the Radio Luxembourg season 1952/53, where every Sunday evening Edith Piaf and her husband Jacques Pills hosted a programme called La rue aux chansons. The radio programme’s song of the same name is also a song from Edith Piaf. The programme was produced by Programmes de France, a production company of Radio Luxembourg.


Radio Luxembourg archives
Photo shared with Backstage readers by our colleague Laurent Marsick, Service culture / médias / jeunesse, RTL Radio (France)

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