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20 January 2005

Success Story Ten Years On: Campus Report Has 100,000 Listeners

10th anniversary for Campus Report — Joint project involving the Universities of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Freiburg in conjunction with Radio Regenbogen — Success despite initial resistance — 10 years on, 100,000 regular listeners keep up with the latest news from Baden's universities — Support from the Broadcast Authority of Baden-Württemberg — "We're not resting on our laurels!"

Ten years ago the project caused quite a stir, with repercussions all the way up to the state parliament. Today, Campus Report has about 100,000 regular listeners between the Rhine-Main Triangle and Zurich. The radio programme first went on the air on 10 January 1995 and all doubts about its success have long been allayed. Its reports on the world of science, scholarship and research combine uncompromising quality on the content side with liveliness of presentation. It is this mix that has ensured its popularity. Back in the mid 90s hardly anyone expected such a turn-up for the books, as press officer Dr. Michael Schwarz readily concedes: "Of course we thought the project was a good idea right from the beginning," he recalls. "But all of us involved in getting this joint venture on the road were pretty nervous at the time."

Michael Schwarz has been responsible for the features on the University of Heidelberg from the outset. "It was undiscovered country for us," he says, "though not because we had no experience with radio. It was the institutional cooperation between various universities and a commercial broadcaster that caused us a few headaches. There had never been anything like it before, so we had no experience to fall back on."

The joint venture between the four universities in Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Freiburg and Radio Regenbogen was indeed a novelty. Initially it came in for its fair share of criticism. Misgivings were voiced about whether such unlikely bedfellows could really make a go of it. There were doubts whether the reports would be professional enough and whether the style of the features would harmonise with the popular format of Mannheim's private radio station. Its typical listeners would hardly have been well-disposed towards academic jargon, specialist terminology and arcane communications from the ivory tower of science and scholarship. "What we set out to do," Schwarz emphasises, "was to bring brief, punchy features on interesting research topics or the latest developments in higher education policy. Only after a few programmes had gone on the air was everyone convinced that we had a quality product and that we could make it stay that way."

Feature No. 2,500 coming soon

Today, fears of this kind are hardly any more than an amusing anecdote. Campus Report (its official name is "Uni-Radio Baden") is well on the way to its 2,500th feature. "It'll be coming up some time in the summer," says Nils Birschmann, long-serving editor of the programme. "One of the big assets of the programme is its consistency, that's why we have an average audience of 100,000, not only in Germany but as far away as Switzerland. They know they can expect Campus Report to provide reliable, top-quality reports on very different areas of research without getting stuffy or boring." Birschmann, a former Radio Regenbogen journalist, knows that this is what has made the programme so successful. "In the last few years we've had a series of highlights," he recalls, "like the Nobel Prize for physicist Wolfgang Ketterle." That was back in October 2001. Wolfgang Ketterle, formerly at the Institute of Physical Chemistry in Heidelberg, had been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics, an event that caused quite a commotion at his old university. Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff congratulated him warmly: "The Nobel Prize for Wolfgang Ketterle is a great honour and a token of recognition for the University of Heidelberg." Radio Regenbogen worked flat out to change the programme and include the exciting news. Nils Birschmann has his own memories of that red-letter day: "The four universities take turns with their features and Heidelberg wasn't scheduled for the programme. But once the news about the Nobel Prize broke, all our partners gave us the green light for a special feature on Professor Ketterle. That was definitely one of the high-spots in the last ten years."

Campus Report: a challenge to the broadcasting organisations operating under public law

Campus Report has never been a programme by students for students, like, for example, "RadioAktiv", which provides campus radio for the Universities of Mannheim and Heidelberg. Instead it is a public relations instrument. "We angle the programme at everyone interested in what's going on in the world of science and scholarship in Heidelberg," says Michael Schwarz, "while at the same time adjusting to the lively, popular style typical of Radio Regenbogen." Ten years back, the public-law broadcasting corporations saw the project as a provocative challenge, a gauntlet flung down at their feet. "When we started out, there was harsh criticism," Schwarz recalls, "and not only from what was then South German Radio. They accused us of undermining the Republic's dual radio system. Our project was really making waves, with repercussions all the way up to the state parliament."

"Self-advertisement"

The opponents of Campus Report geared their campaign to the fact that the editorial responsibility for the features broadcast lay with the universities themselves. "Self-advertisement" was the criticism levelled at the programme: "Where would we be if every theatre director started operating his own broadcasting station?" But concern for the monopoly of the public-law corporations will probably also have played a role.

Sterling support from the Broadcast Authority Baden-Württemberg

"In this connection we had sterling support from the Broadcast Authority Baden-Württemberg (LfK) right from the outset," says Schwarz in appreciation of the merits of that organisation, not merely because it granted the broadcasting frequency required. "Their idea was to give the universities more media competence and they also saw an opportunity for making the Radio Regenbogen programme more quality-conscious. Today, as before, Radio Regenbogen is accountable to the LfK in terms of broadcasting rights, while the universities are in charge of the content of the individual features."

Those features are just as many-faceted as the world of science and scholarship itself. In the last few weeks and months there have been reports on research into backache, top-flight student sportspeople, hyperactive children and the everyday routines of scientists working in the Arctic. "Campus Report has profited throughout from the diversity of academic disciplines, not only in Heidelberg," says Michael Schwarz. "That means there's never any shortage of things to report on. Every working day a programme from one of the four university locations can go on the air."

Campus Report has aroused major interest in the media, as is borne out by the many newspaper articles and press agency reports. In fact it already did so before the first programme was transmitted. Schwarz is still quietly surprised at what has been achieved in the last ten years. Musing about the early stages of the project, he says: "If you remember the difficulties we had at the beginning, it's obvious that an anniversary like this one is doubly gratifying. And we get lots of positive feedback from our listeners. After all, we have to compete for their favour, day in, day out. But university programmes with a human touch seem to have done the trick, if all those listeners' responses are anything to go by. And that's the best proof that we were right to indulge our own curiosity and decide in favour of the programme ten years ago."

"In the beginning it was an experiment," Schwartz reminisces, "but now we're well beyond the stage of being a 'thorn in the flesh' of South German Radio. Campus Report is a firmly established communication channel and we have plans to link up even more intensively with other media, like the Internet, and other partners too." One instance of this endeavour is the inclusion of the University Hospitals in Heidelberg and Mannheim, an eloquent token of the will to carry on in the same vein. "We intend to extend the project," Schwarz insists. "We certainly won't be resting on our laurels!"

For more information on Campus Report and its features, go to www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/medien/uniradio.html

Campus Report is broadcast from Monday to Friday at 7.40 p.m. (or thereabouts) on Radio Regenbogen. Frequencies: UKW 102,8 (North Baden), 100,4 (Central Baden), 101,1 (South Baden).

The frequencies for RadioAktiv, the student campus radio programme for the universities in Mannheim and Heidelberg, are 105,4 MHz in Mannheim and 89,6 MHz in Heidelberg. For more information go to www.radioaktiv.org
Heiko P. Wacker

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/index.html


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