Radio Bari, the first Italian-Arab radio

This article is also available in: Italiano

Yesterday was World Radio Day and we still wanted to celebrate our discovery, albeit belatedly. Radio Bari was the first broadcaster to communicate between the two shores of the Mediterranean, a historic example of closeness between the Arab and Italian world

Radio Bari

Radio Bari was inaugurated for the Fiera del Levante in 1932 and its intentions to be “the radio of the Mediterranean” immediately became clear. The broadcaster was in fact born from the specific will of Mussolini in an attempt to expand the Italian cultural hegemony to the other peoples of the Mediterranean, with an eye towards the Arabs.

Radio Bari

In fact, programs in several languages were brought in from 1933, including Turkish, Romanian and Albanian. However, it was the Arab who assumed a prominent role in planning and direction. In fact, some of the most important Arabists and Orientalists of the time were hired (including the director Enrico Nunè, Carlo Belli and Muhammad Kurd Ali, founder of the Arab Academy in Damascus) and the programs adapted more and more to Arab tastes.

Half fascist propaganda

The program in Arabic aired at 7pm Italian time, initially on alternate days and then daily, and brought culture, music and news from the other side of the Mediterranean. Although the radio became a real cultural point of reference, to the point of even involving a young Habib Bourgouiba, it was never possible to distance itself too much from Italian fascism.

Radio Bari
A young Habib Bourguiba, future Tunisian head of state

The broadcaster was in fact born according to Mussolini’s precise plan to “replace” the colonial powers and not to “free” the colonies. This detail is very important, as it was the one that never allowed Radio Bari to make the “qualitative leap”. With the arrival of the Second World War, its inevitable collapse began.

The end in glory

With the arrival of the latter, the information became less and less precise and more and more anti-Semitic, this with the aim of pitting the Arab populations against the Allies, inventing unlikely unions between them and the Jewish people. With the arrival of the Allies, however, Radio Bari redeemed itself, becoming a very important source of news for the Resistance. The role of this broadcaster was so great that it is still remembered today with a plaque in Bari.

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Radio Bari

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