Does Polish radio suck or blow?

My journey to work takes around 20 minutes (45 if it rains!) and I like to listen to the radio. I’m after three things:

1/ Rock channel
2/ Popular music channel (preferably interesting rather than just the hits. A bit like John Peel, may he RIP)
3/ Classical (serious) channel

There would be a talk channel if I understood enough, or could concentrate properly and drive at the same time :-)

In the UK I knew where I was. BBC radio 1 for the latest pop/rock, radio 2 for more of a “golden oldie” mix and DJs over the age of 20, radio 3 for classical, radio 4 for speech based entertainment and news, radio 5 for the same but with strong sports bias. There are assorted commercial channels that provide variations of the above, although nothing like radio 4. They all do a pretty good job. Could it possibly be any easier?

What have I got here?

1/ EskaRock – could be better as it has a very limited play-list but is most often where I end up
2/ Anty Radio – I used to play this all the time because it actually played tunes I liked and had not heard from any other station but went very weird a while back and is now heading downhill fast
3/ RMF FM & Radio ZET – plastic pop all day long. Only good point is that they’re available nationwide giving some relief from Radio Maryja.
4/ RMF Classic – joke. Should be called RMF Elevator Music.
5/ Radio WaWa and all the others – same limited play-list as every other station
6/ The national radio channels – generally too much chatter for me but I’ve enjoyed a few classical moments on channel 2

I’m not convinced that any of these even play a good selection of Polish music. They certainly don’t play a good mix of international music. I’m assuming of course that staying abreast of the international music scene is something Poles would like to do? I think it’s a reasonable assumption given the amount of air time given to non-Polish music but perhaps I’m wrong. If you want proof of how out of touch we are here, take a look at the UK and US charts and count how many of them you’ve heard on Polish radio. There will be a few, perhaps five, that you’ve heard 50,000 times and the rest you’ve not heard. Currently, you have Kid Rock with All Summer Long and Coldplay with Viva La Vida that have been played to death and yet only occupy 9th and 17th position in the UK chart and 25th and 9th in the US chart respectively. Alongside the chosen few current tunes we’re treated to endless replays of stuff like In the Army Now by Status Quo, Kim Wilde, Shakin Stephens, Boney M, Life is Life (na na na na puke!) and other tunes that were very average in their home country about three centuries ago and quite popular in Poland in the 80’s.

‘Kings of Leon’, who are topping various charts, are being featured on EskaRock recently but is highlighting one current band or tune really working hard enough?

God help us if Wilki, T Love, Myslovitz or any other popular Polish band releases something half decent. The radio play-lists will be 50% that tune, 30% three foreign tunes and 20% Status quo or Polish golden oldies.

You only have to try buying anything more imaginative than a Doda CD in Warsaw to realise it is not just the radio stations that are out of touch. I recently compiled a list of 10 CDs I needed to buy, taken from the top 20 of a chart for “The Greatest British Albums of all time”. The list was slightly dodgy because it was hardly an “all time”, more of a “last 20 years”. Still, it contained some albums I didn’t have by people like Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Pulp, Blur, The Smiths, and so on. I tried every shop in Warsaw and failed to find a single one of them. You may as well go out in search of British style sausages, you’ll have about the same amount of luck. None. (unless you bump into Warsaw’s mysterious Irish butcher!)

The strangest thing is that it’s not as if Poles are ignorant of what is good music or current trends, they’re absolutely not. It is just that the Polish music scene seems to be underground, not on the radio or in the music stores. It thrives on CD’s purchased at the Russian bazaar (wherever that is nowadays), on tunes downloaded for free or emailed by mates. Nobody pays for any media in this country. Every time and I mean EVERY time any Pole has offered to lend me a movie or music or get me a programme for my PC it has been something slightly dodgy. Home made, copied, Russian, downloaded, borrowed, stolen….anything other than the official merchandise.

Still, whilst that might account for not being able to buy any CDs in the shops, it can’t be a good enough excuse for the limited quality being played on the radio waves, can it?

Is there some reason why Polish radio is not as good as British, or is it just me?

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37 thoughts on “Does Polish radio suck or blow?

  1. I’d say you have more chances of getting “British style sausages” in Poland, than “Polish style sausages” in Ireland. No, Polish shops don’t sell the tasty garlicky “country-side-style” sausage.

    But then again, it might be my ignorance in the area of British pork delicacies :) Wouldn’t “biała” do?

  2. Have you tried looking for these albums in internet shops?
    Polish radios aren’t very good. The commercial ones usually play the same songs. Roxy FM is nice, I like Trojka, but when I’m at work there is a little too much talking for me. I like radio Krakow, because it plays a little different music.
    I’m checking BBC Radio 1 now :)

  3. Have you dabbled yet with buying music via downloads yet? It took me a while to get used to, but now for me there is no going back. No CDs to misplace in the huge stacks of music and books already crowding my apartment. And it’s cheaper. You can always burn a CD for the car. No more searching store after store when I’m having a mid-life crisis day and need something from the 80s.

    Just avoid the Apple iTunes store unless you want to deal with Digital Rights Management. Unfortunately Amazon (all DRM free) only sells to users with a US mailing address credit card. But 7digital has just ditched DRM – there must be others.

    As for radio, you have something very precious in the BBC. I’ve been listening (via shortwave) since I was a kid. It’s a pretty high standard to compare radio anywhere else to the BBC. They do have podcasts you could use in the car.

  4. Polish radio does not play new songs because you have to pay money when you play a new “charts” song in the radio. I think it is 2 dollar or something like that. Thats why they play old songs from the 80s where the license is much cheaper.

    BTW, this is a good website where you can hear songs for free.

    http://www.wrzuta.pl/

    Just type the title/band in the search engine.

  5. Ehh? RMF-Classic, elevator music? This is like the best classical music station in the world. I love it – it has a great repertoire of film music (something you hardly ever get in radio stations in the rest of Europe or the US) and the nights are usually spent broadcasting full operas by the best orchestras and conductors….

    Elevator music! Hurmpf…..

  6. I bet there are tunes that topped charts in Poland and didnt do the same in UK or US. Music taste is not universal, nor should it be. And dont get me wrong I love Radio 1 and 4.

  7. I have an internet radio and I live in Holland. We tune into channels from lots of different countries but I have never tuned into a UK channel for music (5 Live for sport though).
    We listen to a couple of Polish channels the main one is called Polskie Przeboje which has classic Polish trax. Besides that we like RMF actually so I guess there’s no accounting for taste.
    With the choice of channels from the whole world we listen to one from Luxembourg and them mostly to Dutch channels because they have the best dance music but it all depends on your taste.
    I have switched oin BBC Radio 7 a couple of times, no way jose, not my filizanka herbatka ;-) All depends on your own taste.

  8. In 1984 I bought a radio just to listen to it for a couple of months and I actually loved Polish radio then (not understanding everything they said probably helped) but just keeping it on all the time when I was in my room helped my comprehension a lot (and there was enough okay music to keep me from going crazy when I didn’t want to listen to whatever it was they were saying).

    In 1991 (second trip) I listened a while to some Polish radio but since I was having more language contact outside I switched to BBC world service for radio (almost always something interesting on) until I just couldn’t take it anymore and quit (a combination of improved Polish comprehension and being fed up with British radio accents).

    I _hated_ the new private commercial stations with a burning passion (there was some weird time limit on how long they could play a song and so they would play (say) two minutes in the middle of a song. That’s when I began to realize that most Polish people then treated music in English as instrumental mood music (many still do).

    Anyway later came tv and I mostly left radio behind just listening very occasionally to see if there was anything I thought was worthwhile …. meh.

    What I’d like:

    Interesting talk radio with no (or only very short instrumental) music. The talk radio show I do get alternates between bland and boring. Many of the people that should be livening up the radio airwaves are on tv instead.

    Polish music. There is enough good Polish music produced to support this, but the market doesn’t seem to be there. On the whole when it comes to music, Polish people don’t know what they like, they want to like what everybody else likes (or what some ‘expert’ with rotten taste tells them they should like).

    Classical. Don’t know if agree with Radek, rmf classical doesn’t come in well on the radio I’d listen to it on : (

  9. nicq & others – I was okay with Roxy for a while but it doesn’t seem to hit the mark these days.

    iceteajunkie – concentrate on the bacon!

    DC & wiosanna – have tried internet shopping but gave up when everywhere I went had a problem with Polish IP addresses and credit cards. Also, it’s obviously more expensive and harder work than finding a good radio station! Of course, if TPSA don’t manage to ever connect me to neostrada then the whole thing is even more complicated. Good luck with radio 1, I’m somewhere between 1 and 2 these days but I always seem to drift into 4. I think the main problem is that I’ve been spoilt by the Beeb.

    guest – I suspect money comes into it somewhere along the way. Even so, I could select a significantly better play-list from the 80’s than I’ve heard so far over here.

    Radek – you’ve hit the nail on the head! Cinema music isn’t serious enough and I only seem to enjoy opera live or in “best of” CD’s. Most times I’ve tuned to RMF Classic recently they’ve been playing quite ridiculous tunes.

    zaimek – I agree.

    Aidan – in the good old days when I had an internet connection I used to listen to the BBC channels from time to time. Good system except for the fact that the football commentaries cannot be transmitted in Poland so 5 Live is not what it should be. I’ve never listened to radio 7?!

    Michael – maybe being a DJ just isn’t seen as a sexy job over here so nobody’s putting the effort in?

  10. I gave up on Polish radio when within the space of one week I heard Nick Kershaw’s Riddle 4 times! Once was almost enough to have me asking Harold Shipman for a consultation.

    Get your ipod hooked up to your car PC and take control of what you listen to!

    BTW in almost every other CEE city BBC World service is beamed out in glorious FM – why oh why is that not happening in Poland? Grateful for not only the answer but the solution as to what needs to be done to make this happen

  11. David – yes, I’d forgotten the Nick Kershaw fixation! I actually DO have my ipod hooked up to the car radio and funnily enough, was using it to listen to audio books most of the time! The interface with my car hi-fi is not great though in terms of navigation, it all has to be done on the ipod and that’s not easy while I’m driving. I need to spend more time creating playlists. That said, the joy of radio is in finding something new and I’m not likely to do that via my ipod.

  12. Oh dear, it just gets worse and worse!

    “The Spice Girls have beaten Led Zeppelin to an award for the best music reunion of the last 12 months. The girl group won best live return at the Vodafone Live Music Awards after getting back together for a world tour.”

  13. For my twopenneth’s worth I have to mention that I’m a massive BBC7 fan – endless 1950s and 60s radio comedies, some damn good modern radio comedy (Count Arthur Strong anyone?) and the occasional Sherlock Holmes adaptation. Only problem is I tend to lose touch with current affairs – Gordon who is the prime minister?

  14. BTW, do you like the Polish group BAJM ?

    they have interesting lyrics and it might help you to learn some new Polish words. :)

  15. Scatts: have tried internet shopping but gave up when everywhere I went had a problem with Polish IP addresses and credit cards.

    And when there are companies that don’t have a problem with Polish credit cards and ship to Poland, like Amazon UK for example, then they charge you a bloody high amount of money for the shipping costs. Why, oh why, does Amazon UK charge the same for shipping to Poland as to Australia?

  16. “Do you mean you don’t like Gregorian monks singing in Latin? THAT’S HOT HOT HOT!!!! ”

    I for one would love hearing Gregorian monks singing HOT HOT HOT:

    youtube.com/watch?v=wUiNxubiP5Y

  17. Jedynka and Trójka get my ear sometimes (Jedynka I prefer) but on a daily basis it’s Radio 4.
    However if there is any ‘fizzing’ political situation or if my Polish alter ego needs some revitalising (usually when I’m driving as I do not listen to music radio in Poland if I can avoid it) then I tune in to TOK fm (97.7 or via web) – a sort of ‘news’ station with discussion programs throughout the day and that vital political and financial injection first thing in the morning.
    Its not available country wide which is a shame in one way but not in another as it is the radio version of the Gazeta Wyborcza which continues to be the ‘post communist’ mouthpiece to this day, hence my earlier inverted commas regarding the word ‘news’. Basically by trumpeting its news oriented output (news summary every 20 mins) it gives an impression the discussions are also news (informacje) instead of biased opinion. So that’s about it for my self imposed exile here in rainy Konstancin other than to say that Radio Maryja’s discussion program in the evening is well worth listening to also.

  18. Media are generally crappy in Poland. I used to listen to AntyRadio, and I sometimes still do, but I learned that streaming non-commercial radios from the web are the best. If I were you I’d take a look around and find out if BBC is streaming their broadcast. When it comes to music channel there was a decent one, but it has become awful lately – VH1. Now the only thing I can watch on TV is british MTV2 (because it actually plays music not some stupid shows like ‘Date my arthretic grandmother’) and Discovery.

  19. Robert – yes, but then I decided that leaving just because I wasn’t a huge fan of the radio stations might not go down too well with my wife, kid, family, friends, employer………..

    Monks doing HOT HOT HOT would definitely be a lot of fun but more Polish would be monks doing Brown girl in the ring. Or Nick Kershaw’s poxy tune.

    I’ll hunt for Trojka.

    Guess what EskaRock managed to squeeze in this morning – Viva la Vida for the 1,276th time!! Also Queen, We will Rock You, hmmm. My radio station would be playing something like Seven Sea’s of Rye or Keep Yourself Alive as the Queen track of the morning, not We will Rock You. Thinking about it, I remember Anty Radio playing one of the better tracks from Queen’s first album and I was truly impressed. As I said earlier, they’ve dropped (and lost) the ball since those early days.

    Take Elton John as another example. When was the last time you heard any of the great but not famous tracks from Yellow Brick Road or Captain Fantastic? I’m not a huge EJ fan, even though Rocket Man was the first single I ever bought, but he’s got a lot of great tunes that just NEVER get played.

  20. ge’ez – working my way through your station. You’ve gotta love the whole “progressive rock” scene haven’t you! That Gentle Giant track was a classic of the genre! I’m struggling a bit with Shakti though. Sounds like someone struggling to tune a sitar! :)

  21. they throw some shit in that I never selected… but when you come up with that you can just skip it and go to the next song… last.fm is great stuff — and I don’t own stock in it nor am I plugging it for $$$

  22. I started off listening to Roxy FM but then switched to Eska – slightly less trendy I think. I really like Trójka, mainly because I always manage to tune in when they’re broadcasting something really random (Ukrainian grandfathers singing folk music or something. Or children’s hour on Sunday morning). I also like Dwójka when I’m feeling really pretentious. One thing that’s missing is a minimal-effort ‘wallpaper’ classical channel like the UK’s cringeworthy Classic FM. I also heard there was a good jazz channel but haven’t managed to find it… yet…

    If you get DAB digital, try BBC Radio 6 – like 2 without the cheese, and less awful pop than 1.

  23. I agree, Polish radio sucks.
    English radio sucks less so I listen to Wake Up to Money on BBC FiveLive every morning.

    In terms of music…If you’re looking for good (new) music, try Program 3 (Trojka) as mentioned above. The only one I can listen to without my ears bleeding.
    Anyway, want to listen to some good music? DIY – iPod, or better, original good-quality-sound CDs. Forget the Polish radio (except Trojka and Pogram 1 from time to time).

  24. Pinolona:
    I also heard there was a good jazz channel but haven’t managed to find it… yet…

    Jazz Radio is the only radio I listen to regularly.

    It’s 106.8FM in Warsaw and 101FM in Cracow. You can also listen to it via Internet at http://www.jazzradio.pl/, though the stream is of rather low quality (MP3, 64kbps, 24kHz sample rate).

  25. All these endorsements for Trojka…..is it a kind of “in joke”?

    I’ve listened for two days now and all I’ve had is a lot of nattering and a few tunes. The first day tunes were, well, awful. The second day was surprisingly better. At no time did my ears bleed, so that at least is true.

    I’ll stick with it.

  26. For me it’s the Holy Trinity of Radio Jazz (they who bother to announce what each record was, and what the next one will be); Radio PiN (don’t bother announcing what they play, which is a pity, because it’s good), plus they mix good music with economic commentary; Radio TokFM not least because I get invited now and then, but not nearly as often as my neighbours Witek (O) and Jacek (W). Tadeusz Mosz’s morning economics talk show ‘EKG’ is just the very best anywhere.

    If forced to drive anywhere outside of Warsaw and I get bored of my CDs, I’ll listen to Trójka. It’s intelligent, plays decent music.

    Jedynka is a bastion of the Katchinskis, so until the political placemen get turfed out, sorry, I won’t listen.

    If I feel like turning violent while driving through the countryside, I’ll tune to Radio Has A Snout. When I hear those cretins commenting on economic matters, I realise that either they have no clue about the economy, in which case they should keep their populist traps firmly shut, or else, they know full well and are simply lying. Either way, within five minutes, I’m getting apoplexies, am banging the steering wheel, thumping the dashboard, and am a thoroughly dangerous human being. Look out if you’re female and over 60!

    My final point is about the way Polish radio stations fail to announce what they play. Are they avoiding Performing Rights dues? Or are they embarassed by the way they pronounce ‘de bitels’? Or do they simply not care? Many years ago, in the 1970s indeed, I met two Polish guys while on holiday in France. On hearing that I was from England, they asked whether I knew this band that they kept on hearing on the radio. The band was called ‘The Popo’. No, I hadn’t heard of this English band. It transpired after a lot of humming that they were referring to Deep Purple.

  27. Pingback: Here it bends a penguin’s beak « Polander

  28. Polish radio sucks, blows and swallows! That’s true. I thought Polish radio is the worst ever till I came to Iceland. They play 20 songs over and over!!! Every single channel! 20 songs! For over one year! Now I miss Polish radio.

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