Our Heritage/Frequency History

Credit NPR Berlin


The tradition of American radio in Berlin originated in the early days following World War II. The Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) was for nearly 50 years the voice of freedom in a divided Germany. Each of the western allies also operated an FM service for its military community. American Forces Network (AFN) became the most popular music station in Berlin for Americans and Berliners alike. For more than a decade in the 80’s and 90’s, AFN also carried about six hours a day of National Public Radio (NPR) programming. This schedule continued until the Berlin Wall came down, the station went off the air in 1994 with the closing of the American garrison and the restoration of Berlin as the German capital.

Wall Collapses

Following the end of the AFN service, the Berlin-Brandenburg media authorities (MABB) revised the media laws for their combined states, and created the framework for what are uniquely the only broadcast frequencies dedicated by law as expressions of gratitude to and solidarity with other nations.  The British, French and Americans were each granted a medium power FM station under the new media law.  The language of the law specifies that the stations be awarded in order to maintain close cultural and political ties to the former protective powers.

NPR FM Berlin

On December 3rd, 2005, the MABB voted to award a new frequency, 104,1 FM, to NPR. NPR’s programming was more suitable to English speakers in the Berlin urban market, and thus the lower-powered 104,1 FM was given to NPR.  The station’s reach covers an area of Berlin and close in suburbs which are home to more than 3.5 million inhabitants and the bulk of the international business, diplomatic, student, and tourism communities.

NPR Berlin went on air officially on April 1, 2006, carrying primarily the same schedule as the Hotbird satellite service for Europe and the Mideast.  Several weeks after the startup, the first Berlin-originated programs aired, produced in cooperation with local organizations.

NPR Berlin gained immediate attention from the city’s newspapers and some of its broadcasters.  All of the media attention was strongly favorable, with comparisons to the quality of German public radio, and a definite understanding of the distinction between NPR’s output and that of the Voice of America (VOA).  One of the city’s largest daily newspapers gave the new station the highest possible praise, calling it “…the best gift since the Airlift.”

In May 2014, Friends of NPR Berlin group commenced its operations with a Ted Radio Hour. Friends of NPR Berlin (FNPR) is a dedicated partner of NPR organized to build community support and financing for the NPR station in Berlin. Its mission is to build cultural and international understanding, especially between Germany and the United States by providing a European outlet for the best of American broadcast journalism in Berlin, serve as a platform for building a community among the rapidly growing English-speaking global population in Berlin-Brandenburg, and further tolerance and international understanding, the arts and education.

Today’s NPR

NPR is among one of the most successful news organizations in United States and a growing presence in digital media including podcasting, mobile applications, and social media. With almost 900 radio stations and 27 million listeners per week, it has also been honored with the broadcast industry’s most prestigious awards. It provides a 24-hour coverage of virtually every aspect of American life from news to music, and from comedy to drama. Regular listening to NPR provides a rich menu of American culture, not available anywhere else.

Unlike German public radio, NPR Berlin is not subsidized by the government and relies mostly on donations from listeners, foundations and corporations.

Our future vision is to bring our community to life; we strive to create much more Berlin-focused, local programming through our innovative digital platform.

Please join us to make this vision happen and consider making an individual donation here.

For those who would like to become major gifts contributors into our Leadership Circle, please contact us

Return to Friends of NPR Berlin