A memorial plaque unveiled on Sopron’s iconic transmission tower

A memorial plaque unveiled on Sopron’s iconic transmission tower

Antenna Hungária inaugurated the commemorative plaque marking the 50th anniversary of the Sopron TV tower. Together, current and former employees commemorated
the history of one of the key telecommunications bases for Western European communications.

Antenna Hungária unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Sopron TV Tower. Because of the pandemic, the ceremony, which was attended not only by current staff but also by former colleagues and the founders of the station that played a key role in national broadcasting, was held almost two years after its planned inauguration.

At the inauguration, Dr. Ferenc Valter, a retired telecommunications expert, who was formerly Deputy Chairman of Magyar Posta and then the first CEO of Matáv, gave a brief insight into the history of the tower. The first television transmitter station in Sopron officially started broadcasting in the Károly Lookout tower building on 23 December 1959. The idea of a more powerful communications base, a separate tower, was first raised in the mid-1960s and was finalised in 1967 with the construction order. The construction of the base station for the 960 telephone lines on the Budapest-Győr-Bécs line, the international television exchange and the Sopron TV station was entrusted to specialists from the Postal Radio and Television Technical Directorate, who worked together with local staff to install the transmitters. The TV tower in Sopron was finally handed over in 1970.
As a young engineer, János Vlasich joined the preparatory work on the Károly Lookout tower, so a decade later he was able to bring his experience and local knowledge to the management of the tower installation – and also played an important role in organising the construction and commissioning teams. At the ceremony, he returned to the building after almost twenty years, telling the audience that both the former TV station and the tower had been a major challenge for the workers, from finding the site – which he himself had chosen – to the launch of the microwave transmission.
György Turzay, another retired employee of the tower, remembered those former colleagues who could not be present at this special occasion. “Those who could be here absorbed the professional love that the station and the collegiality had to offer.”
“Colleagues working at Antenna Hungária as well as those who used to work for its predecessors can be justly proud of the more than 50-year-old transmitter tower, as it has played a significant role in the life of the city of Sopron over the past half century,” said Gyöngyvér Papp-Gerlei, Deputy CEO of Antenna Hungária, at the unveiling of the plaque.
“This site has always been of great importance in the life of Antenna Hungária, and also before that it was a key player in the Hungarian telecommunications sector, as it also served as a kind of exit point to Western Europe. Hundreds of telephone lines went out and major television programmes such as the Eurovision Song Contest were received,” added Zsolt Árki, Technical Director of Antenna Hungária. – Sopron is also one of the five service centres whose staff members are responsible for the maintenance of the base station network in Hungary, as well as the operation and maintenance of the microwave networks. The team of 17 people, currently led by József Szélinger, also plays a key role in national terrestrial broadcasting and telecommunications.”

The strategic importance of the tower was illustrated by the fact that for a long time after its commissioning, the building was guarded by armed guards, with access to the public being prohibited. This mystified the modern building, which was visible from afar, especially among children. One such child was Anita Szaradics, who at the age of 4-5 dreamed of entering the tower. Almost two decades later, her dream became reality: she has been working at the Sopron station for 25 years. Her close ties to the tower are also confirmed by the circumstance that she met her husband there, who has also been a long-time member of the station team.

The TV tower has recently undergone a complete renovation, replacing its external and internal insulation to prepare the building for the challenges of the coming decades, and to ensure that it continues to play a prominent role in telecommunications in Hungary.