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Journalist Nikolay Atanasov and his golden years at Radio Bulgaria

| updated on 3/23/23 11:39 AM
Photo: courtesy of Nikolay Atanasov

The night show of the BNR’s Horizont channel, the talk show Niki and Friends, Sunday Club Horizont are just some of the nationally aired radio shows the name of journalist and anchor Nikolay Atanasov has been associated with in his long career. He joined the team of the Horizont night show in 1998, and since then his voice has been associated with the BNR’s night-time information segment. A good radio voice that is recognizable is an advantage for any radio host trying to make his way in a highly competitive and not necessarily friendly media environment. But it is this competition that moulds the character, taking away the leisure hours of the night, but giving an enormous amount of experience and inspiration, says long-time colleague and friend of Radio Bulgaria Nikolay Atanasov.

“You need to have a voice, whether you will be convincing, whether you can captivate your audience is quite another matter,” says Nikolay Atanasov in an interview with Radio Bulgaria.

The first door that opened to him at the national radio was that of Radio Bulgaria. He joinedthe BNR in the now distant year of 1985, and then by sheer fluke he joined Radio Bulgaria’s Bulgarian-language service:

“I was working at the BNR’s programme coordination centre when an internal competition was announced for anchor for the BNR’s cultural channel Hristo Botev. I was selected for the job, but while I was waiting - they were still not sure whether I would be best as a morning or an evening show anchor - a coworker and friend, Zora Neykova, called to tell me there was an opening for a male journalist at Radio Bulgaria’s Bulgarian-language section. I’d just about had enough of waiting, so I accepted Radio Bulgaria’s offer. At Radio Bulgaria there was a wonderful team, very pleasant to work with, and good professionals.”

Director of Radio Bulgaria at the time was Rayna Konstantina – “an incredible professional and a very wise manager who really understood the people she worked with,” Niki Atanasov says. Having worked at Horizont for many years, he was surprised the news was pre-recorded, so he suggested to Rayna Konstantinova that they go live. She embraced the idea though not all of his colleagues were happy, as it increased their workload. But the change was noticed by listeners right away. “We received letters, there was feedback, we had live interviews with listeners around the world,” Nikolay Atanasov says and adds: “We have never had any censorship, it was all up to us to decide and we each took responsibility for our decisions. Thanks to Rayna Konstantinova we were constantly in search of new kinds of shows, new anchors, that was definitely a golden age for Radio Bulgaria.”

The basis of any professional success is a good professional school and good teachers. For Nikolay Atanasov this school was the Faculty of Journalism at the St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia where he graduated back in the 1970s. His teacher – both in theory and practice – was Prof. Veselin Dimitrov, the most popular name in radio at the time. “My lucky chance was that when I started at the BNR, the time of the sterile radio shows with presenters as the only anchors were a thing of the past, gone forever,” he adds.

“As the new times set in I had the chance of shedding the constraints of things conservative in radio. So, I gave free rein to my imagination and, without going to extremes, started doing shows that were more human and used a more normal language to address the audience. That is what the magic of radio is all about. I once met a listener while I was still at Radio Bulgaria, a really sweet woman who said she listened to Radio Bulgaria in Austria. She gave me a box of chocolates and she said I was the reason she had stopped short of a fatal step. She told me she had been contemplating suicide but my voice, when she heard it over the radio, had had a therapeutic effect on her and so she changed her mind.”

Niki Atanasov’s voice is familiar as a radio host, but he also sings, plays the guitar, records and releases albums of songs by some of Bulgaria’s most famous composers. He has released many albums of popular Russian, white émigré and Odessa songs.

Photos courtesy of Nikolay Atanasov

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