Lenita Airisto in a prime-time talk show on the NBC channel in the USA with Steve Allen, the creator of the Tonight Show. - The prime time current affairs programme 7th Hour (7. hetki) on Channel Three featured guests such as Gennadi Gerasimov, Mikhail Gorbachev's first spokesman. - Keke Rosberg, the Formula 1 World Champion being interviewed.


Without the innovation and intelligence of technology students, TV would have come to Finland much later than it did. The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), which by law was the only body that could have entered into this field, was not interested in TV at the time. Instead, the TV club at the Helsinki University of Technology began to air test broadcasts as early as in 1955. The Technology Promotion Foundation (TES) and the University encouraged and supported the students, but their pioneering spirit was their greatest resource.

At the time, the only TV channel that could be regularly viewed in Finland was Tallinn TV, operated by the Soviet Union, and the technology students in Finland were concerned about the propaganda broadcasts.

The studio and technical training facilities of TES-TV were housed in the premises of the TES in an attic on Albertinkatu in Helsinki. In these early days, only a handful of households had a TV set, and before every broadcast they were individually informed by phone: ”Switch your set on, we are about to go on the air.”

The programming of TES-TV grew rapidly, and the channel soon needed more content producers and an announcer. A phone call and a meeting led to a turning point in the career of Lenita Airisto, as she reports: ”In my job interview, executive director Erkki Larkka of TES-TV gave me a piece of paper and asked me to read: Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. I got the pronunciation right and got the job too. I began work as a TV journalist on 1 August 1957.”


Prime time entertainment on the Tesvisio channel with Georg Malmsten and Lasse Mårtenson. Directed by Lasse Malmlund and Matti Elo.


The operations of TES-TV were based on constant studying. Because there was nowhere in Finland to study TV journalism, the TES and the Business Education Foundation awarded Lenita Airisto grants to study abroad. TES-TV, subsequently Tesvision, organized for her to work as an intern at BBC and ITV studios in London, with RTF in Paris and with German TV channels in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, and in the USA too.

Berlin, the divided city, was the political nerve centre of Europe in the 1950s. West Berlin was the base for Sender Freies Berlin, whose counterpart in East Berlin was Deutsche Fernsehfunk. Both broadcasters spoke German, observed strict German order and featured the famous Brandenburger Tor in their channel identification, but the viewpoint and content of their extensive news and current affairs programmes were totally different.


Working as a trainee in Berlin, the political nerve centre of Europe, and its Sender Freies Berlin TV channel.

Lenita Airisto’s studies at the Technische Universität Berlin and her internship at the Sender Freies Berlin studio taught her to see how the extensively censored East German media could nevertheless yield actual news items that could be conveyed to the West. Journalists had to train themselves to see what was not there, such as news about major traffic accidents, but above all they had to see through the propaganda.

The most significant stage in Lenita Airisto’s path as a TV journalism student was her stay at the TV institute of Stanford University in California. The University had its own fully equipped TV studio, where students presented programmes that they had themselves planned, directed and edited. Her studies concluded with practical experience at various TV studios in Los Angeles. Lenita Airisto gained an internship with the show of Steve Allen, a great media personality at the time.


In a prime time talk show on the NBC channel in the USA with Steve Allen, the creator of the Tonight Show. Presenting facts about Finland on live TV with the map of Finland in the background.

It was Steve Allen who created the now legendary ‘coast to coast’ TONIGHT SHOW for NBC in 1954. This format still exists today, hosted after Steve Allen by Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and now Jay Leno. The American talk show format became the model for fast-talking current affairs shows around the world.

Lenita Airisto’s internship involved work behind and in front of the camera and a thorough immersion in the workings of a talk show. Her greatest thrill was to join Steve Allen live on air to tell American TV viewers about Finland and Finns.

In Finland, the technological innovation and commercial acumen of TES-TV, later incorporated as a company named Tesvisio, provided an excellent graduate course in TV journalism. All personnel exceeded and surprised themselves by all imaginable standards. In other words, there was no such thing as a job description. Work could involve anything from conducting interviews in current affairs programmes to loading a ship in the Tesvisio entertainment showcase TESSALONIKA.

 


In 1962, a phone call from Stig Törnroos, head of TV entertainment at the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) and another round of negotiations took Lenita Airisto to YLE TV1. She was immediately put on air in a Saturday-night entertainment showcase named PALAPELI (Jigsaw puzzle), paired with the famous Finnish TV personality Niilo Tarvajärvi. She remained in YLE TV1 for more than ten years and appeared in more than 150 shows, including the hottest prime time shows of the day. After Palapeli, she joined LAUANTAILEKKERI (Saturday keg), and her top moments on TV included an appearance with the legendary Swedish TV star Lennart Hyland on his hugely popular HYLANDS HÖRNA (Hyland’s corner). The publicity generated by this appearance gained her interesting assignments also in Sweden.


Saturday-night entertainment showcase named Palapeli (Jigsaw puzzle) on YLE TV1, together with the famous Finnish TV personality Niilo Tarvajärvi.
Carl T. Rowan being interviewed on Lauantailekkeri (Saturday keg), a prime time entertainment show on YLE TV1.

Tesvisio was merged into YLE TV2 on 1 January 1964. Because the main purpose of TES-TV had been to train professionals for business, the founding members of TES-TV drifted to other companies, many of them to directorships in YLE TV.

With Swedish TV star Lennart Hyland on his hugely popular
Hylands Hörna (Hyland’s corner).

The political bent of the day in broadcasting trickled into entertainment programmes too. Lenita Airisto moved to current affairs, and political talk shows entered the airwaves one after the other. This enabled her to capitalize on what she had learned in Berlin, seeing the essential through political propaganda; the hidden Stalinist agenda in ‘Repo-radio’, as YLE was then known after its director, was subliminally influencing viewers and listeners.


Jatkoaika, still a living legend in Finnish TV. Together with Aarre Elo and Hannu Taanila. One of the guests in 1968 was Prime Minister Mauno Koivisto, who was elected President of Finland for two terms from 1982 to 1994.

Aarre Elo, the most innovative producer at YLE, developed an ‘open-ended’ late show format named JATKOAIKA (Extra Time, 1967-1969), which became a great success. It was in this show that Lenita Airisto finally came to be regarded as one of Finland’s first true TV personalities. She became a controversial and admired opinion leader. Jatkoaika is still a living legend in Finnish TV. Watch the videos.

 

In 1966, the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE aired on TV1 a prime time programme designed and written by Lenita Airisto, KUKKO TUNKIOLLA (Cock of the walk), described as a superficial analysis of Finnish men. Lenita also sang the theme song.

Lenita Airisto is a frequent guest on entertainment and current affairs programmes on TV. She is a straight-shooting debater who pulls no punches, and her no-nonsense style prompts admiration and aggravation in equal measure. This is the quality that earned her a spot on the list of FINLAND’S NATIONAL TREASURES published by the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. “These are the people who shake up Finland, raise us up beyond the mundane or make us laugh at themselves or at every one of us.” Watch a video of Lenita Airisto in action on the talk show KORKOJEN KERA (With interest) on Finland’s MTV3, hosted by Vappu Pimiä and Jenni Pääskysaari. Production company: Moskito Televisio.

 


Lenita Airisto’s TV career continued in new prime time shows on the commercial Finnish channel, MTV, in 1976. ILTALINTU (Evening bird) was the big Saturday night hit, broadcast in colour. It was a current affairs show with entertainment, and the UNICEF gala concerts organized by MTV opened up international perspectives, with appearances by such international stars as Marlon Brando and Danny Kaye.


Danny Kaye in the Unicef current affairs talk show on MTV, and Marlon Brando at the Unicef TV Gala.

The most important new development was when MAAILMA TÄNÄÄN (The world today), a programme produced by Päiviö Pyysalo, began to relay reports live via satellite from all over the world. Lenita Airisto’s report from Sydney in Australia included an interview with Foreign Minister Bill Hayden and a feature on how the coastal police were combating drug smuggling.


Patric Duffy at a Pukeva show.

Caffino and Costa Rica Coffee TV Commercial 1983 with Hannes Häyrinen.


The debate on the letters pages of newspapers and the YLE switchboard came to a head in 1992 when YLE broadcasted on both TV channels SUOMI-NEIDON SYNTYMÄPÄIVÄT TALKOO-GAALA (Birthday of the Maiden of Finland, volunteer gala), a 2.5-hour extravaganza organized by Lenita Airisto on a zero budget, with Mrs Tellervo Koivisto, the wife of the President of the Republic, as its patron.

Finland was celebrating the 75th anniversary of its independence, but the national economy had plunged into a sudden and profound recession. Companies went bankrupt, taking jobs with them, and unemployment soared. Confidence in the competitiveness of Finnish labour and industry collided with the first challenges and setbacks of the reconstruction of the global economy. The mood was sullen.

The ‘Volunteer Gala’ was a carnevalistic attempt to raise spirits and promote entrepreneurship. Despite its light-hearted nature, it was a serious effort to strengthen the resolve and initiative of Finns. “Finland has everything: raw materials, know-how, professionals and entrepreneurship. Let’s stop complaining and twiddling our thumbs and get to work,” Lenita Airisto declared.


The Maiden of Finland Birthday Party with zero budget on YLE TV1 and YLE TV2 was created with Lenita Airisto’s ‘recession-killing exercise’, an attempt to raise spirits and promote entrepreneurship. A 2.5-hour live show on YLE TV1 and TV2.

There were some 100 professionals from various sectors contributing to the programme without pay. “We, the people who put together this Volunteer Gala, mainly in the promotional industry, have shown what amazing results can be produced with volunteer efforts. We have been assisted by many artists, visual designers and businesses. People in other businesses can think up other ways to contribute.” The Volunteer Gala featured Finnish design, food, fashion and music, for both listening and dancing. The party was so big that it filled City Hall in Helsinki and its vicinity from Senate Square to the harbour.

Ere Kokkonen, head of entertainment at YLE TV1, had taken a risk in giving air time to this ‘recession-killing exercise’, as it came to be known. But in the end, Finland did pull out of the recession of the 1990s thanks to the innovation of its citizens, their high level of professionalism and the satisfaction they take in their work.

Watch the video Birthday of the Maiden of Finland, volunteer gala. Suomi Neidon Syntymäpäivät, Talkoo Gaala.

 



Lenita Airisto continues to appear as a visiting journalist or speaker in TV entertainment or as a straight-talking debater on current affairs shows. Her principal interest today, however, is in her career as an author and lecturer, promoting her core messages of entrepreneurship, women’s rights, the ageing of the population and benefiting from the global economy. She is still a significant opinion leader, controversial and admired in equal measure.

Her influence is verified by a survey commissioned from Taloustutkimus in 2008, whereby she ranked among the ten most influential women in Finland. When the United Nation's International Women's Day celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011, Finland's leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat published a list of the best 100 women in Finland to honour the occasion. "We have sought to identify women who have been exceptionally successful in their careers and so served as examples, in addition to women who have worked in their lives to help others." Lenita Airisto was ranked among the 100 best women. And when the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper asked its readers in 2013. Who are Finland’s national treasures? Lenita Airisto ended up in the top 50, between Permanent State Secretary, Ministry Of Finance, Raimo Sailas and rock musician Andy McCoy. This reflects her impact as an author and a lecturer.


Interview with Nokia’s CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo at the 25th anniversary broadcast of MTV3 News 2006. Here together with MTV3 Venla Gala presenter Pirjo Laitila and Tanja Karpela 2001.

 



The hit MTV3 television series “Linnan tähdet” (Stars in a Castle) starts its new season with the promise of emotional outbursts and surprising revelations. Lofty conversations turn heated at times as Lenita and Roman take stock of each other and exchange sharp words.

After great success in its first season, the second season of the Finnish television programme "Stars in a Castle” was filmed in the medieval castle of Castello di Pergolato in Tuscany, Italy. The show’s format places six celebrities who have long been in the public eye together in a castle for a week, where they get to know each other better. Interactions between the celebrities are filmed in a documentary style, creating personal portraits of the stars as they become more familiar. Stars featured in the second season include Lenita Airisto, Eino Grön, Pirkko Hämäläinen, Roman Schatz, Katariina Souri and Jussi 69.

Watch the video





 


The upheaval that was about to turn Europe and the world upside down was just brewing when another phone call and meeting with Heikki Lehmusto, managing director of the upstart Channel Three, led Lenita Airisto to yet another shift in her career. Between 1988 and 1991, she appeared in some 70 editions of the prime time current affairs programme 7. hetki (7th hour), covering the upheavals in world politics, the economy and human lives in real time.


The prime time current affairs programme 7th Hour (7. hetki) on Channel Three featured guests such as Megatrend writer John Naisbitt, Gennadi Gerasimov, Mikhail Gorbachev's first spokesman, followed by a heated debate on male chauvinism.

WATCH: LENITA AIRISTO WEB-TV PRESENTS 7TH HOUR ON CHANNEL THREE.

Lenita Airisto talks about the re-design of her website and the potential of online videos. WATCH THE VIDEO.



The viewers of Channel Three were treated to heated debates when the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Baltic States became independent. When Europe became integrated and war in the Persian Gulf became imminent. When the casino economy transformed Finland’s finances and the recession plunged numerous people into a spiral of debt and bankrupted many businesses. And when women seriously began to struggle for equal rights, upstaging the chauvinists.

Channel Three and MTV eventually merged into MTV3 in 1993. Nordisk Film & TV has granted us the right to screen these TV shows, and there are selected clips available right here at Lenita Airisto WEB-TV.

It is always interesting to watch the storms of recent history and to note just how difficult it is to predict the future. Who could have known 50 years ago that the tech students’ magic box would evolve into online TV?

 



7. hetki (7th hour) was a prime time current affairs programme aired from 1988 to 1991. It gave viewers a real-time look at upheavals in world politics, the economy and human lives.

The viewers of Channel Three were treated to heated debates when the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Baltic States became independent. When Europe became integrated and war in the Persian Gulf became imminent. When the casino economy transformed Finland’s finances and the recession plunged numerous people into a spiral of debt and bankrupted many businesses. And when women seriously began to struggle for equal rights, upstaging the chauvinists.


“When Heikki Lehmusto, managing director of Channel Three, phoned me in 1988, he had an offer I could not refuse. Channel Three had decided to launch a prime time current affairs programme on Sunday evenings and wanted me to co-host it with Seppo-Heikki Salonen. Of course I said yes. Later, I was paired with Tapani Ruokanen, and then with Jörn Donner. Some of the shows I did on my own.

“7th Hour was produced by VipVision, which was managed by Kalervo Kummola, a well-known influential figure in ice hockey, and by programme director Jarmo Porola, an old hand at TV. This arrangement was the result of a new concept that had arrived in Finnish TV whereby a TV channel simply bought ready-made programmes from production companies. Thereby the production team had been pared to the minimum. In practice, the other producer and I designed and implemented the programme content. This suited me excellently, and cooperation with my colleagues was smooth.

“Jarmo Porola directed almost all of the shows and gave severe feedback. Heikki Lehmusto and Kalervo Kummola also had their say. The cooperation with VipVision and Channel Three was a joy and a challenge for me. When we began producing the show, we had no idea that we would soon be facing world-shattering events in security policy and economic policy.”

Between 1988 and 1991, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Baltic States became independent, Europe became integrated and war loomed in the Persian Gulf. The casino economy transformed Finland’s finances, and the profound depression plunged large numbers of people and businesses into a debt spiral. Instead of succeeding, Finns settled for survival. Women seriously began to struggle for equal rights, upstaging the chauvinists.

“7th Hour ran to some 70 shows. There were several extra shows in addition to the regular weekly ones, whenever the news situation demanded. I have selected clips for my WEB-TV to illustrate the upheavals that were going on at the time. The clips are collected under four headings: ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, EQUAL RIGHTS and PUBLICITY & PRIVACY.

“I would like to thank Antti Väisänen, the managing director of Nordisk Film & TV, and of course my generous colleagues Heikki Lehmusto and Kalervo Kummola for giving me the rights to present these interesting programmes on my website. When I had received permission for this, I digitised the programmes myself from the VHS tapes I have in my personal archive. After dozens of hours of viewing, I made a ‘highlights’ selection, which I edited at Mix Media.

“7th Hour was recorded in Finnish, English and German. All shows in foreign languages have sub-titles in Finnish. The shows in English are posted on both the Finnish and the English pages at the website.

“I wish you interesting moments with 7th Hour. These clips highlight the greatest storms in our recent history. You will also see just how difficult it is to predict the future.”


Lenita Airisto

 



















Watch more 7.th hour current affairs videos in Finnish