Radio Blue Sky was established in Kosovo in 1999 as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operation. It was managed by Fondation Hirondelle in partnership with the United Nations from August 1999 to June 2000. Today it is a radio station of RTK, Radio Television of Kosovo.
In June 1999, following the NATO military operation in Kosovo, Sergio Vieira de Mello, first Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, asked Fondation Hirondelle to set up very quickly a radio station for the United Nations in Kosovo. Two months later, on 17 August 1999, Bernard Kouchner, the new Special Representative, signed an agreement with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to fund the operation.
Blue Sky was set up first as a production studio, and then in October 1999 it was launched as a full-blown radio station broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Radio Blue Sky was aimed at all inhabitants of Kosovo, with particular attention to displaced people, minorities, and young people. It focused primarily on general information, which it broadcast in Albanian, but also in Serbian and Turkish, which was a strong signal of tolerance in the social and political context of that year. Its teams were also mixed, and brought together about twenty employees. Jean-Marie Etter, President of Fondation Hirondelle, asked a Swiss journalist, Thérèse Obrecht, to direct the editorial staff of Blue Sky.
A survey carried out in July 2000 at the request of Fondation Hirondelle showed that after hardly a year of operating, a big majority of Radio Blue Sky listeners trusted its news and information (85% of listeners said Blue Sky was very credible or rather credible) and that the Albanian majority did not blame Radio Blue Sky for broadcasting in Serbian and Turkish.
The media environment of Kosovo was still largely paralyzed following the war, but a year after Blue Sky’s launch, the written press, radio, and television were booming. Fondation Hirondelle and the United Nations took on the responsibility to hand Radio Blue Sky over to a Kosovo institution, namely the RTK, Radio Television of Kosovo, also supported by the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) on a mandate from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). Fondation Hirondelle asked the RTK to keep the Blue Sky Charter, including its broadcast in three languages, and the multi-ethnic composition of its editorial staff, which the RTK accepted.
Since July 1, 2000, and still today Blue Sky is the second channel of the RTK, and has retained much of its initial identity, which was created by Fondation Hirondelle.