With the rise of privatized automobility and the increase of traffic jams, new
sociotechnical systems have emerged that aim at traffic control. Radio traffic
information has been a key element in these systems. Through a qualitative
analysis of historical radio broadcasts of the largest Dutch news station between
1960 and 2000, this article explores the changing format and content of
traffic information updates. I will show how the rather formal, detailed, and
paternalistic narratives of the traffic reports in the 1960s gave way to more
informal, witty, yet flow-controlling traffic information discourse in later decades.
I will explain the dynamics involved by drawing on mobility and media
studies and by developing two distinct notions of flow, one of which builds
conceptually on Raymond Williams’s work on mobile privatization, the other
is grounded in the field of traffic management. In so doing, this article aims to
contribute to a better understanding of the role of public radio broadcasts in
our world of privatized automobility.