The association was founded in 1925 as the Vereeniging van Arbeiders Radio Amateurs (Association of Worker Radio Amateurs). The name was changed to Omroepvereniging VARA in 1957 and is no longer an acronym.
VARA originally focused on labour and socialism. In the era of Dutch pillarization the association had close links to the Social Democratic Workers Party and its successor, the Labour Party. For many years VARA's chairmen, such as Marcel van Dam and André Kloos, were prominent members of the party. Although the connection between the two organizations loosened, affinities remain, such as a large overlap between their respective support bases. On 7 March 2002 VARA adopted its eight and final logo which consists of a red cube bearing an exclamation mark alongside the word "VARA" in its new, trademark font.
Some VARA television programmes are:
VARA also broadcasts some localized programming, such as:
On 5 June 1964, during The Beatles' world tour of that year, VARA organized and recorded for television a Beatles concert in the Treslong Café Restaurant in Hillegom as part of the group's three-day visit to the Netherlands. Vara broadcast a complete summary of the Beatles' visit to the country three days later, on 8 June 1964.