From January 2023, Europe 2 will return on Virgin Radio‘s 243 frequencies: this is one of the changes envisaged by the reorganisation of the Lagardère Group (of which the Europe 1 and RFM radio networks are also part) announced in June 2022 when Vivendi took control. Europe 2 is a historic brand, which had given way to Virgin Radio in January 2008, after 20 years in business. The agreement with Virgin, which covered frequencies in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Andorra and Monaco, had been signed in December 2007 by Sir Richard Branson, who had appeared on the Champs-Elysées dressed as Father Christmas for the occasion. Originally Europe 2 was a programme distributed to broadcasters. It became a network but left room for local programmes. Now, for Arnaud Lagardère, President and CEO of the group, and Constance Benqué, who heads the news hub, Europe 2 will return to its original mission: to connect audiences and artists. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
After years of waiting, the long-awaited planning of the DAB band by Agcom has arrived. The regulator waited for the channels in band III to become free with the switchover to DVB T2 and released the plan at the end of July 2022. There was no shortage of controversy, fuelled by rumours of the switch-off of hundreds of FM frequencies on the Adriatic coast due to interference caused to broadcasters in Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. A problem due to technical reasons (installations in the mountains point towards centres on the coast), to the high powers used (Italy’s historical problem) but above all to tropospheric propagation. This is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs mainly in summer, when the lower layers of the atmosphere, compressed by high pressure, become denser and reflect radio waves.
Did they just try it?
The specialised periodical Newslinet reported in July 2022 that there was a plan to shut down hundreds of channels on the Adriatic coast because they were disturbing foreign radio stations. It is a problem that has been known about for decades and is due to the fact that since 1990, after the freezing of the airwaves brought about by the “Legge Mammì“, no planning has ever been done for the FM band in Italy. And the interference situations, not well managed by Italy also due to the absence (lamented by the associations) of the Italian delegation at the European planning table, now leave very narrow margins for manoeuvre. Hence the attempt to induce broadcasters to exchange DAB-FM or to scrap it in order to fall within the parameters of the Geneva regulations.
Associations on different levels
The position of the associations varied. Among them, Aeranti Corallo, which has always pushed to accelerate planning, continues to be critical, reiterating that the frequencies are not sufficient to allow the transition from FM to digital. On the other hand, Confindustria Radio Televisioni applauds the planning: will it be because the networks it represents already have one or more channels in the DAB band? But what does the plan say? It confirms the three existing national networks (Rai, DAB Italia and EuroDab, for a total of about 50 channels) and envisages 54 local ones with regional coverage, of which 27 can be broken down into sub-basins, and another 36 in the local area to cover one or more provinces. Beyond the technical data, in some provinces there could be space for six multiplex (for a total of about 120 channels), but not in the southern Adriatic regions, due to interference problems.
It comes full circle, Michael Mallace told Radio Ink, a US radio newsmagazine. He will direct KVIT-FM, the high school station in Chandler, a city in the Phoenix metropolitan area, where he started his career. In fact, the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) has appointed him as general manager of 88.7 FM The Pulse, the high school radio station that aims to engage students to acquire the necessary skills to make their way in the world of radio. Over the past 30 years, he has run various radio groups in the Arizona capital, not just chasing ratings and profits, but valuing people and nurturing talent.
A very American phenomenon
The Pulse is one of more than four hundred US campus radio stations (one in 15 of the approximately 6400 active FM stations) that have been in existence since the 1960s when the FCC (Federal Communication Commission, the US airwaves regulator) began issuing licences. They operate with an identifier (call number) similar to that of commercial and public stations. In Canada there are 52 of them, in FM and even on medium wave: the first was CJRT, from the Ryerson Institute of Technology (Ontario Department of Education). Known as Jazz Radio, it started in 1949 on 88.3 MHz with a power of 3 kW and today is on 91.0 MHz with 40 kW. The United States and Canada have the largest number of FM student stations, but there are such stations in over 40 countries. Often they operate only on the web because regulations do not offer them space on the airwaves.
Talent hubs and trendsetters
Working in college radio is part of the student experience. Stations are run completely independent but can make use of contributors from the community to which they belong for programmes. Some are set up to train professional radio staff, others to make educational programmes or to be an alternative to commercial and public radio. They often uncover musical trends or emerging artists before they make a name for themselves. One example among many? Music promoter Marco Stanzani writes that Anderson Paak, a pop artist of worldwide notoriety, had been noticed when he was still in the early stages of his career by Italian rapper Mondo Marcio thanks to tracks broadcast on a US college radio station. So much so that since 2010, with his agency Red&Blue Stanzani, he has organised Uniweb Tour – a real live acoustic live tour on the web radios of major Italian universities – to promote the artists he covers.
Forty years ago, the French state broke the monopoly in the FM band, authorising the emergence of private associative broadcasters. At that time, the FM band was populated by a few channels: the public ones of Radio France and a few private ones, such as Europe 1 and RTL. From 9 November 1981, the phenomenon exploded, immediately making radio a popular medium: within a year, there were two thousand free radio stations. The next step came in 1984 when advertising was authorised, and radio stations could choose between two organisational formulas: remaining an associative broadcaster, relying on state subsidies, or standing on their own two feet, becoming a commercial station living off the revenue from commercials.
The epic told in a book
In Rennes, there were two pioneers: Gaby Aubert, a butcher’s boy turned bistro owner, who launched Radio Rennes, which is still in operation today, and Pierre Giboire, a 23-year-old student who created Fréquence Ille on 14 July 1981: it was an immediate success, quickly becoming one of the radio stations that symbolised the liberalisation of the airwaves. Not much time passed and in the Breton capital, other stations followed the path opened by the pioneers: Rennes FM, Radio Congas, and Radio Vilaine. They are mainly music stations, each distinguished by its own style. It is of this creative period that ‘Il est libre Max‘ (in homage to the name of the first song broadcast by Fréquence Ille), a book written by Yvon Lechevestrier, a former journalist for the French daily Ouest-France, is about. With testimonies and period illustrations, it brings the fabulous 1980s back to life.
Standardisation arrives in the 1990s
The golden age of local radio continued until the end of the decade, interspersed with episodes from the city’s history. But after the initial enthusiasm, business began to take hold: the most important commercial radio stations, such as NRJ, grew and became national networks. In the 1990s, with the first economic difficulties, most of the pioneers threw in the towel and many stations were absorbed by the networks. The FM band is still very musical, but also, often, very commercial.
Forty years later, the radio scene is still vibrant: at the end of 2020, according to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), there were 1,021 private operators and more than 6,000 frequencies. The book, published by AR Editions Collection, costs EUR 29 and can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org or directly from the author at email@example.com.
After seven decades of publication, the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) will also be available as a web app. Listening enthusiasts from all over the world can rejoice: the “Directory of Global Broadcasting” will also be available on mobile phones. By consulting it, one can find out, for example, which stations are broadcasting from the Amazon region and which programmes are available in Korea, the Maldives or Switzerland. Whether remote reception on shortwave, international services for foreign countries, political propaganda broadcasts for crisis areas or commercial stations on FM and DAB+ digital radio, the WRTH contains all the details in a clear form.
The first edition of the yearbook was published in Denmark in 1947 and WRTH Publications Limited managed it until 2022, when it transferred the rights to Radio Data Center GmbH (RDC), based in Freising, Germany. “The yearbook is an indispensable reference work for radio listeners and everyone who moves professionally in the world of radio” said Günter Lorenz, Managing Director of Radio Data Center GmbH. Who added “we are very pleased to publish the 77th edition in December 2022 simultaneously as a book and as a web app”.
About Radio Data Centre
From synergy, more information for professionals
The WRTH is an indispensable reference for orientation in radio listening. Initially, the book addressed DXers with an interest in shortwave and the “tropical bands”, as well as medium wave. The FM band, as used by the national / public broadcasters, was also covered, but not completely: the liberalisation of the airwaves, which began in Italy in 1975 and spread throughout Europe, saw the emergence of thousands of stations in just a few years, making it impossible to publish their tens of thousands of frequencies in WRTH. For reasons of space, WRTH was often limited to the major networks (12233 stations are active in the Old Continent alone, of which 8786 are commercial). Full data can be found on FMLIST (founded in 1986 by Günter Lorenz), which under the management of Radio Data Center has strengthened the worldwide team of contributors, expanding the database to a professional level, e.g by producing an identikit for each radio station. Future editions for WRTH will make comprehensive use of data from FMLIST. This synergy will make the WRTH also more attractive to professionals interested in a global directory including FM and all variants of digital broadcast (DRM, DAB, HD Radio).
It was the El Guardián, a newspaper in Costa Rica, that shed light on the amounts paid to the state by radio stations as frequency licence fees. It wrote to the press office of the Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology and Telecommunications (MICITT), which provided the list of stations with the relevant amounts in Costa Rican colón (it takes 667 for one US dollar, at the current exchange rate). The amounts are small, considering that the annual average income in 2020 was USD 12,076.81 and the monthly minimum wage USD 402. FM stations pay an average of 6,000 colóns per year (about 9 US dollars); 1,000 to 2,000 for medium-wave broadcasters (1.5 to 3 US dollars) and 1,500 to 5,000 for transfer bridges (2.25 to 7.50 US dollars). Here is the list of broadcasters, whose names are listed in the concession.
The dismissal of Lisa LaFlamme, one of the most familiar faces on Canadian TV, who was awarded this year’s Best National News Anchor, is causing controversy. This was revealed in a tweet that the journalist posted in August 2022 to inform fans that CTV (major private, English-language network) had fired her after a 35-year career. The reasons for this are confidential, but as the New York Times reports, it seems that age (58), sex and grey hair were influential.
From so to so
During the pandemic, in fact, unable to go to the hairdresser, the presenter had stopped dyeing her hair and then agreed to keep it in its natural grey colour. The company denied it, but failed to erase the doubts: it is indeed strange that such a well-known face should be thrown out of the door at the age of 58 (two years early), while other Canadian TV journalists as famous as her and with a similar role continued until the ages of 69 and 73. But they were men.
Closing inconvenient broadcasters by claiming that their licence has expired is a typical vice of authoritarian regimes. Which, in the most perfidious guises, do not respond to broadcasters or do not issue a receipt even if the publisher delivers the application in person (this happened in Nicaragua to the bishop Rolando José Álvarez, we reported on it here). But in a democratic state, gagging stations is a little more difficult. As the recent case of Nigeria shows: last week, the chairman of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had given 53 radio and television stations 24 hours to pay the fee or else be suspended from broadcasting.
An appeal was immediately lodged against the article in the regulation that NBC wanted to use to revoke the licences (claiming that it is unconstitutional and illegal, as it violates freedom of expression), and also against President Muhammadu Buhari. In defence of the broadcasters, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a non-governmental organisation that protects economic and social rights in Nigeria, and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have come to the defence. Justice was swift: on 29 August, Judge Akintayo Aluko of the Federal High Court in Lagos issued an interim order preventing the revocation of the licences and adjourned the case until 8 September 2022.
Life is hard for free voices in the Central African country, targeted by the government and rebels, who intimidate journalists reporting on the ongoing conflict in the east of the country. On 12 August 2022, the Congolese authorities arrested and interrogated for several hours Dimanche Kamate, editor-in-chief of Radio Muungano, which broadcasts on 95.1 MHz from Oicha, a town built around a missionary hospital that opened in 1935. The issue was broadcast on 7 August 2022, hosted by a local social defence group, in which the UN report on the ongoing mission (known as Monusco) and the Rwandan government’s support for the M23 rebel group were discussed. According to the military administrator of the area who ordered the arrest, the programme violated the state of siege, in force in North Kivu province, as there are limits to freedom of expression.
Torture and murder
Just over a month ago, on 17 July 2022, Michel Hangi, technician and speaker of a community radio station, was shot dead at around 7pm (night in the southern hemisphere). He had just left the studios of Soleil Levant, a station broadcasting on 94.3 MHz from Kiziba 2, a village on the outskirts of Goma, in Nyiragongo territory (also in North Kivu). He had just finished his programme, which he ran in addition to his job as a technician, and which involved the involvement of listeners: for the moment his murder is unsolved. While fearing for his safety, a journalist from La Voix de Mikeno, a community radio station broadcasting from Bunagana on 97.7 MHz, was captured and tortured on 5 July by M23 rebels.
Studios destroyed and staff in exile
The station was vandalised on 13 June, as soon as the paramilitary group M23 took control of the town (the most important near the border with Rwanda). The staff (who fled to Uganda and other river towns in Bunagana) only managed to save two portable recorders. The military formation controls the Bunagana area near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda (North Kivu) accusing the press of passing on information about the group’s positions and hideouts to the government. Eastern Congo, which borders Rwanda, lives under threat from dozens of armed groups vying for the mineral wealth of the region: gold, diamonds and coltan, a mixture of minerals from which tantalum, used in the electronics and semiconductor industry, electric cars, laptops and mobile phones, is extracted, as explained in various articles by the Voice of America, Radio Maria and the Ispi Centre for International Political Studies.
The closure, on 1 August 2022, of eight Catholic radio stations linked to Bishop Rolando José Álvarez of the diocese of Matagalpa (we reported on it here) was only the beginning. Telcor, the Nicaraguan communications regulator, deactivated other radio and television channels, again on the grounds that they were no longer authorised, bringing the number of closures to 17. Last in order, Radio Dario (89.3 in León), considered one of the few voices critical of Ortega, was deactivated on 12 August. For 73 years, it was the oldest Nicaraguan radio station and had managed to continue operations despite an arson attack in 2018, during anti-government protests, that had destroyed the studios.
The list of closures grows longer
Radio La Guarachera, operating on 96.5 in Chinandega, and Radio Sky, on 102.9 in León, both owned by exiled journalist Anibal Toruño, went off the air. And then Radio San Carlos 94.9, owned by the exiled former liberal mayor of the municipality of San Carlos, Silvio Linarte. The same fate befell Radio Vos, a community radio station that promotes and defends women’s rights and had followed events: it had been broadcasting for 18 years on 101.7, in Matagalpa. Finally, Radio Stereo Sol, on 102.5 from Santa Maria de Pantasma, has been on air for 16 years. Also, there are two television channels from Nueva Guinea: Canal NGTV3, owned by journalist Carlos José Suárez Jaime, and Canal RB3, owned by Daniel Mendoza, who inaugurated it 24 years ago.
Less and less opposition
According to the Nicaraguan movement of independent journalists and communicators (PCIN), the Ortega government has exiled more than 120 journalists, including the editorial staff of the daily newspaper La Prensa, making criticism of the government disappear from the written press, television and radio programmes. An estimated 30 stations have been closed since 2014, more than half in August 2022 alone.
Consequences also for the bishop Rolando José Álvarez: because he had refused to have the stations closed down, he was forced to remain locked in the curia for 16 days, controlled by the national police, who eventually placed him under arrest.