UKRAINE: Will religious broadcasters be the only voice in the desert?

In an interview with the portal 'Public. Media Detector' portal, Dmytro Gruzynsky, head of the Ukrainian National Radio and Television networks, reiterated a few months ago his desire to decommission the old FM band
In an interview with the ‘Public. Media Detector’ portal, Dmytro Gruzynsky, head of the Ukrainian National Radio and Television networks, reiterated a few months ago his desire to decommission the old FM band
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We continue our journey through the airwaves of Eastern European countries where the “oldFM OIRT band (between 65.8 and 74 MHz) is about to be completely abandoned. The situation in this band in Ukraine should be examined taking into account the presence of three public radio channels and some private broadcasters, of religious or informative nature. The head of the organization responsible for the development of the radio and television networks, National Radio and Television of Ukraine (NSTU), Dmytro Gruzynsky, in an interview in December 2020, affirmed the intention of the organization to soon dismantle almost all the installations still operating in the OIRT band.

The situation of the public broadcaster’s national programmes

Radio Ukraine is the oldest radio station in the country. The first broadcast went out on 16 November 1924 at 19:00. Services continued without interruption, even during the Second World War
Source

In the plans of the company, about ten transmitters should have remained on air for Persha Program, as many for Radio Promin’ and 15 for Radio Kult’ura. The reason for the cuts was, on the one hand, the obsolescence and inefficiency of many systems, and on the other hand the possibility of being assigned FM frequencies in the same basins. Typically, new concessions are awarded through a tender and the state broadcaster must always beat competition from the numerous commercial radio stations. In some cases, the authorized powers have proved to be insufficient to satisfactorily cover the service area, so much so that NTSU asked to increase the power of a concession for UR1 from 500 watts to 1 KW). The fact remains that the presence of the three Ukrainian public broadcasters in the OIRT band is destined to be increasingly residual.

Commercial radio stations in the OIRT band?

RadioM declares on its website that it is ‘an independent information and entertainment station’ which aims to ‘convey patriotic and moral ideas’. It has seven frequencies between 87.5 and 108 MHz, and in the Odessa region it transmits on 101.7 MHz.
Source

As far as private broadcasting is concerned, both OIRT band frequencies of Yaskrave Radio and two out of three OIRT band frequencies of Hromads’ke Radio have been switched off. In addition, at the end of 2020, RadioM let lapse the concession for 68.36 from Odessa, which was the only OIRT band frequency of the station.

Two religious radio stations broadcast only in the OIRT band

Radio Maria began broadcasting in Ukraine on 1 June 2010 on 69.68 MHz in Kiev. In ten years, the number of active frequencies in the OIRT band has risen to 11. The station has branches and transmitters in seventy countries worldwide.
Source

The installations of two religious radio stations remain active; at the moment they only have frequencies in the OIRT band and therefore it is likely that they will not be switched off, since listeners still have devices and car radios to receive the programs broadcast in this band. To date, the Catholic Radio Mariya has 11 different frequencies, Svitle Radio Emmanuyil (close to the Pentecostal Church) has 8, while Golos Nadiyi (“Voice of Hope“, an Adventist radio station) has only 4 in the OIRT band and 3 in the “new” FM band and it can be assumed that it takes over some of the licenses issued by the NSTU.

Analogue TV channels remain on air – for political reasons

On the website of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, there is a report of a 2019 meeting in which one of the members, Serhii Kostynskyi, proposes to continue broadcasting in the territories bordering Russia and near occupied Crimea
Source

As a curiosity, the OIRT FM band is adjacent to a band used for TV and there are still some analogue TV channels on air, and can be received on 65.75 MHz (the audio frequency related to the TV channel R2). It seems in fact that not all analogue Ukrainian TV stations have completed the switch off; moreover Ukrainian authorities intend to keep on analogue transmissions serving the Donbass area and in several settlements in the Kherson region near occupied Crimea (for obvious political reasons).

by Franco Martelli, part 2-continues

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FRANCE: Radio blows out one hundred candles

31 May sees the start of the Festival de la Radio, a week celebrating radio with meetings, seminars, open houses, special programmes
31 May sees the start of the Festival de la Radio, a week celebrating radio with meetings, seminars, open houses, special programmes
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To celebrate the centenary of the first radio broadcast and the 40th anniversary of the liberalisation of the airwaves, the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) has organised a festival to be held between 31 May and 6 June, 2021. Launched by the authority that regulates the French media system, the initiative will involve public and private broadcasters. 2021 marks the centenary of the first broadcast from the Tour Eiffel (24 December 1921) and 40 years since the liberalisation of the FM band (9 November 1981). But innovation will also be celebrated, as the first national multiplex in the digital band (DAB+) will be launched this year. History and archives, special programmes, media education seminars, lectures, open studios: many events will be organised during the week. Information is available here.

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POLAND: RMF FM still remains the leader

RMF FM still remains the ratings' leader
RMF FM, the most listened to station in Poland, further increased its audience during the pandemic from 28.53% to 29.49%
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The pandemic does not seem to have had much effect on the listening habits of Poles, 72% of whom tune into a radio station every day, while another 19% turn on the device once a week. On the other hand, the ways in which radio is enjoyed have changed, with 60% following it in the car in 2019, a percentage that has been drastically reduced due to the limitations imposed by Covid-19. Almost one in three Poles choose RMF FM (29.49%), a leading station whose followers increased by an additional 1% during the pandemic. Second in terms of audience is Radio Zet, albeit at a considerable distance: it has almost a third of listeners (12.48%) but its site (radiozet.pl) is the most followed, with over seven million users.

Catholic radio stations are also very popular

The Catholic news agency Sir has analyzed the ratings of Catholic radio stations in Poland
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Diocesan radio stations are also gaining an audience (but with very different numbers), but they have been overtaken by Radio Maryja (one of the seventy affiliated to the “World Family”, an association that promotes its development throughout the world) which, with a total audience of 1.73%, is in fifteenth place in the ranking. And to think that space on the media for programs of a religious nature was prohibited until 1980: it was the Solidarity movement that imposed on the authorities free access to all religious denominations, previously prohibited by censorship. So much so that today religious programs are very much present in the programming schedule of broadcasters: even the state TV broadcasts the rosary live every day in connection with the sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Łagiewniki. More details about Poland’s leading Catholic radio stations can be read in the article published by the Catholic news agency Sir.

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ITALY: Radio and television sector radiography

Radio and television sector radiography
The study on the radio and television sector in Italy, drawn up by Confindustria Radio Televisioni, examines 40 national and 691 local radio and television operators, of which 287 television and 404 radio
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The Confindustria Radio Televisioni association has published the “Economic study of the private radio and television sector“, which from 2020 presents in a single volume the national and local radio and television operators (previously two publications were prepared). The study examines the financial statements filed with the Chambers of Commerce by joint-stock companies (thus excluding community broadcasters, which are not required to publish them), providing a picture of the most structured part of the radio and television industry, within which very different companies coexist. The sector is in a stabilization phase, after two economic crises (2008 and 2012), the entry of some reforms (including that of the fee and contributions to local broadcasting) and a changed competitive environment, due to the rise of OTT platforms that (like Netflix) distribute content via the internet. The financial statements are for 2018, as it was necessary to wait until a fair number were available for the study to be representative.

A summary of key trends can be read here, while the full volume can be downloaded here.

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RUSSIA: The last frequencies of the Cold War are about to be extinguished

The last frequencies of the Cold War are about to be extinguished
In Eastern European countries, FM radio was transmitted on different frequencies and it was not possible to listen to signals coming from the West

During the Cold War, the FM band in Eastern European countries was different. Radio stations transmitted between 65.8 and 74 MHz (except in East Germany), called the OIRT band; frequencies used in the West by television. As a result, citizens could not pick up signals from capitalist countries, and vice versa. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the band was gradually abandoned, but there are still several nations in Europe that have not switched off all their OIRT transmitters: Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. In recent years, however, the decommissioning of the band has accelerated and the signals are now drastically reduced. In a number of articles, we examine the situation in each country.

Russia: in large cities the switch off goes slowly

In the recording made with an SDR receiver you can listen to the four stations still active in St. Petersburg in the OIRT band
Source

In the report published in 2020, we talked about the decision of the government to move the broadcasters from the OIRT band to the CCIR (87.5-108.0 MHz). The state-owned Radio Rossii, which has already deactivated many installations, proceeds to switch off as soon as the communications authority makes available a frequency in the CCIR band. The switch-off has gone fast in the most peripheral areas of the endless Russian Federation, where the band is free, but it is going slow in the biggest cities, where the band is close to saturation. It also does not help that Russia uses a very “wide” channel spacing: in Moscow, the standard distance between stations is 400 kHz (while in many European countries it is 300 kHz, and drops to 200 kHz in some large Italian metropolitan areas). So in St. Petersburg, there are still four frequencies active in the OIRT: Rossii on 66.3 MHz, Radio Peterburg on 69.47 MHz, Orfey on 71.66 MHz, and Grad Petrov on 73.1 MHz. On YouTube you can listen to a scan of the OIRT band, recorded on March 27, 2021, and hear the four stations. In Moscow, only 66.44 MHz (Rossii from Ostankino), 68.0 MHz (Avtoradio), and 72.92 MHz (Radio Radonezh) are active. In the Kaliningrad Oblast (Russian enclave wedged between Latvia and Poland), 65.9 MHz and 66.02 MHz of Radio Rossii have been switched off, and only 72.11 (Radio Shanson) is on air.

By Franco Martelli, part 1-continues

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UK: BBC shuts down ten more local Medium Wave radio stations

BBC ad alerts listeners to medium-wave shutdown and shows how to inquire about listening alternatives
BBC ad alerts listeners to medium-wave shutdown and shows how to inquire about listening alternatives
Source

Between May and June 2021 the British public broadcaster will switch off the medium-wave transmitters of another ten local radio stations, because the installations on this frequency range “no longer offer an advantageous quality-price ratio for British citizens”. The migration to digital had been announced ten years ago (in 2011): the first closures began in 2018, followed in 2020 by further deactivations in Scotland, Wales and England. Today, all BBC local radio is receivable on digital terrestrial TV and local DAB multiplexes, on FM or online (via smartphones, computers or smart speakers). Abandoning amplitude modulation will be: BBC Essex; BBC Radio Cambridgeshire; BBC Radio Devon; BBC Radio Leeds; BBC Radio Sheffield; BBC Hereford & Worcester; BBC Radio Stoke; BBC Radio Lancashire; BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle. Two other stations, however, will reduce their coverage area: Radio Wales and Radio Gloucestershire. Listeners are provided with a website https://www.bbc.co.uk/reception/ with alternative listening options, a help line and a telephone for listening advice.

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GERMANY: Visual radio lands on satellite (and it’s a boom in Italy)

Schlager Radio can be received on FM, on the digital band on DAB+, via cable, via satellite
Schlager Radio can be received on FM, via DAB+, via cable, via satellite. As well as being available on the web, via a dedicated app, and can be listened to on smart speakers
Source

Berlin-based Schlager Radio has announced the launch of its own visual radio station, which will be receivable via satellite on Astra and with a smart TV connected to the internet. The station’s intention is to offer additional information, such as displaying the title of the song being broadcast. “The aim”, says press spokesman Heiner Harke, “is to offer our listeners visual added value without being a TV programme“.

Boom in Italy

In Italy, on the other hand, live video broadcasts from radio stations are almost like television programmes and are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, around 19 million Italians now follow them on a screen (TV, smartphone or PC), 11 million of whom use TV. And according to the Censis research “La transizione verso la radiovisione” (“The transition towards radiovision”) “visual radio is strongly in tune with the expectations of Italians: 52% declare that they would like to have more and more the possibility to enjoy radio contents on different devices also in video format. And 50% of those who follow radiovision find it pleasant, 27.5% engaging, 24% innovative”. 

In Italy, the forerunner was RTL 102.5, which has 1.1 million listeners of its video version (1.8 million during lockdown). Many local radio stations followed.
Source
Rai has also inaugurated live video broadcasts from September 2020 on Radio2. In 2021 it will be the turn of Radio1 and, progressively, other channels of the public broadcaster Source

Public radio also adapts in Switzerland

Switzerland’s Rete Uno began broadcasting in April 2021, announcing it in a statement on its Facebook account
Source
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HOLLAND: Listening surveys revolutionised

The Nationaal Media Onderzoek (NMO) is the national media research conducted in the Netherlands by the research companies Kantar and Ipsos.
The Nationaal Media Onderzoek (NMO) is the national media research conducted in the Netherlands by the research companies Kantar and Ipsos. The survey integrates all platforms: television, radio, print and online. Source

A world first is about to be launched in the Netherlands. For the first time, listening will be measured by integrating all platforms (television, radio, press and online) into a single survey, replacing the current standards. This will be carried out by two market research giants, Kantar and Ipsos, which won the tender launched by the investors’ associations. The two companies will work closely together to create the NMO-Nationaal Media Onderzoek (National Media Research). In the course of 2021, the introduction of NMO will take place in phases and the first data will be published, which can be used immediately by agencies, advertisers and media operators. Several systems will be used to accurately map online viewing, reading and listening: for radio, there will be a smartphone app (MediaCell by Ipsos) that passively measures listening behaviour across all devices and platforms, as well as online behaviour with the smartphone. For TV, Kantar’s People Meter 7 will be used. For online, the Focal Meter, a router (with which the sample households will be equipped) will measure all distributed IP content. Additional datasets will be added on those who watch TV via websites and apps on devices other than TV or read newspapers and magazines online.

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FRANCE: The sale of M6 and RTL triggers a media earthquake

Vincent Bolloré is the majority shareholder of the Vivendi group, which, in addition to TF1 (France’s most watched TV channel), owns 28.8% of Mediaset in Italy
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The decision by the German group Bertelsmann to sell two leading broadcasters in terms of ratings (TV M6 and radio RTL are both in second place) has opened up competition between major French patrons. Four bids have already been submitted and the competition is expected to be fierce. There are also political interests: in 2022 there will be presidential elections, and the transfer of the two stations could reshape the media landscape. Especially if Vincent Bolloré, who has changed the political line of CNews (all news network) and shifted it to extreme right-wing positions, wins the elections. Details on the protagonists and the political balances at stake in the article of the Italian newspaper ‘Corriere della sera’.

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ARGENTINA: War of powers in the capital

Radio Gráfica, a station in the capital city broadcasting on 89.3 MHz, interviewed an FM Reconquista manager and published a long interview on its website
Radio Gráfica, a station in the capital city broadcasting on 89.3 MHz, interviewed an FM Reconquista manager and published a long interview on its website
Source

This is one of the many stories of small local stations being overwhelmed by the signal of a more powerful station. In FM, such situations occur when the airwaves are not regulated, but it is surprising if both stations are authorised by the regulator. It is happening in Greater Buenos Aires, the metropolitan area with almost 15 million inhabitants, comprising 15 municipalities and 48 districts.

FM Reconquista is the first and only licensed radio station run by an organised women’s association, and the only non-commercial one in the General San Martín department
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Since September 2020 FM Reconquista, a community station operating on 89.5 MHz in José León Suárez (7 km from the urban area) has beencoveredby Mucha Radio‘s signal. The distance between the two antennas is less than 14 km, but the difference in power is enormous: the community station, on the air since 1988, transmits with 1 kW, the commercial one with 40 kW. Yet both were authorised by Enacom (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones), which regulates telecommunications in Argentina.

Mucha Radio is a commercial station that used to operate on 97.1 MHz and has moved to 89.5 MHz. It broadcasts from the Colegiales neighbourhood. The station is part of Grupo Octubre, a multimedia company that owns newspapers, medium wave and FM radio stations and a football team
Source

As long as Arpeggio FM (a classical music station, now closed) was on 89.5 MHz, there were no problems: its antenna was in a historic 18-storey skyscraper located at 651 Uruguay Street, 21 km from José León Suárez (7 km further than Mucha Radio’s), and according to FM Reconquista the station used a power of 5 or 6 kW (compared to the 20 kW authorised). This was explained by Margarita Palacio from the organisation that manages the station, in a lengthy interview that appeared on the website of Radio Gráfica, another station in the capital that broadcasts on a nearby channel, 89.3 MHz.

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