Snapshots of radio broadcasting during the crisis

Everything will fade into past memories, but it is worth seeing some of the photographs taken in these last few months again. They include announcers and journalists broadcasting live from home, and courses for listeners on how to make their own radio programmes. It is also worth mentioning the vade mecums that have appeared in online magazines and on the websites of various associations. Their advice goes from how to choose equipment and software for a home studio to the procedures needed to protect radio station studios from contagion. There are even broadcasters that have put their studio disinfection procedures on show or have used their facemasks for self-promotion.

Radio stations broadcasting live from home

StuBru, Flemish speaking public radio station from Brussels in Belgium, broadcasting from home
Stu Bru, studio at home
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Belgium:  While a lot of broadcasters, in spite of homely backgrounds, are narrowing the field of view with close-ups to give a professional touch, with the photographs of VRT Studio Brussel, a Flemish speaking public radio station, your eye tends to be drawn to the furnishings which reflect the personality of the announcer and goes from the large philodendron in the foreground to the bookcase on the right, and the door opening onto another room, making you wonder where it goes to. 

Radio 3 Modo, Italy broadcasting from home with a cat as their helper
Radio3 Mondo, studio at home
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Italy: When Roberto Zicchitella was conducting Radio3 Mondo live from his flat, his curious cat leapt onto his desk to sniff his tablet. The international news programme is on air on the public radio station, Rai Radio 3.

Spain:  The SER network teaching listeners how to make a radio programme

Cadena SER, Spain, initiative about turadio, teaching workshops for listeners how to make their own programme
#turadio, a new initiative from SER in Spain
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The journalist, Pedro Blanco of Cadena Ser (a network of 202 radio stations we have  spoken about in a previous article) on air with a radio workshop teaching listeners how to make their own programmes to then send to the radio station.

Canada:  How to go on air from a distance

ARC du Canada, explaining how to work from home as a radio station
ARC explaining how radio stations can work from home
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ARC, a Canadian alliance of community radio stations, explains how to equip yourself to produce your own show from home without excessive costs.  They suggest a selection of hardware and software, some free of charge.

An antivirus guide for radio stations

Inside Radio, 12 tips for creating a safer radio studio in a coronavirus reality
A guide for a safer radio station, Inside Radio
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This guide in the American magazine ‘Inside Radio’ lists 12 things to do in order to prevent contagion in radio stations.

And in Italy?

Radio millenium, Milan, Italy disinfecting the studio
Cleaning session in Radio Millennium’s studio, Italy
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After disinfecting the Milan studios of Radio Millennium, the ‘ghostbusters’ pose for a photograph.

Instagram photo from radio rock, Rome, Italy
Radio Rock created their own face mask design
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Radio Rock ‘designer’ masks:
Back in the golden years of free radio, listeners used to stick adhesives of their favourite radio stations onto their cars. Today the Roman station, Radio Rock, has made face masks with their own logos on them. Will this become a fashion with other stations?

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Italy: More resources for radio from the government

the publication of the relaunch decree in italy
The publication of the ‘Relaunch Decree’
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The ‘Relaunch Decree’, published late in the evening on May 19th, 2020, contained a wonderful surprise. The radio stations, that have been broadcasting information on the pandemic, will be receiving € 50 million (in the first draft it was 20 million, which became 40 after protests made by the broadcasting associations). The allocation of the funds will be according to a points system, which is used by the fund that has the task to promote pluralism and innovation of the media. The only obligation for the broadcasters is to put government  information campaigns on air during the Covid-19 health crisis. In addition, in order to relaunch advertising (that saw a fall of up to 80%) companies that buy radio and TV spots will be able to deduct 50% off their taxes (€ 20 million have been allocated, but considering that the deduction has been extended to national TV stations, the effectiveness of this measure will be largely diminished).

More advantages and simpler procedures

the relaunch decree from may 2020, italy
The ‘Relaunch Decree’, May 19th, 2020
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The decree includes other concessions for businesses which the broadcasting stations will be able to benefit from. For example, a tax credit of 60% on rents in March, April and May 2020 (for both studios and repeater stations) if revenues are not over € 5 million and there is a drop of 50% in turnover compared to the same period last year. There is also a postponement of tax deadlines from April 16th to May 16th, 2020, for companies with a fall in turnover of at least 33% in the months of March and April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Furthermore, companies will not be obliged to pay IRAP (Italian Regional Production Tax) in June 2020 (balance and advance payment for the following year) if turnover is not over € 250 million. The procedures for applying for furloughing of staff and for having a reduction in the electricity bills will be simplified. Some expenses (cost of energy transport, electricity meter management and general expenses) will be reduced for three months (May to July 2020), but this will not affect energy consumed, which would have been welcomed by the associations.

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Italy: The State speeds up funds

Website of Aeranti-Corallo
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A breath of fresh air for broadcasters has arrived in the form of state funds, albeit years overdue.  Outstanding government subsidies for both 2017 and 2018 were paid at the end of April this year. About a thousand community and commercial radio and TV stations benefit from this aid, which is calculated by following a points system.  Further help has arrived through ‘extra revenues’ from the RAI license fees. Since monthly instalments of  the public broadcaster’s license fee have been added to the citizens’ electricity bills, evasion has been reduced. This little ‘nest egg’ (higher revenues than before the law passed) is divided between RAI and the local broadcasting stations.

How the funds have been allocated

Website of Italian Ministry of Economic Development
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The attached documents show how the funds have been divided.

216 commercial radio stations have been allocated € 12,383,220.26 for 2017.

207 commercial radio stations have been allocated € 6,073,587.90 for 2018.  

314 community radio stations have been allocated € 4,127,740.09 for 2017.  

207 community radio stations have been allocated € 2,024,529.30 for 2018.  

These, on the other hand, are the allocations of the extra payments of RAI license fees in 2018 which were distributed to 26 commercial radio stations.

and to 25 community radio stations.

Not much choice: Even frequencies have lost value

Frequency auction
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Some time ago radio stations that had multiple frequencies could sell them off to networks. In this way they could balance their budgets and, hopefully all being well, renovate their studios.  However, due to the financial crisis in 2008 the going prices were more than halved and a surplus of channels on sale was created. The Florentine radio station RTR957 bankruptcy auction,  that had no bidders on two occasions, is evidence of this. The prices the liquidator was asking for were those of the past, the quality control head of one of the large networks pointed out:  € 118,000 for the Monte Morello station (in the municipality of Sesto Fiorentino in the suburbs of the Tuscan capital), and € 63,000 for the one in Poggio Ciliegio in the municipality of Carmignano in the province of Prato.

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Local authorities are more generous

relaunching tourism in the region Emilia-Romagna, italy - 2 million euro campaign to promote tourism
Emilia-Romagna, Italy, relaunching tourism
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Luckily measures have been taken by some Regional Governments.  Emilia-Romagna has allocated  € two million for a campaign on the radio, TV and social media in order to relaunch the tourist season. While in Abruzzo (even though it is still a proposed bill) €300,000 are arriving to support local radio and TV stations, newspapers and online press.

Public radio stations ask Trump for help

CPB, corporation for public broadcasting seeking for additional emergency funding
CPB seeking additional US$ 175 million
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The US$ 75 million received from Congress (we have spoken about in one of our previous articles) is not enough. The Corporation of Public Broadcasting, that distributes funds to about 1500 public radio and television stations, had originally asked for US$ 250 million and insists on having the other US$ 175 million, which is indispensable to guarantee the survival of the public and university stations.

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Italy: Solidarity champions

Even in full crisis the radio stations are busy on all fronts with increasing information slots, adapting programme schedules to the changing needs of the listeners and … even fund raising. 
Here are some examples:

musica che unisce, music that unites, italy
Musica che unisce – Music that Unites
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The national radio networks, Radio Italia (Cologno Monzese), the public TV and radio broadcasters Raiuno, RaiPlay (a streaming platform) and Rai Radio2 joined forces on a project called ‘Music that Unites’. The event included brief information interludes and previously unpublished live sets where the performers recorded from their own homes creating non-stop music to share. Funds raised came to more than € 7.5 million to be donated to the National Civil Protection Organisation (a government body that deals with the management of emergencies).

A helping hand for the Civil Protection Department, Klasse uno network
A helping hand for the Civil Protection Organisation, Klasse uno network
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‘A helping hand for the Civil Protection Organisation’ was organised by Gruppo Klasse Uno in Castelfranco Veneto, a province of Treviso (seven local and regional radio stations took part :  Birikina, Bella & Monella, Radio Marilù, Radio Piterpan, Radio Sorriso, Radio Gelosa, and Vibra FM)

Radio Deejay and Radio Capital, Italy fighting Coronavirus together
‘Fighting Coronavirus together’ – Radio Deejay
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Radio Deejay and Radio Capital got together with the daily newspaper La Repubblica to join an event organised by UNICEF  ‘Insieme per combattare il Coronavirus’ – ‘Fighting Coronavirus together’.

Help for other nationwide organisations  

discoradio and Buzzi foundation fighting Coronavirus together
Discoradio and the Buzzi Foundation fighting Coronavirus together
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Discoradio in Milan (broadcaster covering Lombardy and Piedmont) and the Buzzi Foundation, that manages a research centre and children’s hospital, are raising funds to increase the number of beds in the intensive care unit. 

Radio NumberOne in Bergamo, Italy, sosentiamobergamo
#wearesustainingBergamo
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Radio NumberOne (Bergamo) has taken part in #SostieniAMOBergamo and given their support to the Fondazione Della Comunità Bergamasca.

la nuova, radio Barbagia in Nuoro, Italy, donating face masks
Radio Barbagia donating face masks
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Radio Barbagia in Nuoro, Sardinia, has donated thousands of face masks to the city hospital with the help of their listeners.

Columbus covid-2 hospital, Italy, Rome
RDS group supporting a hospital in Rome
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Three Roman radio stations in the RDS group (Dimensione Suono Roma, Dimensione Suono Soft and Ram Power) have supported the capital’s hospital, Policlinico Gemelli, to create the Columbus Covid-2 Hospital by transforming an existing building into a hospital with 80 beds and another 59 beds in the intensive care unit.

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Italy: Radio stations ask for adequate funds

radio studio, female host with headphones and microphone, currently broadcasting
Insight into the studio
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The crisis funds to support local radio and TV stations are ‘totally inadequate’.  This is how the associations representing broadcasters have branded the funds allocated for the sector in the draft copy of the ‘ Revival Decree’, which the Government is preparing in order to shore up the Italian economy which has been weakened by the pandemic. The Italian Publishers Association reaffirmed in a brief press release that ‘while undergoing a drastic reduction in revenues (often up to 80%) radio and TV stations have continually carried out the role of public interest nationwide’.  Aeranti-Corallo, Confindustria Radio Televisioni and Associazione Alpi are therefore asking for ‘an adequate allocation of funds’. This is because the sector is ‘strategic in order to restart the economy, which is based on small and medium-sized companies that produce 58% of the turnover of industry in Italy’. The  40 million euros planned in the Cura Italia Decree (March 16th, 2020) were cancelled at the last moment.

The complaints have had an effect.  According to the latest draft of the decree (May 19th, 2020) which has not been published yet, the funds have apparently returned to € 40 million. We will update you shortly.

In previous articles we spoke about the collapse in advertising, the request made by Aeranti-Corallo for funds of 130 million euros and the allocations of funds made by other governments from Spain to the United States.

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Coronavirus and TV football broadcasting rights

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the championships and programme schedules of pay TV.  Now they are arguing over payment of instalments for television rights.

corriere della sera, Italy
Corriere della sera
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The Italian football clubs are preparing to sue.  At the end of April 2020 they issued invoices to Sky, Dazn and Img for a total of 220 million euros.  If unpaid, their next move will be to file an injunction of payment.  However, following a suggestion proposed by Sky, in order to give the clubs time to organise themselves, the TV stations are asking for an immediate discount on this season or the next.

Calcio Finanza, Italy
Calcio Finanza
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BeIN Sports and Canal+ in France refused to pay their last instalments (42 million and 110 million respectively) for coverage of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2.

Sport Business Media
Sport Business Media
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Since then, Canal+ has come to an agreement in order to avoid causing the clubs problems with liquidity.  

Discovery, in Germany, is trying to terminate their contract with Bundesliga.

In Great Britain, DAZN has asked Premier League to defer rights payments.

Altice has suspended payments in Portugal.

In Brazil, Federcalcio di San Paolo sent a letter to Globo, declaring that they will not pay the last instalment for broadcasting rights of the championship, which has been suspended due to the pandemic.

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Greece: Deadlines postponed because of Coronavirus

Website of the ESR, the national council for radio and television Greece
Website of the ESR, Greece
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Due to the health crisis, the authority that supervises and regulates the radio/television market in Greece has prolonged the amount of time for radio stations to send in their annual documentation to the department that supervises transparency of ownership. The new dates fixed by the ESR, the National Council for Radio and Television, are as follows: from June 3rd to June 17th, 2020, for transmitters in central Greece, the Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands; from June 18th to July 1st, 2020, for Macedonia, Thrace and Epirus; from July 2nd to July 16th, 2020, for Thessalia, Crete and the Aegean Islands.
Click here for the official declaration.

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Bolivia: Government to pay half the power bill!

Alfonso ‘Toto’ Arevalo, the President of ‘Asbora’ Bolivian Radio Broadcasting Association,  interviewed by John Arandia for Capsula AM: The programme is aired by Radio Fides, transmitting on 101.5 FM from the capital, La Paz.
Watch the interview here.

Having been brought to their knees because of the fall in advertising caused by Covid-19, a large number of Bolivian radio stations risk closure within a month. They are unable to pay salaries, the technicians, electricity and licensing fees. The association representing broadcasters (Asbora) has written an open letter to President Jeanine Anez Chavez asking her to launch new government advertising campaigns (and also pay the invoices for commercials that the public administration put on air last year). Asbora also asked for a discount of 50% on electricity bills and to postpone payment of licensing fees to next year.
More details to be found here.

John Arandia interviewing Alfonso Toto Arevalo, President of Asbora
John Arandia interviewing Alfonso Toto Arevalo, President of Asbora
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Greece: ERT is revamping and replacing transmitters

Acropolis of Athens, Greece
Acropolis of Athens, Greece
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Five years after reopening, the Greek public broadcaster is renewing its installations and image. On June 11th, 2013, ERT Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation was closed because of austerity measures following the sovereign debt crisis, and was reopened by the Tsipras government on the same day two years later. 

The board of directors called for tenders for the replacement of 162 FM transmitters (71 with outputs of 1kW, 20 of 2kW, 51 of 5kW and 20 of 10kW, costing € 2,606,000), for digital transmitters for TV (tender amount of € 3,924,000) and for redesigning the logo of the broadcaster.
Click here & here for more details.

(From our correspondent in Thessaloniki, Zacharias Liangas)

The project to replace the FM public radio repeaters
The project to replace the FM public radio repeaters
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