NORWAY: THE GREAT SWITCH-OFF HOAX/Part one

One of many headlines in late 2017 announcing the shutdown of the FM band and the migration to DAB
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In 2017, news that Norway was the first country to switch off the FM band in favour of DAB grabbed headlines. The idea tickled the imagination, so few verified it. But it was a hoax: the sensationalism of the news had overshadowed the reality. What abandoned FM was public radio NRK and, above all, the commercial networks. NRK occupied two frequencies out of three of those active in the country: 2000, compared to 1000 of all other radio stations, networks included. The main beneficiary of this operation was public radio: concentrating in a single multiplex four national networks, divesting hundreds of transmission sites (they were 700) and decommissioning FM transmitters nearing the end of their life, would have realized great economies of scale.

Towards a five-year extension

On May 8 in Bergen, Mari Velsand, director of the Norwegian Media Authority, handed over to the Minister of Culture, Trine Skei Grande, a request for an extension of the FM licenses
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Of the remaining frequencies, 40% (400) have been switched off by private networks and large commercial radio stations, especially in the capital and in large urban areas. But the others are still on the air: 552 (data from www.fmlist.org) used by 100 radio stations, many of which declare on their website that they are proud to continue in analogue. Some stations have also switched on DAB muxes (there are several used by a single station, which at most host two or three thematic channels) to keep up with the news. Broadcasting will continue until at least 2026: Mari Velsand, director of the Norwegian Media Authority recommended the government extend the FM licenses another five years, believing that media diversity would be compromised if the shutdown occurred at the end of 2021, as planned.

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PERU: Penalties also apply to those who advertise on unlicensed radio stations

Penalties also apply to those who advertise on unlicensed radio stations in Peru
Some pictures of the deactivations recently carried out by the Peruvian Ministry of Transport and Communications have appeared on the institutional website of the MTC, together with a review of the inspection activity
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Despite risking imprisonment of up to six years and a fine of up to US$54,000 for what the law calls “aggravated theft of the radio spectrum,” illegal stations proliferate in Peru, and the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) is working hard to disable them. In the last five years, the MTC has filed 910 criminal complaints, made 714 precautionary seizures and seized more than 2300 pieces of equipment. Improper use of radio signals also degrades the quality of services received by citizens, and interference with aeronautical communications can create dangerous situations. And it is not only broadcasters who risk penalties, but also advertisers: airing commercials on an abusive station is a serious administrative offense, and the fine ranges from $11,000 to $32,000.

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FINLAND: Community radio in crisis

The notice on the site of Pispalan Radio informing about the takeover of Radio Pooki on the frequencies of the station
The notice on the site of Pispalan Radio informing about the takeover of Radio Pooki on the frequencies of the station
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The exit from the scene of one of the last community stations in Finland is analyzed by Medamonitori, a site about Finnish media, which takes stock of the situation of community radios in the country. Pispalan Radio, which used to broadcast on 99.5 MHz near Tampere, has leased the frequency from July 2021 to Radio Pooki, a music channel of the Bauer Media Group (leader in Europe with more than 57 million weekly listeners in eight countries), which will use it until the end of the license period, expected in 2029.

The article includes a brief fact sheet on the last seven community radio stations still operating in Finland, one of which, as of 2020, continues online only
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According to Tero Toivonen, curator of the site, Pispalan Radio has lasted a long time on the airwaves, despite the difficulties in finding volunteers, thanks to the good coverage of the south and south-east area of Tampere (the country’s third-largest city with over 220,000 inhabitants). But the difficulty in finding those willing to “do radio” precipitated the crisis and Pasi Komsi, a co-founder of the radio station and editor-in-chief, resigned himself to closure. Toivonen, however, points out the contradiction that prompted an association radio station to lease the channel to a commercial station.

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RUSSIA: RADIO FREE EUROPE – RADIO LIBERTY FINES EXCEED TWO MILLION DOLLARS

RADIO LIBERTY  FINES EXCEED TWO MILLION DOLLARS
The Interfax news agency, the largest private news group in the Commonwealth of Independent States, has summed up the fines imposed in Russia on RFE – RL
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The broadcaster funded by the US Congress to “promote democratic values and institutions” has racked up fines of 169 million roubles ($2.277 million) for violating rules governing the presence of foreign media in Russia. This is an order issued by the Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Connection and Mass Communication), which as of 23 September 2020 has required foreign media to preface messages and materials broadcast with the indication that they are produced by a foreign media outlet. The broadcaster has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to verify the legality of the application of Russian legislation for foreign media against them and says it intends to appeal all court decisions.

More details in the Interfax article.

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AUSTRALIA: No to the migration of public radio from medium wave to FM

No to the migration of public radio from medium wave to FM
In the article by Radioinfo the statements of several commercial broadcasters and the five different options on which the authority is working
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The intention of the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to leave the medium wave band in Perth (western capital of the continent and fourth-most populous city with over 2 million inhabitants) in favour of FM is seen as a threat by commercial radio stations. Five public channels would move into the FM band: 6PR, 6iX, ABC Radio Perth, Radio National and ABC News. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is exploring different solutions, but the commercial stations are against this migration. They do not find it acceptable that the ABC does not pay licensing fees to carry out this move, given that the public broadcaster receives funding of more than one billion Australian dollars a year. Radio operators complain of their own difficulties: the advertising market, still under the effects of the pandemic, does not yet allow for a return to 2019 revenue levels and having to share advertising resources with five new heavyweight competitors would be a problem.

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USA: Government airs 30,000 spots a month on Central American radio stations

USA government airs 30,000 spots a month on Central American radio stations
The CNN report was illustrated with a work by Michelle Ortiz inspired by illegal immigration. Accessing the article, which offers further details, you are greeted by a video with a short interview with the artist
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In order to stem the pressure of migrants on the Mexican border, the USA is also using radio advertising. A State Department spokesman told CNN that more than 30,000 advertisements are aired each month on Central American stations. The aim is to counter the misinformation spread by traffickers and the idea that President Joe Biden is softer on immigration. Up until the spring, 28,000 were broadcast, but this number has risen to over 30,000 due to the ‘discounts’ offered by the broadcasters on the ‘packages’ purchased by the American administration. The radio medium was chosen to reach the largest number of people, and religious leaders and public figures were also involved in the production of the releases. The monthly budget is $600,000. The announcements, broadcast in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, are in Spanish and five indigenous languages and last 40 seconds.

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AFGHANISTAN: Radios in the crosshairs of the Taliban

The Afghan Ministry of Information reported that four television stations and 11 broadcasters had been seized at Laskhar Gat, including the BBC World Service, which operates on 89.2 MHz
The Afghan Ministry of Information reported that four television stations and 11 broadcasters had been seized at Laskhar Gat, including the BBC World Service, which operates on 89.2 MHz
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The American military disengagement has left the field open to the Taliban, who have resumed their ground offensive in three large cities in the south and west of the country: Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar. In the course of the advance, the terrorists occupy the radio stations, using some of them to rebroadcast their radio signal, and intimidate the others, forcing them to switch off.

In the tweet by Chris Greenway of BBC Monitoring (which echoes that of Zahid Khan, an Afghan activist and journalist), the frequencies that are being retransmitted by Radio Voice of Sharia and the deactivation of the BBC World Service, which operated in the city on 89.2 MHz, are indicated
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As happened on 2 August 2021 in Lashkar Gah, a city of 200,000 inhabitants in the south of the country, capital of the province of Helmand, which has been under attack for days by the Taliban, who now control several neighbourhoods. The Taliban started to broadcast Radio Voice of Sharia (Shariat Ghag) on 95.0 and 105.2 MHz of the former state radio station and switched off all other stations.

In a report published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, freelance journalist Raksha Kumar examined the situation of the Afghan media
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Before the American intervention, when the Islamic State controlled 90% of the country, there was only one radio station controlled by the Taliban, which broadcast religious messages. In the last twenty years, however, information has opened up to pluralism: television stations, 170 radio stations and over 100 newspapers have been set up. An interesting report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism takes stock of the situation. More than 50% of the population (a total of 38 million) is under the age of 19, and around 6.5 million Afghans are active on social networks.

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PANAMA: Sold the radio station and fired the journalists. But the former director does not agree

Sold the radio station and fired the journalists
The former director of Radio Panamá, Edwin Cabrera, in an interview with La Prensa, talks about the sale of the station and the ongoing tug-of-war with the owners
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We reported (March 2021) on the sale of several foreign holdings by the Prisa group (see here). The company, which is present in 24 countries, owns brands such as Santillana (prints 106.5 million books that reach 34 million students in Latin America every year), El País (Spain’s largest daily newspaper), Los40 (founded in 1966 as a programme of Cadena Ser, since 1979 a network in Spain, it is present in several Latin American countries), and Cadena Ser (the radio network listened to by four out of ten Spaniards).

In Central America, the elimination of the editorial staff of Radio Panamá (27 people, including the staff of Los40) and the consequent suspension of broadcasting is not going unnoticed. The former director of information services Edwin Cabrera told the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa that the owners had wanted to get rid of the journalists for some time and had challenged the dismissal. He doubts the reasons for the opaque operation and speculates that behind the economic issues there may be an exchange of favours with political power to silence an uncomfortable voice.

Details here.

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SWITZERLAND: A referendum not to switch off FM

A referendum not to switch off FM in Switzerland
Roger Schawinski, a radio entrepreneur and director of Zurich-based Radio 1 considers the switch-off to be premature and contrary to the freedom of reception guaranteed by the Law on Radio and Television.
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More than 60,000 Swiss citizens have signed a petition to hold a referendum to block the switch-off of FM radio channels, scheduled to start in 2022. Switzerland was following in the footsteps of Norway, which was the first country to choose to migrate to Dab in 2017 (although there are currently more than 100 FM radio stations and 552 transmitters on air in the Scandinavian country). The initiative’s promoters cite an article published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung by media expert Urs Saxer, which states that SRG SSR, as a public service, has a clear mandate to guarantee a basic service to the entire population, and switching off FM would have no legal basis. The switchover is planned to take place in two stages: the public broadcaster SRG SSR will switch off its transmitters in August 2022, while the private broadcasters will have time until January 2023. According to a survey conducted last year by the Swiss branch of the market research institute GFK, only 29% of Swiss listen to terrestrial radio (FM and/or DAB) and only 13% of the Confederation’s citizens use analogue FM radio only.

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ITALY: Two days of radio and TV blackout in Central and Northern Sardinia

Two days of radio and TV blackout in Central and Northern Sardinia
Some pictures of the devastation caused by the flames at some of the sites in Punta Badde Urbara
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A fire that broke out on Friday 23 July 2021 in the province of Oristano devastated Punta Badde Urbara, one of the island’s nerve centres, interrupting many radio and television signals broadcast in central and northern Sardinia. Audio and video links to important stations such as Monte Limbara, Monte Ortobene, Monte Oro and many secondary stations departed from the mountain in the Oristano area, with the result that many stations were mute and the TV signals were absent. The most difficult situation occurred on Saturday evening, when even the RAI signals disappeared for a few hours, while private broadcasters had to wait until Monday morning to return to normal.

Satellite images posted on the Radio Macomer Centrale website show the extent of the fire, which has been described as the worst on the island in 100 years
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As the images from the site and satellite analysis show, the entire Badde Urbara broadcasting centre was surrounded by flames, with the buildings outside closest to the vegetation having the worst of it. The problems were probably also exacerbated by damage to the power lines, and the emergency generators held out until they ran out of fuel. For the radio stations, the interruptions lasted only a few minutes. On Sunday, Radio 105’s 99.30 MHz, Rai GR Parlamento’s 106.70 MHz, Radio Planargia’s 88.60 MHz and Radio Barbagia’s 99.90 MHz were occasionally without a signal.

Images posted on Twitter by the fire brigade show the situation in Santo Lussurgiu, the municipality where the Punta Badde Urbara transmission centre is located (960 m above sea level)
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The television situation is more critical, with more consistent interruptions: first to disappear Saturday evening, along with the mux1 of RAI, were the channels hosted on the multiplex Videolina. On Sunday, several broadcasters throughout central and northern Sardinia disappeared: among them Canale 9, Telesardegna, Paramount, Real Time, RTL 102.5, Giallo, K2, Frisbee, Boing Plus, Super!, Spike, DMax, HGTV, Motor Trend, Supertennis, Alma TV, VH1, Deejay TV and Radio Italia TV. The emergency lasted until Monday afternoon.

From our correspondent in Sardinia Cristian Puddu

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