The closure of “troublesome” broadcasters continues, with the usual suspension orders sent by Conatel (National Telecommunications Commission), which has been very active in recent months. The script is the same: the broadcaster isordered to close down for failing to comply with legal procedures, says Leonardo Pérez, national secretary of the National College of Journalists in the state of Zulia, and because they have usurped space occupied by other stations that broadcast legally. But, in reality, the objections seem to be made for no apparent reason. The climate of intimidation is such that some radio stations close as soon as they receive a phone call from Conatel. There are now a hundred of them. Here is a chronicle of the last two months.
On 6 September 2022, the first eleven stations between Maracaibo and San Francisco were shut down. About a hundred people are left without work, estimates by the National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP). Two days later (Thursday 8 September), two more stations have to leave the airwaves. Here is a summary of the deactivated stations: 88.3 Candela FM 88.5 Sensacional Estereo “La FM de las estressas” 91.3 Zulia Mía “La señal de los zulianos!” 92.9 Kp Radio “La gigante del Zulia!! 94.3 Refugio FM 97.3 Palabra FM 98.1 High Class “Somos la #1 en gaitas” 98.3 Destino FM 103.3 Radiolandia 102.7 Suave FM 107.7 Río Stereo (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
It’s as good a day as any in Ipswich, a Suffolk town where GenX Radio is based, a web station that within a year has been so successful that it has taken the leap into the airwaves, submitting an application to Ofcomto open a DAB channel (the authorisation will come a few days after Tim’s death). Even though it has no competition, because it is the only commercial station in the region, it needs to upgrade its palimpsest in order to land in the digital band. So it recruited a veteran of the airwaves for its most important programme: the breakfast slot, which between 6am and 9am takes listeners from waking up to resuming their activities. And Tim Gough is an exceptional presenter: he has decades in the business behind him and, above all, began his career in 1986 at Radio Orwell, a station based in Ipswich (transmitted on 1170 kHz on medium wave and 97.1 MHz on FM).
A morning like any other
The sun rose at 7.37am. The sky is grey but not cold, it’s 13 degrees. It’s Monday, a new week begins and it’s time to get the energy going. Tim is happy. These are the first broadcasts he is conducting after ten years away from the microphones. He lives 30 km from the station and to avoid travelling to the studios before dawn he has equipped himself at home. He has been on the air for almost an hour when he plays Grey Day by Madness, a ska group that in 1981 with this song parodied a grey morning like that, but in which you still have to get up and drag yourself like zombies to the office after a night of revelry.
Suddenly the music stops
Grey Day is a track full of energy, evoking for Tim the years when he took his first steps at Radio Orwell, in 1986, and he thinks it’s the right push to face a new cloudy week. But shortly afterwards, at 7.50, the music suddenly stops: Tim is taken ill, probably from a heart attack. The ambulance arrived and the paramedics tried to revive him, but after 25 minutes of effort, they had to throw in the towel. Tim left live. As soon as the news spreads, the emails start arriving: hundreds of messages of love. After all, Tim is a well-known personality: after his debut on Radio Orwell in 1986, he became a specialist in morning host. He moved on to Saxon Radio and SGR-FM and made appearances on Smooth Radio, several stations in the East Midlands and other national radio stations. The BBC article collects several testimonials from former colleagues, who agree thathe is afriendly, funny and very talented guy. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
The Iberian country is lagging behind in the transition of radio to DAB. Eighteen years after the activation of multiplexes, digital broadcasting seems not to have emerged from the experimental phase: they are active in Madrid and Barcelona, and a few other cities, still broadcasting in the old standard DAB and not in DAB+. The few programs carried are those of Radio Nacional de Espana (Radio 1, Radio 5: Radio Clásica, and Radio 3 remain excluded), and the main networks (the missing ones are, for example, Cadena Dial, Los 40, Rock FM). Similarly to FM, where inertia in granting authorizations has proliferated illegal frequencies, to which networks also resort, unauthorized multiplexes have been turned on. The number of official ones active mainly in tourist areas (the Costa del Sol and Canary Islands) is doubled.
Avalanche of appeals
Given the competition made to official radio stations by unauthorized ones, many broadcasters interested in digital broadcasting have appealed to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which between September and October 2022 upheld sixteen “recurso de amparo”, which added to those already pending bringing the total to 22. This ”recurso” is a legal formula that allows Spanish citizens to appeal to the supreme court when they believe constitutional norms have been violated. Giving an accurate picture of the situation is the magazine Panorama Audiovisual, which reconstructs its evolution since 2018 when broadcasters began turning to autonomous communities to apply for authorizations. Since some regions have refused, despite having an obligation to grant them, even though they did not proceed with the allocations, alaw firm has recommended appeals to the Constitutional Court. Will they be upheld? Let’s keep our fingers crossed! (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
In the North American country, 10 % of the frequencies are reserved for communityand indigenous radio stations, said Sóstenes Díaz, commissioner of the Federal Telecommunications Institute (FTI), on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Mexican radio. There are 109 community radio stations and 20 indigenous radio stations protected by the Federal Law on Telecommunications and Broadcasting (LFTyR), which since 2014 has defined a regulatory framework to give certainty to social organizations. The law recognizes the importance of radio in the cultural and social development of communities. The legislation authorizes the granting of licenses to all entities interested in offering these services (Article 87), so much so that the airwaves regulator will hold seminars for entities interested in opening new ones.
The Angolan government has earmarked USD 40 million to modernize Rádio Nacional de Angola (RNA), which will enable it to complete its coverage of the territory (currently 52.77%) to 95%. The announcement was made by Pedro Afonso Cabral, chairman of the public broadcaster’s board of directors, on the occasion of the station’s 45th anniversary, celebrated on October 5, 2022. The station, said Cabral in an interview with the Jornal de Angola, spends 98% of its state funding on staff salaries (1795 people) and has not received investment support for eight years. The broadcaster operates national radio stations (Canal A, Ngola Yetu, Rádio Cinco, and Rádio Cultura, three regional, 18 provincial, and seven municipal. It has 29 production centers and 80 repeaters throughout the country.
The scandal of Patricia Schlesinger, director of the Berlin public broadcaster RBB Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (illicit reimbursements and a rich consultancy to her husband) has been ridden by the right wing, but even some government parties are talking about reforming the public media. There are 21 television and 83 radio stations in the country, which share 8 billion in license fees (each household pays 18.36 euros per month). Deutsche Welle (financed by the federal government, however, not by the license fee) reconstructs the evolution of the German radio and television system: from the first stations opened in the four occupation zones (into which the country was divided after the Second World War) to the subsequent development and the emergence of new stations after reunification, and up to the present day. The topic of public funding and the credibility of information is also addressed: despite the scandal, 70% of citizens (2020 data) trust the public media. Here you can read the full article, in English.
Established on 14 July 2022, Radio Daar Dheer is the first community radio station in Dhusamareb created by the UNSOS (United Nations Support Office) in Somalia, which provided the technical support and equipment. Operating for six hours a day on 87.7 MHz, the station has ten staff members, seven of them journalists, including two female reporters. It is the sixth station established as part of the UN mission’s efforts to consolidate peace and strengthen the Somali state. The other five are Radio Beer Lulain Beletweyne (88.8 MHz, established on December 10, 2018), Radio Waamo in Kismayo (December 15, 2018), Radio Arlaadi in Baidoa (November 15, 2018), Radio Isnay in Jowhar (87.7 MHz, on May 15, 2020) and Radio Sanguuni in Dhobley (87.7 MHz). In the country, characterized by oral culture and a high illiteracy rate, radio is the most reliable and accessible means of communication for the majority of the population, and radio consumption is very high.
Why did the North Korean regime turn on a new shortwave transmitter with the digital DRM standard (Digital Radio Mondiale)? And, above all, who listens to the transmissions, given that the receivers cost at least a hundred dollars, an enormity for a population starved by the supreme leader. RedTech, a French technology magazine, examines various hypotheses and concludes that there is nothing strategic about it. It will probably distribute the signal of KBCS (Korean Central Broadcasting Station) to repeaters (a system already used in the past in analogue) without setting up an expensive network of terrestrial transfer links. The transmitter operates on 6140kHz with an estimated power of 50 to 100 kW and is in addition to the one on 3205 kHz that has been on air for more than a year. It uses AAC+ compression because the engineers used software that does not support the latest standards. More details in the RedTech article.
Within six years, more than 90% of Japan’s commercial stations (44 out of 47) will leave medium-wave to switch to frequency modulation. In September 2028, only three stations will remain active in northern Japans Hokkaido and Akita Prefecture. But the airwaves will begin to empty from next year: the first channels will be turned off in the fall of 2023. The advertising crisis has prompted broadcasters to ask the communications ministry to migrate to FM to reduce operating costs: AM systems are energy-intensive, maintenance expenses are high, and antennas at least 100 meters high are needed to transmit. The last to leave the airwaves will be three Tokyo-based broadcasters-TBS Radio, Nippon Cultural Broadcasting and Nippon Broadcasting System-and some will continue to keep AM transmitters on after 2028. In Japan, the FM band goes from 76 to 95 MHz because the higher channels, before the digital switchover, were occupied by television. Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini
When travelling by car and driving through a tunnel, the signals picked up by the radio are quickly attenuated. Only when the repeater is close by or has its antennas pointed towards the longitudinal axis of the tunnel, the waves are able to make their way through and you can keep the station tuned for longer, but then the signal disappears. Those travelling by car may also like a few minutes of silence, but in the event of an accident, the signal blackout would prevent the rescue vehicles from communicating with the outside world. Therefore, for safety reasons, communication systems are installed in the longer tunnels that can carry emergency signals and allow FM and DAB radios to be heard.
What the law says
The problem of communications has been addressed by the legislator, who in Europe has stipulated (with Directive 2004/54/EC) that in tunnels longer than 500 metres the minimum safety requirements of the trans-European road network must be met. If the tunnels exceed 1,000 metres in length or are located on particularly busy arterial roads (with more than 2,000 vehicles passing through), the road manager is obliged to install special radiocommunication systems that allow contact between emergency vehicles (ambulances, breakdown vehicles, fire brigades, road maintenance company vehicles) and the police.
Cable or radio wave transmission systems are used for communications. In the first case, ‘slotted‘ coaxial cables (with openings drilled at regular intervals, from which the signal comes out) are laid along the tunnel. The system has the advantage that it can be used to simultaneously transmit and receive on the different frequencies used by emergency vehicles, and to allow to listen to radio in the car. But since signals propagate differently depending on their frequency, corrective measures must be taken and amplifiers are introduced at regular intervals to compensate for attenuation. This requires careful design and a lot of maintenance (with increased costs). However, the system is delicate and vulnerable to fire and accidents, and there is a move towards radio wave transmission. (Written byFabrizio Carnevalini)