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’.
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.
Since September 2020 FM Reconquista, a community station operating on 89.5 MHz in José León Suárez (7 km from the urban area) has been “covered” by 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.
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.
The repression of President Nicolás Maduro’s regime has claimed another victim: Selecta FM, which operated on 102.7 MHz from Machiques, in the state of Zulia, in the northwest of the South American country. It was deactivated by Conatel (Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones) officials, who seized the equipment on the evening of Friday, 5 March 2021. This was reported by the SNTP (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa), which wrote on Twitter that the station had already been intimidated on 26 February, when its premises were attacked during an interview with an opposition leader. More details in the Swissinfo.ch article.
Selecta continues broadcasting on the web
The economic crisis caused by the pandemic is having an impact on broadcasters’ turnover, which according to the InfoAdex study on advertising investment in Spain in 2020 will drop by 22.9% for all stations. This is a total of 111.5 million euros that will be lost and which will impact mainly on the large commercial networks such as Cadena Ser and Cope (which have lost 25.4 and 24.4% respectively). Broadcasters consider intervening again in the contracts of the big stars (including Pepa Bueno and Carlos Herrera), cutting them for the second consecutive year and probably until the end of 2021. And the situation shows no sign of improving, as the January 2021 InfoAdex figures put the decline at 26.7%.
More details on the smaller radio stations in the article by the independent newspaper El Español.
Before splitting its activities into two branches, the company with the largest number of radio stations in Spain divests abroad. If in the domestic market the Grupo Prisa refuses offers, abroad it has divested three radio and television companies. After Panama, with Los 40 Principales, the divestments continued in Portugal with the Media Capital group, which in addition to radio stations (Comercial and M80) owns a TV chnnel (TVI), an audiovisual production company (Plural) and a portal for digital natives (Iol.pt). In Argentina, instead, it has sold two radio stations in the capital: Radio Continental (104.3) and Los 40 Principales (105.5).
More details in the article of Economia Digital.
As we anticipated in 2019 (news here), Ireland’s public broadcaster (Raidió Teilifís Éireann or RTÉ) will switch off the DAB channels on 31 March 2021, but will not close the RTÉ Gold, RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Radio 1 Extra, RTÉ Pulse and RTÉjr Radio channels, which it will make available on other digital platforms. The decision was taken for three reasons: to reduce costs, the small number of listeners in the DAB band and the fact that RTÉ is the only Irish broadcaster in the digital band. The majority of Irish people (77%) listen to FM radio, compared to 0.5% for DAB. This is according to the latest radio listening survey (JNLR, Radio in a Digital World), conducted by market research institute Ipsos MRBI.
More details here.
Thanks to the patience and intuition of Luke Owen, defined by The Guardian as a “musical archivist”, it is possible to relive the atmosphere of London in the Eighties by listening to the commercials aired by London pirate radio stations between 1984 and 1993, which have been collected on two CDs. Owen in fact recorded the free-range and unprofessional commercials that were aired and that, given the lack of professionalism, were considered a boring interlude between one song and another. And yet, listening to them again, one finds a London that has disappeared, in an era in which there was no web, and in which listeners, in order to be informed about the musical events taking place in the city, had pirate radio stations as their only resource: programming of public or official radio stations was only musical, aiming at the English middle class and did not represent the different ethnic groups present in the capital.
Space also for minorities
Thus are curious the advertisements in Greek, the news about raves or the advertisements of stores that allow to reconstruct a map of alternative shops. The two CDs are published by the London label founded by Owen: “Death Is Not the End“, which is also the name of a program broadcast online by the London internet radio station NTS Radio.
More details in the Guardian article.
A study of the stock market capitalization shows that in the Twenties of the 20th century the performance of radio companies was comparable to that of today’s technology companies. In the summer of 1920 commercial broadcasters had started their activity in the United States, so it was imagined that the purchase of receivers would have led to a strong development for the industry. The analysis conducted by Jim Reid, a specialist at Deutsche Bank, reconstructs the performance of the stock of RCA (Radio Corporation of America), whose profits had risen from 2.5 million dollars in 1925 to 20 million in 1928, causing the value of the shares to soar by 700% (from cents in 1921 to ten dollars in 1926).
With the pandemic, many Honduran radio stations have had to suspend broadcasts for four to five months because staff became ill and because of the economic crisis that has forced many companies to close, increasing unemployment. Now, fearing that the situation in the South American country will worsen, Carlos Enamorado, secretary of the Community Media Association of Honduras (AMCH), is asking for international aid to survive. In Honduras today there are more than 50 community broadcasters (not all of them authorized), of which 35 are active, and three community television channels, authorized but not yet operational due to the investments required to start broadcasting. More than 400 non-Community radio and television stations are active in the country. The HolaNews article discusses the situation in detail.
The 50 million EUR allocated by the Italian government to support broadcasters affected by the drastic drop in advertising due to the pandemic have not been distributed fairly. Stopping the decision of the old executive (Conte II) is Agcom, the Italian Communications Authority. The “Fund for emergencies relating to local broadcasters” had been established by Article 195 of the Decree Law of May 19, 2020, but the implementing decree had been issued by the Ministry of Economic Development only on October 12, 2020. The text defined the procedures for the allocation of the contribution, reserving 95% of the resources for the first hundred television stations in the ranking, and dividing the remaining 5% among those from the hundredth place onwards. This choice, which had already aroused controversy, was rejected by Agcom because it could create market distortions, and the authority hopes to divide it into two portions: one among all the broadcasters meeting the eligibility requirements, in proportion to the score in the ranking list, and the other, in equal parts among the broadcasters, taking care to ensure that the latter portion of resources has a sufficient amount to guarantee adequate subsidizing for the smaller broadcasters.