RadioZ, the federation that brings together some 30 independent stations from the Walloon region and Brussels, has appealed to the authoritiesnot to halve funding for the transition to digital radio and to simplify procedures. Independent radio stations are a resource for the media sector: they provide information, support culture and municipal administrations, but above all they are a breeding ground for talent that can then aspire to work in more professional broadcasters. A training job that costs the state nothing, because it does not receive subsidies as, for example, in France. On the contrary, RadioZ denounces the fact that this year several radio associations were refused the annual FACR (Fund for Radio Creation) subsidy due to a lack of resources, used to finance the transition to DAB, which, however, only benefits private networks and the public broadcaster RTBF, which have been broadcasting in digital for more than a year.
It would have switched off its transmitter on 31 December 2020, abandoning 580 kHz on medium waves. But the station made famous by its music programming focusing on tango, folklore and typical Uruguayan music continues to transmit. The decision by the owners, who wanted to continue on the web, was overruled by Pablo da Silveira, Minister of Education and Culture, who announced that the government would intervene to temporarily run the station to allow negotiations to take place with potential buyers, who have already come forward. Clarín broadcasts daily about 100 songs by Carlos Gardel, one of the most important interpreters of River Plate and Latin American song. The repertoire is limited to 488 recordings of the highest technical quality so that the same song can be heard every five days.
A boomerang effect has been caused by the governmentdecree that, in order to promote the development of DAB radio, requires radio manufacturers to stop selling devices in 2021 if they were not equipped with a digital receiver. This includes smartphones equipped with an FM tuner. Samsung (which has almost 40% of the market) has circumvented the regulatory requirement by deactivating the FM receiver with a change to its operating system. Moreover, the legislation (which applies only in Italy) would have required manufacturers to fit a digital receiver and antenna only to devices sold in Italy.
While this may seem a necessary action for newly sold devices, it seems pretty strange that it is applied to devices that have been sold before the law came into effect.
At 5pm on 5th of January 1971, FIP started to broadcast in Paris on mediumwave 585 kHz as “France Inter Paris”. This was the beginning of an incomparable radio station, which has still no limits in musical variety. You can hear classical music followed by rock music and afterwards some French chanson – but it is never incoherent or without a transition between the songs. It is a surprising and refreshing station that has survived several belt-tightening moves from Radio France.
And there were quite some changes and cuttings in the past 50 years: a lot of local stations of FIP closed in 2000 and the remaining local outlets had to close at the end of 2020. Several outstanding shows were cancelled (like “Dites 33”, where all songs were played from vinyl), the news flash and the traffic information were removed in the last years. Fortunately, they never removed the good music choice and the female announcers, called “Fipettes”, with their famous voices.
But there are some positive developments since FIP started to broadcast on DAB from Lille, Lyon and Paris. With only ten FM frequencies in bigger cities like Paris, Strasbourg and Marseille, FIP is the smallest FM network of Radio France. In the regions where FIP can be received, they have a big audience – hopefully growing with the upcoming nationwide transmission on DAB.
The 50th anniversary will be celebrated by FIP in its programme with a lot of shows and historical music. Today, between 5 pm and 7 pm, the history of FIP will be narrated with music and anecdotes. Starting on the 9th of January at 8 pm, 50 years of music in 50 hours will be presented each Saturday for 50 weeks at this time.
Radio Nacional de Espana has lost 190,000 listeners in just a few months, and now has around one million. It is an unprecedented collapse that emerged from the General Media Study (EGM) audience survey at the end of the third round of surveys. Compared to the first quarter (the survey was suspended in the second quarter due to the pandemic), the drop was 15%. And the drop does not only affect the flagship network, but also (although to a lesser extent) the other public networks.
Economía digital (Spain’s fifth largest news group, a native of the network) points the finger at the redundancies, resignations and new appointments made this year in the TV and radio networks. Changes made by Rosa María Mateo (RNE’s interim sole director) and Enric Hernández (news director) have triggered a reaction from the trade unions.
SER (+241,000) and, marginally, COPE (+20,000) gained. COPE is also the first in terms of digital audience: the Cadena de Ondas Populares Espanolas (also owner of Cadena 100, Rock FM and Megastar FM brands), has exceeded twelve million unique users, outstripping rival SER by over 600,000 followers.
In the first quarter of 2021, the Walt Disney Company will close Radio Disney and Radio Disney Country. Opened in 1995, the station owned 23 medium-wave stations to reach a large audience of young people and teenagers, but with the spread of streaming in 2014 most of the stations (22) had been sold and the signal was being broadcast digitally, on satellite and in some HD Radio subchannels. Radio Disney Country, a secondary streaming brand launched in the autumn of 2015, was no longer on AM as of 2017 because the station broadcasting it, 1110 KDIS in Pasadena (Los Angeles) had changed its name and format, becoming KRDC. The end of broadcasting is also caused by the uncertainties of the pandemic about the future of live music events. Thirty-six employees (full-time and part-time staff) will lose their jobs and the Pasadena station will be sold off. The closuredoes not affect Radio Disney in Latin America.
The PBC (Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation) has asked the government to make it compulsory for cars to be equipped with digital receivers in the next five-year plan for the automobile industry. For some time now, public radio and television have been broadcasting using the DRM digital standard in the AM and FM bands. DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), unlike DAB (which uses VHF channels in band III), is a digital broadcasting system applicable to all frequencies, from the HF bands (LW, MW, SW) to VHF (bands I, II, the FM band, and band III). And it foresees investments to complete the digital migration in the next five to seven years, to improve audio quality (claimed to be equal to that of a CD) and energy efficiency.
RTVS, radio and television of Slovakia (Rozhlas a televízia Slovenska) has accounts in the red. In the last ten years, attempts have been made several times to adjust the canon to make up for it, but they have always failed. The last one was in 2016, when the Minister of Culture proposed to raise it to 7 EUR (about 50% more). Today citizens pay 4.64 EUR per month, pensioners 2.32 EUR, rates set 17 years ago. The current proposal (to go up to 8.5 EUR, 83% more) will have a long and difficult path: to be approved, it will have to pass the inter-ministerial evaluation, reach the Council of Ministers and finally be voted by Parliament. More details here
There is also controversy in Germany
When you touch up a concession fee it is never roses and flowers. In Germany in 2022 the increase will only be 86 Cents per month, but in Saxony there is resistance from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Eurosceptic nationalists of AFD (Alternative für Deutschland). The newspaper Nordbayern warns of the possible convergence between the two political forces to block the increase; an approach defined as “typically East German”. But Nordbayern is also critical of those who minimize it by saying that the figure is modest, because in both cases the management of public service is not questioned. This is something to be said about, because during the pandemic (according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Passau) the ARD and ZDF networks with their special programmes created a climate of permanent threat without sufficiently questioning the measures taken by the government.
The situation in other European countries
In Italy, according to a study by Anci (Association of Italian Municipalities) conducted in 2011, the radio and television fee was the most hated tax: it was evaded by 25% of the population. To avoid it, in 2016 the Renzi government reduced it from 116.50 to 90 EUR per year and linked the payment to the electricity bill. In France the annual fee is 139 EUR, but advertising has been abolished from the public networks. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, the fee is £157.50 (173.50 EUR), and if you use a black and white TV set, reduced to £53. In Spain the tax was abolished in 2010, but according to a study by the University of Santiago de Compostela, it costs citizens 98.80 EUR in fees. More details and rates from other European countries can be found in the article published by AGI Agenzia Giornalistica Italia. Curious also the case of Austria: the amount is not uniform, but between 41.86 EUR in Oberösterreich / Vorarlberg and 53.46 EUR in Steiermark.
Audi cars sold in the United States can be equipped with a hybrid car radio (i.e. capable of receiving the signal over the air or streaming via the internet) that maintains the tuning of the preferred station even if the signal broadcast over the air is weakening during the journey. With a traditional device, when you leave the coverage area of a station, noise increases until the audio becomes unintelligible. Cars equipped with the Hybrid Radio® system, on the other hand, allow you to continue listening because when the listening quality starts to deteriorate they automatically switch from the signal transmitted over the air to the digital signal received via the Internet.
The new functionality is available on vehicles in the 2021 series (on sale from September 2020) equipped with the MIB 3 modular multimedia system, which connects to the network thanks to the integrated 4G Wi-Fi hotspot (requires a subscription to the Audi connect® Prime or Plus service). iHeartRadio, a leading U.S. radio company, is making more than 600 stations throughout North America compatible with the Hybrid Radio® system, in order to participate in the project.
Radio Al-Balad, a community radio station in Amman, devised a programme written and conducted bySyrian refugees. The idea came from Daoud Kuttab, director of the Community Media Network, to which the station also belongs, to give a voice to the refugees of the conflict, more than 1.3 million in the country. In recent years, the radio staff has trained about a hundred reporters who have produced reports for the programme “Syrians among us”.