Despite being one of the founding members of the British streaming platform, the British public broadcaster has removed its radio channelsfrom RadioPlayer since January 2023. Listeners now only have to use ‘BBC Sounds‘, which is available as an app and can be accessed on the web in a special area of the British broadcaster’s official website. Retaining control of content with a proprietary app is a trend that is spreading especially among large broadcasters. In the UK, it was already put into practice by Global (owner of seven stations including Radio Capital, Heart Radio, Classic FM, and LBC), which created its own ‘Global Player‘ in 2017, while Bauer Media Group (owner of 150 radio brands in nine countries) has never directed listeners to the UK streaming platform.
The company is doing just fine! (but has few radio stations)
The founder and CEO of RadioPlayer downplays. On the contrary, he raises the bar: Michael Hillsays that the company is booming (the nineteenth foreign office was opened in March, with the launch of the app in Luxembourg). The platform, which claims to contain the best of radio, hosts the most important networks and commercial radio stations. These, however, are only a fraction of the stations that exist in each country. Two examples: in Luxembourg, you can listen to only ten, half of which belong to the RTL Group. In Italy, there are over 1100 active radio stations, but with RadioPlayer, you can listen to 125 of them, which is just a bit more than 10% of the mentioned number. This also includes 107 radio stations that only broadcast on DAB.
Among the many infrastructures damaged by the conflict in Ukraine, there is also the link network that enabled the connection between the regional TV offices and the central newsroom in Kyiv. The main antenna was on the capital’s broadcasting tower, which was damaged in March 2022. Since then, mobile crews who rely on the cellular network to send video footage have been handicapped due to the use of portable equipment which only allows for low-resolution transmission. To solve the problem, Japan thus donated a number of portable mini-repeaters to the public broadcasting company Nacional’na Suspil’na Teleradiokompanija Ukraïny.
Minsk launches a clone of the British aggregator. In defiance of copyright
As of February 2023, Belarusian citizens also have an app for listening to radio stations on the web, mobile devices, and smart TVs, Radio Player‘s website explains. Promoted by the Belarusian Broadcasting Industry Association, however, the app is a copy of one launched in 2010 in the United Kingdom and which has since spread to 13 other countries, not only in Europe. It allows listeners to listen only to radio stations based in the country, a feature designed by the British to protect copyright, but which in an authoritarian regime also allows citizens’ freedom of choice to be restricted. It is unclear whether it allows content to be sent to car infotainment systems-the Belarusian version’s website makes no mention of it. But how is it possible to violate copyright? Thanks to an “ad hoc” law that allows Western content to be used without the rights holder’s consent and without paying royalties. Approved on December 21, 2022, by the Belarusian parliament and signed by President Aleksander Lukashenko.
(From a post by Michel Fremy on Linkedin, edited by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
On 23 January 2023, DAB broadcasting began on Martinique, an island of the Lesser Antilles, one of the French overseas departments. The multiplex, operating on channel 5B, is managed by I-Médias Group, a company that owns several stations in the Antilles and Guyana. For the time being, the bouquet, which will operate on an experimental basis for nine months, comprises five stations: Fusion DAB+, Fusion Gold, Fusion Salsa, Fusion Compas, and Fusion 100% News, all thematic channels of Radio Fusion, of the I-Medias Group. But four more will be added: Radio Evangile Martinique, Radio Identité, Mixx FM, and Maknet Jazz. The intention of I-Médias is to arrive, when fully operational, at 12 channels (French legislation provides for a maximum of 13 per multiplex). In the region, four multiplexes are planned, with a total of 50 stations. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
Radio is also a passion, for those who make it and listen to it. Among those who ‘turn the knobs’, Dario Monferini has left an indelible mark: in almost fifty years he has listened to and visited thousands of radio stations
His unmistakable look sticks in the memory of thousands of radio operators who welcome him into the studios. He is well-informed about all radio stations, not just the ones he listens to. He visits as many as possible to get to know them better, to ask for information and, above all, for gadgets. He dreams of a museum that tells the history of stations all over the world. To do so, he collects everything that bears witness to the radio epic: newspaper cuttings, specialised magazines, books, stamps, coins and phone cards with station logos, programme schedules, and photographs. In the pre-internet era, he created a network of hundreds of correspondents scattered all over the world, who, like him, hunt for material and exchange it. Swirling.
The picture above shows him on an overseas trip. It’s the nineties: Dario poses in front of the trademark and slogan of a Venezuelan Circuito Nacional Belfort, closed in 2009 when President Ugo Chávez withdrew the concession from radio stations opposing his regime. The shot is by Marzio Vizzoni, a passionate photographer who follows him on the South American stage. Almost everyone welcomes this curious Italian who knows frequencies and radio names inside out, even though he lives on the other side of the ocean: in the analogue era, he has the memory of a computer. In his hand he holds PlayDx, a fanzine edited every Sunday morning with a typewriter. Uninterruptedly until 2012, when the tapes become unavailable. He published more than 1500 issues before migrating to digital, helped by friends.
Fifty years of travel
In almost fifty years, Monferini travelled the length and breadth of Europe and the American continent. He visits thousands of stations. Some interview him live, and air the recording of the programme he received in Italy. Friendly, he dispenses vitriolic jokes in various languages. He learns them as an autodidact, to decipher the details of programmes that often arrive with a signal at the limit of comprehensibility. He listens to everything, on short, medium and long waves. He approached radio listening at the end of the 1960s: passion, intelligence and willpower immediately made him excel. He became an institution and actively participated in international conventions of enthusiasts’ clubs, representing Italian radio listening.
The trophy room
He becomes a leader. For him, listening is also redemption. Polio has left heavy marks: he wears orthopaedic shoes and has to get help from friends to open drinks cans. But his will makes up for the gaps and drives him to wear out the soles of his shoes by travelling the world far and wide. He throws himself into his hobby and renounces starting a family. He marries radio. In just a few years, he has hit the ground running and is a cut above other enthusiasts: he writes to every radio station he can tune into. In the first four years, he gets 1,200 replies. A record. He listens to practically everything that reaches Italian latitudes (disadvantaged by propagation, which gives northern Europeans exceptional openings, thanks to the earth’s magnetism and the many hours of darkness). He compensates for the lack of propagation with commitment.
From North American medium wave stations to FM
He runs on the bands every night until the wee hours to receive South American stations. And when the cone has no more secrets, he switches to North American medium-wave stations. He wakes up between four and six o’clock to take advantage of the cone of shadow that precedes the rising of the sun and that favours reception. He identifies favourable days by phoning the observatory in Boulder, Colorado, every day, which broadcasts a recorded message with the solar activity values. These were the roaring years of radio on short and medium waves. And, when the liberalisation of the Italian airwaves began in 1975 and frequency modulation became populated with broadcasters, he also devoted himself to FM. The wave of freedom spreads over the band and crosses Europe. It sweeps away the dreariness of state radios and brings a generation of youngsters onto the airwaves, some of whom are still in the saddle today, almost fifty years later, but just as passionate as they were then. Thousands of broadcasters were born: an opportunity not to be missed to gather material to document them.
An immense collection… dispersed
To collect a memento on each radio he makes whirlwind exchanges with enthusiasts all over the world. In fifty years he created an immense collection and filled a flat with stacks of boxes reaching up to the ceiling. Unfortunately, the unforgivable decision of the tutelary judge (two years after a heart attack in 2021 and the first stroke) and the insensitivity of the support administrator sent everything to the scrap heap in order to sell the flat and pay for the retirement home. A pity. But if the collectors at the time and the radio editors, all now in their old age, join forces, they can realise that dream they perhaps shared in their hearts. Something that tells their story. It would be an opportunity to reconstruct their memory since the publicity materials collected by enthusiasts are often the only evidence of many of the more than 12,000 Italian radio stations that have been in existence since 1975. To organise the materials, valorise them and organise travelling exhibitions instead of letting them get mouldy in some cellar. Or have them end up in a landfill. Dario left us on 17 October 2022 before dawn, in the health facility where he had been hospitalised for months in Milan.
It took a good investigation by the Daily Express to bring to light how much the BBC had spent on the ‘digital rebranding’ of its TV and digital channels. A six-figure sum, over £7 million, strenuously denied perhaps because it was difficult to justify, given the painful cuts made by the public broadcaster, such as the closure of many regional branches passed off as a ‘reshaping of the offer’. The BBC put up a wall for months, despite the fact that the newspaper invoked the Freedom of Information Act, a law that has guaranteed the right of access to information held by public authorities since 2000. So, in the end, the Daily Express submitted a formal complaint to the ICO (an independent body that upholds information rights in the UK) and at that point, the BBC capitulated: eight months had passed.
Too much opacity
The opinions collected by the Daily Express seep into the arrogance of the public broadcaster and its opacity. As in the speech by Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, a not-for-profit organisation of over-60s that aims to convey their opinions to political parties to improve legislation. According to Reed, the £7,261,039 spent could have cleared 45,000 subscription fees for the public broadcaster, thus helping most families with an elderly person with dementia, or relieving those struggling with energy bill payments. The BBC has also been reticent with Silver Voices, which, when asked how many over-75s previously exempt from the license fee had come clean, denied having a list. Yet, Reed points out, families who should be regularised continue to receive regular threatening letters ordering them to pay up. Let us hope, therefore, that light will be shed on this too.
Two years ago we spoke (seehere) about the frequency allocation plan wanted by the government to free up channels and allow new broadcasters access to the FM band. But once the channeling was done, the wave of protest from the radio stations mounted, struggling with more interference than before. So the regulatory authority (Macra) froze the allocations and is reviewing the authorisations, removing the channels requested but not activated, and checking the payments of the concessions. As Red Tech magazine explains, there is now an attempt to make room by ‘tightening the bolts’: six radio stations in arrears with their license fees (Angaliba FM, Capital Radio, Sapitwa FM, Joy Radio, Ufulu FM, and Galaxy FM) have already been affected, but this could become 23 of the 54 actives in the country. But couldn’t this have been thought of earlier, saving the consultancy costs?
It is managed by Levira, the main network operator for TV and radio stations in Estonia, which has one of the largest data centers in the country. The company cooperates with Duo Media Networks (the largest media company in the Baltics, which owns seventeen TV and six radio stations) and Mediainvest Holding (a subsidiary of Sweden’s MTG Modern Times Group, which owns Power Hit Radio). Levira is controlled by the Republic of Estonia but 49 percent of the shares are held by the French telecommunications company TDF.
The West African country’s military junta suspended RFI’s broadcasts on December 4, 2022, accusing it of broadcasting a message of intimidation from a terrorist leader and misleading information. The broadcaster rejects the charges, saying the interruption occurred without warning and without implementing the procedures prepared by Burkina Faso’s High Council for Communication. According to RFI, the programs are widely listened to by the population: more than 40 % of citizens tune in at least once a week. RFI was broadcast on FM, free-to-air on several satellites, through about 50 partner radio stations and remains receivable on shortwave.
An uncomfortable voice
Burkina Faso is the second African country to shut down RFI: in Mali, the international broadcaster had been silenced on March 17, 2022 along with France 24 TV after reports implicating the army in abuses against civilians were published. Radio France Internationale has foreign programs in 19 languages, broadcasts on shortwave, and has 145 FM repeaters in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, as well as Central and South America. These are mainly countries of the former colonial empire, with a predominance on the African continent, which has as many as 108 installations.
With the pandemic, traffic had plummetedand the ratings of Radio Circulation, Montreal’s traffic radio station, had declined. But since the renovation of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel (opened in 1967) began, the station has become very popular again. The tunnel to be renovated, to ensure its operation for another 40 years, passes under the St. Lawrence River and connects the island of Montréal with the south bank of the river in Longueuil, Quebec. It is a vital access route to the city and since three of the six lanes will remain closed until November 2025, many have thrown in the towel and opted for the train or the metro (+15%), while those in cars rely on the radio to seek alternative routes.
A bet won
Moreover, Radio Circulation owes its fortune to traffic jams: it opened in 2011, a year before the opening of the major construction site for the Turcot interchange, a multi-level elevated road system linking three motorways: Autoroute 15, 20, and 720. The station broadcasts on 98.5 FM and 730 kHz mediumwave, and in the studio, two editors take turns every half-hour in conducting and answering listener calls, never losing sight of the twenty or so monitors that show the hot spots at risk of traffic jams. The radio competes with online navigation platforms but manages to give faster and more up-to-date information than Google Maps and Waze, both in the portfolio of Alphabet, the web giant.