“Radio Sutatenza: a cultural revolution in the Colombian countryside (1947 – 1994)” is an exhibition that reconstructs the historyof the famous radio station, which sought to reduce the abysmal distances between the quality of rural and urban life through education in the basics and at a distance. Managed by the Acción Cultural Popular (Acpo), an educational company of Catholic extraction, it used an educational method that combined communication technologies with a model of Comprehensive Fundamental Education (Efi), seeking to generate social change. In forty years, working with public and private entities, Acpo has created a network of educational media in more than nine hundred Colombian municipalities.
An evergreen slogan
“Education makes us free” was the slogan used to invite the peasants to participate in the radio movement and to practice independently. The success of Radio Sutatenza stemmed from the fact that teaching entered the homes of thousands of peasants, many of whom set up radio schools in their homes to welcome those approaching learning for the first time, to meet their neighbours, but also to listen to entertainment programmes. The travelling exhibition has been taken to different cities in Colombia for several years. Videos are available on YouTube and several images of the exhibition can be found on the website of Studio Machete, which designed the exhibition layout.
On 26 October 2021, one hundred days before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the first professional sports channel broadcast via satellite in 4K high and ultra-high definition began broadcasting. The Olympic Channel is the result of cooperation between China Central Radio and Television (CCTV) and the International Olympic Committee, and is the only channel authorised to use the Olympic name and logo with the five rings. CCTV16 will use the maximum transmission capacity to allow viewing: 5G + 4K and 8K + AI (upscaling with artificial intelligence) while the digital platform will be accessible from PCs, apps and the WeChat and Weibo multimedia platforms.
Czech public radio ‘Český Rozhlas‘ is stepping up its information campaign for listeners receiving mediumwave programmes, ahead of the planned switch-off of transmitters by the end of 2021. Since 1 November, more announcements have been broadcast to warn users and a call centre has been set up to explain the possible listening alternatives (from FM to DAB). In the run-up to Christmas, public radio will launch an intensive advertising campaign in the print media and online magazines on 22 November to promote the purchase of digital DAB receivers to replace analogue radio. The shift away from medium-wave has been underway since the 2000s, affecting countries that have an alternative FM network or are in the process of creating one in DAB. But AM (amplitude modulation) still remains a resource for countries with large territorial coverage that can reach the entire population with a few installations.
The proliferation of pirate radio stations is worrying the authorities and broadcasters, who are members of the Cirt (National Chamber of the Radio and Television Industry). Many of them are run by organised criminal groups, who use them to communicate with each other, or by religious sects, pressure organisations or to generate mobilisation. “It is estimated that there are at least 500,” said Carlos Ponce, director of the section in charge of verification at the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT). Sixty were seized in 2021, bringing to 350 (out of 657 checks carried out) the number of deactivations carried out in the last seven years (since the start of inspection activity). Sixty percent of illegal radio stations are concentrated in the ‘corridor’ that ideally runs from Guadalajara and Bajio to Oaxaca; the other 40 per cent in the north of the country.
Damage to the economy and to licensed radio stations
Illegal pirate radio stations take resources away from the community because they do not pay royalties to the state, they do not pay taxes, they do not create jobs, they do not invest in production. They use frequencies without having participated in public tenders, like the concessionaires, and they take away advertising from the licensed radio stations. They often use non-standard equipment that produces interference and can jeopardise services such as air navigation by jamming communications between the control tower and aircraft. Countering these stations is not easy, says Alejandro Navarrete, head of the IFT’s Radio Spectrum Unit, because they hide their antennas in imaginative and unpredictable ways: they can be in trees or on the empty pipes of a water tank. Moreover, it is not easy to deactivate them: the operators of illegal stations and even whole communities often object and inspectors have to be escorted by the authorities, whether federal, state or municipal security forces.
After the floods that devastated North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate in July 2021, the role of the media in emergencies is being discussed. With such large-scale disasters, which increasingly strike suddenly, in addition to an early warning system such as sirens, it’s necessary to manage the rescue effort and inform the population. Radio is the most reliable medium for these tasks because it has been shown that mobile phones and internet networks tend to overload quickly and break down in such emergencies. Georg Rose, editor-in-chief of Radio Wuppertal, which received an award for its work during the floods, talks in an interview with Radioszene about how broadcasters can support the civil protection network, for example by being equipped with generators to keep the signal on the air and the editorial staff active for the crucial first 24 hours.
RadioSzene, a website for radio producers, published several articles on the role of the media during the flood emergency and possible countermeasures. Among them is an interview with Michael Radomski, in which the managing director of the Uplink group (over-the-air connection services) suggests the use of VHF channels (radio, TV, Internet, alarm applications and SMS) because they have proved to be less prone to interference and interruptions. There is also talk of the task force set up by the management of the WDR(Westdeutscher Rundfunk, public radio and television in North Rhine-Westphalia), which is to develop a digital offering capable of operating in adverse weather conditions, reaching as many people as possible in dangerous situations.
To support the reconstruction, a temporary local radio station was even set up for the Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler area, which had no local station. Ahrtalradio, broadcasting on 107.9, was created with the support of 20 radio producers from all over Germany to boost the economy, trade, tourism, society and associations. Listeners can introduce themselves, make suggestions and offer jobs. Companies, restaurateurs and service providers affected by the flooding receive 60 free spots to inform customers about the resumption of business.
In the UK, frequency modulation will not be switched off, at least not for the next ten years, media minister Julia Lopez said a few days ago. Although it is estimated that analogue radio will only account for 12 to 14% of all radio listening in 2030, FM remains popular with many listeners, particularly the elderly or vulnerable, who drive older cars or live in areas with limited DAB coverage. The fate of mediumwave broadcasters is sealed: with 3% of all listeners, they will have to plan to switch off, to reduce the costs of a substantially duplicated network. There are currently more than 300 analogue stations operating in the UK and over 570 in DAB. Sixty percent of all listening comes from DAB or other digital platforms. Programme offerings are expanding as new franchises in DAB are giving many small local stations the opportunity to broadcast.
While at the end of 2020 the Uruguayan government had averted the closure of Radio Clarín, the historic broadcaster of tango, folklore and typical Uruguayan music, Radio Ciudad de Montevideo did not make it. The historic station (which has been on the air since 1930 on 1370 kHz on medium waves) was nicknamed ‘La 42‘ because of the identification code CX42 assigned to it (a code of letters and numbers, also known as “call sign”, inherited from the days of the telegraph, which in many countries of the American continent is attributed to authorised radio stations). Several burglaries to the transmission system brought the station to its knees, making the crisis irreversible. Programming ranged from tropical music to sports and summer theatre, and for 43 years the radio followed the Montevideo carnival.
The Central American country is one of the most dangerous in the world for journalists: an estimated 200 have been murdered in the last 30 years, not counting hundreds of attacks and intimidation. To defend them, and to prevent attacks on them and the media from going unpunished, thirteen Mexican media groups have formed an alliance. Its members are: El Universal, Proceso, Cámara Nacional de la Industria de la Radiodifusión (CIRT), Eje Central, El Heraldo, Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), La Silla Rota, Publimetro, El Dictamen, Politico Mx, Vanguardia Mx, El Economista y Debate. The association (Alianza de Medios Mx) not only defends, promotes and protects the rights of freedom of expression, but also offers support to file complaints on freedom of expression and requests assistance in case of attacks.
The Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (Tribunal Superior de Justicia – TSJ) annulled the dismissal of a sound technician of Cope (Cadena de Ondas Populares Españolas, owned by the Spanish Episcopal Conference), and ordered the company to reinstate him and pay his back wages. The employee had written a comment on Twitter about a Spanish satirical film where Jesus is portrayed as a homosexual. The court upheld the appeal because an employee is not obliged to share a company’s ideology or decalogue of good practices and cannot be expelled for this reason. Moreover, he was not a journalist, broadcasting news or opinions, but a sound recording assistant; his Twitter profile was personal and did not indicate that he was an employee of the Catholic radio station. Therefore, the followers of the post could not have damaged the company’s image, as they were unaware of who he worked for.
The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic (over 600,000 people have died in the South American country) has brought many broadcasters to their knees, and they have asked to reduce their transmission power in order to cut operating costs. So the Ministry of Communications has allowed radio and TV broadcasters to reduce their authorised watts by up to 30% for six months, at times when the audience is less busy. The president of the Brazilian Association of Broadcasters (Abert), Flávio Lara Resende, was satisfied and said ‘by accepting the sector’s request, the Mcom is showing itself sensitive to the moment of a financial crisis that the private sector is going through, driven by the coronavirus pandemic‘.