ITALY: DIGITAL FREQUENCIES PLANNED

The map produced by Agcom divides the Italian peninsula into various interference zones: in each one, international coordination with neighbouring countries exposed to possible interference is required
The map produced by Agcom divides the Italian peninsula into various interference zones: in each one, international coordination with neighbouring countries exposed to possible interference is required
Source

After years of waiting, the long-awaited planning of the DAB band by Agcom has arrived. The regulator waited for the channels in band III to become free with the switchover to DVB T2 and released the plan at the end of July 2022. There was no shortage of controversy, fuelled by rumours of the switch-off of hundreds of FM frequencies on the Adriatic coast due to interference caused to broadcasters in Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. A problem due to technical reasons (installations in the mountains point towards centres on the coast), to the high powers used (Italy’s historical problem) but above all to tropospheric propagation. This is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs mainly in summer, when the lower layers of the atmosphere, compressed by high pressure, become denser and reflect radio waves.

Did they just try it?

The specialised magazine Newslinet has dedicated several reports in recent months to the digital radio plan, interviewing associations and editors of national networks
The specialised magazine Newslinet has dedicated several reports in recent months to the digital radio plan, interviewing associations and editors of national networks
Source

The specialised periodical Newslinet reported in July 2022 that there was a plan to shut down hundreds of channels on the Adriatic coast because they were disturbing foreign radio stations. It is a problem that has been known about for decades and is due to the fact that since 1990, after the freezing of the airwaves brought about by the “Legge Mammì“, no planning has ever been done for the FM band in Italy. And the interference situations, not well managed by Italy also due to the absence (lamented by the associations) of the Italian delegation at the European planning table, now leave very narrow margins for manoeuvre. Hence the attempt to induce broadcasters to exchange DAB-FM or to scrap it in order to fall within the parameters of the Geneva regulations.

Associations on different levels

Lawyer Marco Rossignoli, president of Aeranti-Corallo, an organisation that has united the two associations since 2001, of which Corallo represents Catholic broadcasters
Source

The position of the associations varied. Among them, Aeranti Corallo, which has always pushed to accelerate planning, continues to be critical, reiterating that the frequencies are not sufficient to allow the transition from FM to digital. On the other hand, Confindustria Radio Televisioni applauds the planning: will it be because the networks it represents already have one or more channels in the DAB band? But what does the plan say? It confirms the three existing national networks (Rai, DAB Italia and EuroDab, for a total of about 50 channels) and envisages 54 local ones with regional coverage, of which 27 can be broken down into sub-basins, and another 36 in the local area to cover one or more provinces. Beyond the technical data, in some provinces there could be space for six multiplex (for a total of about 120 channels), but not in the southern Adriatic regions, due to interference problems.

FRANCE: THE GOLDEN YEARS OF LOCAL RADIO IN RENNES

The 30x30 cm book cover is a tribute to the vinyl record covers that marked the era of free radio
The 30×30 cm book cover is a tribute to the vinyl record covers that marked the era of free radio
Source: photo courtesy of the author, Yvon Lechevestrier

Forty years ago, the French state broke the monopoly in the FM band, authorising the emergence of private associative broadcasters. At that time, the FM band was populated by a few channels: the public ones of Radio France and a few private ones, such as Europe 1 and RTL. From 9 November 1981, the phenomenon exploded, immediately making radio a popular medium: within a year, there were two thousand free radio stations. The next step came in 1984 when advertising was authorised, and radio stations could choose between two organisational formulas: remaining an associative broadcaster, relying on state subsidies, or standing on their own two feet, becoming a commercial station living off the revenue from commercials.

The epic told in a book

Summer 1981: at the Hédé festival Pierre Giboire, founder of Fréquence Ille, interviews Edmond Hervé, mayor of Rennes
Summer 1981: at the Hédé festival Pierre Giboire, founder of Fréquence Ille, interviews Edmond Hervé, mayor of Rennes. The microphone and vintage cassette recorder can be seen in the foreground
Source: photo courtesy of the author, Yvon Lechevestrier

In Rennes, there were two pioneers: Gaby Aubert, a butcher’s boy turned bistro owner, who launched Radio Rennes, which is still in operation today, and Pierre Giboire, a 23-year-old student who created Fréquence Ille on 14 July 1981: it was an immediate success, quickly becoming one of the radio stations that symbolised the liberalisation of the airwaves. Not much time passed and in the Breton capital, other stations followed the path opened by the pioneers: Rennes FM, Radio Congas, and Radio Vilaine. They are mainly music stations, each distinguished by its own style. It is of this creative period that ‘Il est libre Max‘ (in homage to the name of the first song broadcast by Fréquence Ille), a book written by Yvon Lechevestrier, a former journalist for the French daily Ouest-France, is about. With testimonies and period illustrations, it brings the fabulous 1980s back to life.

Standardisation arrives in the 1990s

The book’s layout is elegant: on each double page the space on the left is reserved for photos from different periods of time
Source: photo courtesy of the author, Yvon Lechevestrier

The golden age of local radio continued until the end of the decade, interspersed with episodes from the city’s history. But after the initial enthusiasm, business began to take hold: the most important commercial radio stations, such as NRJ, grew and became national networks. In the 1990s, with the first economic difficulties, most of the pioneers threw in the towel and many stations were absorbed by the networks. The FM band is still very musical, but also, often, very commercial.

Forty years later, the radio scene is still vibrant: at the end of 2020, according to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), there were 1,021 private operators and more than 6,000 frequencies. The book, published by AR Editions Collection, costs EUR 29 and can be ordered from arcollectioneditions@gmail.com or directly from the author at ylechevest@gmail.com.

BOOKS: THE RADIO BIBLE ALSO IN AN APP

THE RADIO BIBLE ALSO IN AN APP
The 2022 edition has over 600 pages. It presents, divided by country, the broadcasters operating in Short and Medium Wave with programme schedules; in FM and DAB, the main frequencies and power are mentioned. There is also a TV section
Source

After seven decades of publication, the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) will also be available as a web app. Listening enthusiasts from all over the world can rejoice: the “Directory of Global Broadcasting” will also be available on mobile phones. By consulting it, one can find out, for example, which stations are broadcasting from the Amazon region and which programmes are available in Korea, the Maldives or Switzerland. Whether remote reception on shortwave, international services for foreign countries, political propaganda broadcasts for crisis areas or commercial stations on FM and DAB+ digital radio, the WRTH contains all the details in a clear form.

New management

Dense with information, the WRTH has a strict, all-black-and-white layout
Dense with information, the WRTH has a strict, all-black-and-white layout
Source

The first edition of the yearbook was published in Denmark in 1947 and WRTH Publications Limited managed it until 2022, when it transferred the rights to Radio Data Center GmbH (RDC), based in Freising, Germany. “The yearbook is an indispensable reference work for radio listeners and everyone who moves professionally in the world of radio” said Günter Lorenz, Managing Director of Radio Data Center GmbH. Who added “we are very pleased to publish the 77th edition in December 2022 simultaneously as a book and as a web app”.

About Radio Data Centre

On the Radio Data Center website, it can be seen that there are 260,275 active channels (AM, FM, DAB, HD, TV) and 79,861 radio stations worldwide
On the Radio Data Center website, it can be seen that there are 260,275 active channels (AM, FM, DAB, HD, TV) and 79,861 radio stations worldwide, of which 65279 have an audio streaming channel
Source

From synergy, more information for professionals

The planisphere shows where Medium Wave, Short Wave, FM and DAB transmission facilities are located. To produce it, the coordinates of the installations entered on FMLIST were imported into GoogleEarth
The planisphere shows where FM broadcasting facilities are located. Coordinates from FMLIST were used to make it
Source

The WRTH is an indispensable reference for orientation in radio listening. Initially, the book addressed DXers with an interest in shortwave and the “tropical bands”, as well as medium wave. The FM band, as used by the national / public broadcasters, was also covered, but not completely: the liberalisation of the airwaves, which began in Italy in 1975 and spread throughout Europe, saw the emergence of thousands of stations in just a few years, making it impossible to publish their tens of thousands of frequencies in WRTH. For reasons of space, WRTH was often limited to the major networks (12233 stations are active in the Old Continent alone, of which 8786 are commercial). Full data can be found on FMLIST (founded in 1986 by Günter Lorenz), which under the management of Radio Data Center has strengthened the worldwide team of contributors, expanding the database to a professional level, e.g by producing an identikit for each radio station. Future editions for WRTH will make comprehensive use of data from FMLIST. This synergy will make the WRTH also more attractive to professionals interested in a global directory including FM and all variants of digital broadcast (DRM, DAB, HD Radio).

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: RADIOS PERSECUTED BY GOVERNMENT AND REBELS

The article with the details and background of the arrest of the editor-in-chief of Radio Muungano appeared on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent organisation based in New York
The article with the details and background of the arrest of the editor-in-chief of Radio Muungano appeared on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent organisation based in New York
Source

Life is hard for free voices in the Central African country, targeted by the government and rebels, who intimidate journalists reporting on the ongoing conflict in the east of the country. On 12 August 2022, the Congolese authorities arrested and interrogated for several hours Dimanche Kamate, editor-in-chief of Radio Muungano, which broadcasts on 95.1 MHz from Oicha, a town built around a missionary hospital that opened in 1935. The issue was broadcast on 7 August 2022, hosted by a local social defence group, in which the UN report on the ongoing mission (known as Monusco) and the Rwandan government’s support for the M23 rebel group were discussed. According to the military administrator of the area who ordered the arrest, the programme violated the state of siege, in force in North Kivu province, as there are limits to freedom of expression.

Torture and murder

The condolence message published by the broadcaster on the website
Source

Just over a month ago, on 17 July 2022, Michel Hangi, technician and speaker of a community radio station, was shot dead at around 7pm (night in the southern hemisphere). He had just left the studios of Soleil Levant, a station broadcasting on 94.3 MHz from Kiziba 2, a village on the outskirts of Goma, in Nyiragongo territory (also in North Kivu). He had just finished his programme, which he ran in addition to his job as a technician, and which involved the involvement of listeners: for the moment his murder is unsolved. While fearing for his safety, a journalist from La Voix de Mikeno, a community radio station broadcasting from Bunagana on 97.7 MHz, was captured and tortured on 5 July by M23 rebels.

Studios destroyed and staff in exile

Director André Byamungu, reached in his shelter by Congo Buzz TV staff, said that the transmitter, mixer and microphones were stolen and the studio and sound insulation on the walls damaged
Director André Byamungu, reached in his shelter by Congo Buzz TV staff, said that the transmitter, mixer and microphones were stolen and the studio and sound insulation on the walls damaged
Source

The station was vandalised on 13 June, as soon as the paramilitary group M23 took control of the town (the most important near the border with Rwanda). The staff (who fled to Uganda and other river towns in Bunagana) only managed to save two portable recorders. The military formation controls the Bunagana area near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda (North Kivu) accusing the press of passing on information about the group’s positions and hideouts to the government. Eastern Congo, which borders Rwanda, lives under threat from dozens of armed groups vying for the mineral wealth of the region: gold, diamonds and coltan, a mixture of minerals from which tantalum, used in the electronics and semiconductor industry, electric cars, laptops and mobile phones, is extracted, as explained in various articles by the Voice of America, Radio Maria and the Ispi Centre for International Political Studies.

LITHUANIA: MEDIUM WAVES UPGRADED TO COUNTER RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION

The Sitkūnai site, which had stopped most of its broadcasts some ten years ago, resumed in early August at the request of the Dutch-registered radio station Radio Pravda
The Sitkūnai site, which had stopped most of its broadcasts some ten years ago, resumed in early August 2022 at the request of the Dutch-registered radio station Radio Pravda
Source

After years of inactivity, the Sitkūnai transmitter site is back in operation. Inaugurated in the 1950s, at the beginning of the Cold War, it had a strategic location due to its proximity to the borders of the Iron Curtain: signals heading west would have travelled a shorter distance. Today, however, by a counterpoise of history, the signal goes in the opposite direction, to counter Russian disinformation. The programmes of ‘Radio Pravda‘ are in fact aimed at Russian speakers in Europe and Asia. They are broadcast between 8pm and midnight on 1557 kHz, with a power of 50 kW, which is well heard in Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia. The signal, however, goes beyond the Urals, reaching Siberia, Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

An inconvenient truth

A history of the transmitter can be found on the Dutch Radiovisie website: It was installed in Trintelhaven, the Netherlands, where Big L used it on 1395 kHz (from 2002 and 2003) and then on 1008 kHz
Source

Financed by private donations, Radio Pravda (Russian for ‘Truth’) is based in the Netherlands, where programmes are supervised by the Dutch Media Authority. The transmitter relocated this summer to Sitkūnai, it uses a new antenna, which has been recalculated to transfer the full power of the equipment into the ether. Telecentres (Lithuanian Broadcasting Centre, the state-owned operator of the main radio and TV broadcasting networks in Lithuania) has rebuilt and upgraded part of the infrastructure of the broadcasting centre, which had been disused for some time.

There are ‘two truths’

A Radio Prawda Dija Rossii speaker filmed during the recording of a programme
A Radio Prawda Dija Rossii speaker filmed during the recording of a programme
Source

Radio Pravda is not to be confused with Radio Prawda Dija Rossii (Radio Truth for Russia), a project of Russian and Ukrainian journalists based in Poland, which has been broadcasting on 9670 kHz from the Austrian antennae in Moosbrunn since April 2022. Dutch Radio Pravda, also known as ‘Nasha Lenta‘ (our band), will change its name to Radio Lenta, precisely to distinguish itself from the Polish station.

ITALY: RAI TURNS OFF THE MEDIUM WAVES

RAI TURNS OFF THE MEDIUM WAVES
The abatement of the medium-wave antenna in Pescara San Silvestro took place on July 7, 2022, 50 years after its installation. A video is available on the Facebook page of “We who listen to the medium waves”
Source

Perhaps the officials who decided on the shutdown could have given a less symbolic date, but the public broadcaster’s website speaks clearly: as of September 11, 2022, medium waves will no longer be usable. In the country that invented radio, the last medium-wave broadcast towers will soon fall, without even waiting for the centennial: the first “circular” broadcast by URI (which became EIAR and finally RAI), dates back to October 1924. The news had been circulating since September 2021, when it was learned that the new service contract, the agreement RAI has with the state to guarantee public service, specified that decommissioning would take place within a year. This is the culmination of two decades of cuts: on May 15, 2004, the medium waves of Radio2 and Radio3 had been shut down and merged into the unified Radio 1 network.  Then more cuts continued in 2013 and 2014. There were few facilities left. And in September there will be a denouement. Will Guglielmo Marconi turn in his grave?

SPAIN: TURNING OFF FM AND MW TO SAVE ELECTRICITY?

Citing the examples of Switzerland and Norway, the Compromís party has asked the Pedro Sanchez government to consider switching to digital broadcasting by abandoning frequency modulation
Citing the examples of Switzerland and Norway, the Compromís party has asked the Pedro Sanchez government to consider switching to digital broadcasting by abandoning frequency modulation
Source

To cope with a possible energy crisis, Compromís, a political party in the Valencia region, has asked the government to consider among emergency measures whether to change the broadcasting technology for radio stations. Switching to DAB, as Norway did in 2017 and Switzerland plannes to do at the end of 2024, could reduce electricity consumption by up to 90 %, according to Carles Mulet, the party’s spokesman in the Senate. But first Mulet proposes rationalizing the medium waves by employing the savings in the implementation of a DAB network and finally turning off FM. He then cites the costs declared by Radio Nacional de España after the parliamentary question submitted by the party in March 2022: between maintenance and expenses at transmitters in 2021 the medium waves absorbed 6,823,026 euros, and 6,287,503 euros were spent for the FM network.

BETWEEN SAYING AND DOING

Research by OFCOM (Swiss Federal Office of Communications) shows that in the last quarter of 2021, three out of four people listened to radio digitally while FM continues to lose importance
Source

Shutting down a band takes years of planning (while the energy crisis could occur in a few months, with the arrival of winter) and if the transition is not well managed it can cause ratings to plummet. As was the case in Norway, where it was public radio that decided to switch to DAB (also not to renew an outdated and expensive ground network: commercial and community broadcasters are still active) and the loss of audience five years later has still not been fully recovered. Switzerland, on the other hand, is a small country that between public and private radio does not reach 200 stations but has been preparing for the switch-off for years, with advertising campaigns in favour of digital radio so much so that now only 14 out of 100 people listen only to FM. In Spain, on the other hand, there are 163 medium wave transmitters (of which 103 are public and 60 commercial) and approx. 2,500 radio stations with over 6,000 transmitters on FM, of which it is estimated that at least a thousand are unlicensed, and only a few experimental DAB radio stations in Barcelona, Madrid and in a few cities (as well as a few unlicensed private muxes).

SPAIN: NEW MEDIUM-WAVE CUTS

Radio Jaén, Cadena Ser's radio station broadcasting on 1026 kHz and FM on 100.0 MHz
Are the large transmission towers that broadcast medium-wave signals destined to be torn down? In the photo Radio Jaén, Cadena Ser’s radio station broadcasting on 1026 kHz and FM on 100.0 MHz
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Many Spanish broadcasters in recent years have abandoned amplitude modulation, a ‘duplication’ of FM that has become increasingly expensive. Until a few years ago they were local stations, with powers ranging from 1 to 5 kW (as explained in this article from 2015, which took stock of many closures). This year, energy prices skyrocketing due to the effect of the conflict in Ukraine, the ones throwing in the towel are heavyweight broadcasters that had resisted until now thanks to their regional catchment area.

If you try to listen to Radio Sevilla from the Cope website, you can see that the 837 kHz medium-wave frequency is still indicated as being switched off in June 2022
Source

In June, four important Cope stations bade farewell: Barcelona (783 kHz), Seville (837 kHz), Valladolid (882 kHz) and Pamplona (1135 kHz).

Public radio saves

Radio Nacional de Espana broadcasts two medium-wave channels: Radio 1 and RNE5, all news broadcaster
Radio Nacional de Espana broadcasts two medium-wave channels: Radio 1 and RNE5, all news broadcaster
Source

Radio Nacional de España chose instead to reduce the power of six broadcasting centres from 300 to 100-150 kW, which becomes 75 at night. These are: Madrid (585 kHz), Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands (621 kHz), A Coruña (639 kHz), Sevilla (684 kHz), Barcelona (738 kHz) and Murcia (855 kHz). Quite a downsizing for the Spanish airwaves, which represented a conspicuous anomaly in the European radio scene, as it was the only nation with more than two hundred transmitters. Today, however, there are 163 transmitters, and public radio prevails with 104 transmitters from RNE and RNE5, against the 60 commercial ones from Ser and Cope.

Ser is not far behind

The oldest and most popular network in the country, it has a generalist programming style. It has hundreds of radio affiliates, each of which also airs local news, in-depth and sports programmes
The oldest and most popular network in the country, it has a generalist programming style. It has hundreds of radio affiliates, each of which also airs local news, in-depth and sports programmes
Source

The radio group with the largest audience, Cadena Ser, is also reducing power and switching off: in June 2022, the signals of Radio Córdoba and Radio Mallorca disappeared from the airwaves. But the operation is being carried out without much fanfare. Sometimes the stations on the airwaves lack an authorised FM frequency, and the radio groups reuse the channels of other radio stations in the group (Cadena Dial, Los 40, Cadena 100 or Rock FM). This has already been done by Cope Ciudad Real and Cope Puertollano who, after broadcasting for years without a licence, have taken over the frequencies of Cadena 100.

ITALY: WILL THE FOOTBALL CLUBS OF SERIE A OPEN A NATIONAL RADIO?

Will football clubs become radio publishers? This was revealed by the business daily Milano Finanza. In the photo, Lorenzo Casini, president of the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A
Source

The relative ease (budget permitting) of opening a national digital broadcaster in Italy is leading to the emergence of several stations. Thus, after Aci Radio, of the Automobile Club d’Italia, the Roman Radio Cusano Campus Italia, the Venetian Canale Italia and Canale Italia+, all hosted on the RAI-Radiotelevisione Italiana multiplex, now a football radio station could arrive. The possibility of communicating without filters with the more than 20 million Italian fans, in fact, tickles Serie A, the association of football clubs, as revealed by the business daily Milano Finanza. For the production of the programmes, contacts have reportedly been initiated with RTL 102.5 and RDS, while the broadcasting on DAB could be entrusted to RTL 102.5 (which has a national multiplex where it already carries the BBC World Service) or to RAI, even if the coverage by the public broadcaster is less capillary. Also to be understood is the content of the programmes since RAI has exclusive rights for Serie A radio broadcasts until 2024. The investment, estimated at between 4 and 5 million euros, would be recovered through advertising, given the very favourable market trend and the appeal the broadcaster would have.

FRANCE: MACRON WANTS TO ABOLISH THE RADIO AND TELEVISION LICENCE FEE, BUT PUBLIC BROADCASTING WORKERS RIOT

MACRON WANTS TO ABOLISH THE RADIO AND TELEVISION LICENCE FEE, BUT PUBLIC BROADCASTING WORKERS RIOT
The article in the newspaper Le Figaro analyses the situation and the workers’ counterproposals on the measure, which is expected to be included in the package of anti-inflationary measures to be presented to the council of ministers on 6 July 2022
Source

The abolition of the radio and television licence fee does not please the workers of the public broadcasters, who went on strike on 26 June. A populist measure designed to ease the burden of inflation on French households, the abolition of the licence fee was one of President Emmanuel Macron’s battle horses in his campaign for the 2022 legislative elections. But workers fear that the more than three billion euro hole that will be created will take away the independence of public broadcasters, and argue that compensatory funds cannot be decided by the government, nor face the pitfalls of the annual finance law. In France, the fee amounts to 138 euros per year (88 for residents abroad) and is only payable by households that own a TV set: those who watch programmes from smartphones, PCs, TVs and tablets pay nothing. The radio networks (France Inter, France Culture, France Musique, France Bleu, FIP), the television stations and France Media Monde (France 24, RFI and MCD) are affected.

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