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.
Markus Weidner, an editor since 1999 of the telecommunications site teltarif.de, has published on his blog a report on the new car radios on display at the IAA Mobility in Munich, the fair that replaces the biennial Frankfurt Motor Show, overwhelmed (like the Geneva Motor Show) by the pandemic. According to Markus, after having integrated the car radio more and more into the car (making it difficult to replace with third-party products), car manufacturers are now limiting its functionality. In the most recent models, the receivers offer a list that integrates FM and DAB stations, updated in the background. The function is useful because it avoids searching and memorizing the station, which can be recalled (more and more often) with a voice command. Such an organized list is convenient for those who listen to the most powerful radio stations, but it limits the choice: if the signal is not strong enough or slightly interfered, or without RDS (in FM there are still some) it is completely ignored. Weidner suggests an expert mode that enables the old manual tuning in FM and DAB. Otherwise, this “rationalization”, prevents you from freely choosing the radio of your heart.
More details and photos of the new receivers can be found here and here.
The success of an aggregator is not synonymous with completeness and updating of data. After TuneIn, the leading radio streams platform, which has been blocking the inclusion of new stations for years (and even changes take months), similar problems are affecting Radio.net. Markus Weidner, the editor of Teltarif.de, a telephony website, has been criticising the German-based portal, describing it as “embarrassing” and providing documented examples. On his personal blog, Markus begins by saying that the web radio database has always been incomplete compared to competitors such as TuneIn Radio and Airable. And for almost three months now everything has been at a standstill: it is impossible to make corrections or add stations. Officially, the problem is justified by the fact that changes are being made to the database and users are asked to be patient. Yet the portal is one of the most popular and appreciated in Germany and has more than twenty sister sites for different countries and markets, so much so that Volkswagen has chosen it as a platform for listening to online radio for its own cars and those of the brands it owns (Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda).
Nils Schiffhauer, a German radio enthusiast, has carried out a census of clandestine broadcasters. Financed by governments to destabilise inconvenient regimes, they rent transmitters mainly in Europe, as shown on the map drawn by the author, and send their signals mostly to Africa and Asia. There is an explanation of who is financing each radio station and who the target listeners are, as well as a short recording of the beginning of the programmes. It goes from Radio Erena, produced by Eritrean journalists in exile in Paris who are fighting against the dictatorial regime in their country, to the many stations financed by the United States Congress which includes those transmitting to Cuba, Iran and North Korea (which receives transmissions from seven clandestine stations). The article can be seen here.