RUSSIA: The market is not mature enough for DAB radio

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Produced by the Academy of the media industry, a report of 150 pages was drawn up by a team of academics from various universities and research centres
Produced by the Academy of the media industry, a report of 150 pages was drawn up by a team of academics from various universities and research centres
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The annual report on the information industry in Russia covers many aspects of the media. Among these, we have focussed our attention on the move to digital TV, FM band migration and the increase in numbers of transmitters, and digital radio coming to a stop.

Analogue TV is dead! (but still operating alongside digital)

The television broadcasting network has 5,040 transmitters broadcasting 20 TV channels and three radio stations (Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM) covering 98.4% of the country.
The television broadcasting network has 5,040 transmitters broadcasting 20 TV channels and three radio stations (Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM) covering 98.4% of the country.
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The switchover to digital was completed in 2019. It was proudly announced that the transition took ten years, which was faster than the United States (11 years), Australia (12) and Great Britain (14). In addition, with 98.4% of the population being able to tune in, Russia beats France (97.3%), Austria (96.0%), Switzerland (*) (95.0%) and Portugal (92.7%). However analogue TV is not totally dead. The national channels have been switched off, but the regional channels are still operating. And there are quite a few of them. Our FMLIST correspondent in the Republic of Karelia (east of Finland) confirmed that there are a good five of them in the city where he lives.

(*) Switzerland has switched off terrestrial TV via DVB-T in summer 2019

Radio stations move to FM

In order to listen to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in big cities, new transmitters will be switched on and the present number of 1,167 will be increased to 2,000 by 2021. 572 have already been ordered

In order to listen to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in big cities, new transmitters will be switched on and the present number of 1,167 will be increased to 2,000 by 2021. 572 have already been ordered
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The state radio network will be moving from broadcasting on the OIRT band (between 65.8 and 74 MHz) to the European FM band  (87.5-108 MHz), where the commercial radio stations are already present. New licences will be granted to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in order to allow them to broadcast in all cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. In order to manage the increase in number of channels, they are studying isofrequency networks used abroad in countries like Moldavia, where the radio station Inter-FM can be received with traffic information along the motorway. A solution based on a lot of low power transmitters would also not infringe health regulations that limit the use of high power transmitters.

‘The market is not ready’ for DAB

Digital radio is widespread in many European countries. From 2020 a European law has made it mandatory for automakers to equip all new cars with DAB radios
Digital radio is widespread in many European countries. From 2020 a European law has made it mandatory for automakers to equip all new cars with DAB radios
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The development of digital radio in Europe is analysed in the report. But this ‘revolution’ will not be happening in Russia. Even though frequencies for DAB+ transmissions have been allocated, this does not mean that they will be activated. The Ministry of Communications believes that the advertising market is not mature enough yet to justify the increase in the numbers of radio stations that can use updated technology.

St. Petersburg is experimenting with DRM+

Digital broadcasting on 95.7 MHz FM enables more than one channel to use the same bandwidth as analogue radio and does not interfere with radio stations in the vicinity
Digital broadcasting on 95.7 MHz FM enables more than one channel to use the same bandwidth as analogue radio and does not interfere with radio stations in the vicinity
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

Therefore the aim is to develop broadcasting systems such as DRM+ that allow a radio station to also transmit digital channels on the same FM frequency, leaving listeners free to equip themselves to receive transmissions in high quality sound, but not being obliged to replace their radio with a new one (estimated cost of about $10 US). In July 2019 Comedy Radio carried out tests in St. Petersburg by digitally broadcasting three channels on 95.7 MHz FM. The first one was a repeat of their analogue channel with a bitrate of 33 kbps, the other two were Avtoradio (43 kbps) and Evropa Plus (20 kbps).

RUSSIA: Radio stations say no to reducing power

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According to the ministry, a radio station could cut costs by 25% if they reduce power and turn off transmitters at night
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Due to the Covid-19 crisis the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation offered radio and television broadcasters the opportunity to reduce the power of their transmitters and to turn them off at night (from 24.00 to 6.00) in order to save energy. This measure is in place from 24th April to 31st December, 2020. However, very few radio stations have taken this up. They are afraid that reducing power and coverage area could cause a drop in the numbers of listeners and commercials. Advertising is already going very badly. Advertising spots have dropped by 70% and 80% in many areas of the country and the ministry believes that broadcasters’ budgets will be more than halved this year (their revenues will be down by about 8 billion rubles)

Subsidies and cuts to rent and royalties

This article on the website, RadioPortal, goes into depth on the subject and includes statements from radio editors from some large media holdings
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In order to compensate for financial losses, radio stations are asking for funding as well as a lowering of RTRS fees (Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network, the company that manages transmitters), which are considered two or three times higher than those of private companies. They would also appreciate a respite with a lowering of royalties for music rights. The Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation, Alexey Volin, declared that their request for subsidies was unrealistic and stated that the measures currently in place were sufficient. However, he was more open on the subject of lowering royalties which he declared was a more reasonable request.

It’s curtains for Radio Comintern

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They did not make it to blowing out their 87 birthday candles. The transmission towers (215 metres high), also known as Radio Comintern located in the transmitting centre in Moscow, were packed with dynamite and demolished.  Inaugurated on May 1st, 1933, it was the world’s most powerful (500kW) radio station in a period when radio was the only means of propaganda. After broadcasting for seventy years, it was closed in 2003 and became an attraction because the dilapidated towers were being climbed, even by free climbers. An article on Mediaradio.info recounts its history with images of the site.
Radio Comintern was named after the Third International, an organisation that advocated World Communism.

media radio info, russia, Moscow, radio comintern
Article on Mediaradio.info about Radio Cominterns history
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