This is one of the many stories of small local stations being overwhelmed by the signal of a more powerful station. In FM, such situations occur when the airwaves are not regulated, but it is surprising if both stations are authorised by the regulator. It is happening in Greater Buenos Aires, the metropolitan area with almost 15 million inhabitants, comprising 15 municipalities and 48 districts.
Since September 2020 FM Reconquista, a community station operating on 89.5 MHz in José León Suárez (7 km from the urban area) has been “covered” by Mucha Radio‘s signal. The distance between the two antennas is less than 14 km, but the difference in power is enormous: the community station, on the air since 1988, transmits with 1 kW, the commercial one with 40 kW. Yet both were authorised by Enacom(Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones), which regulates telecommunications in Argentina.
As long as Arpeggio FM (a classical music station, now closed) was on 89.5 MHz, there were no problems: its antenna was in a historic 18-storey skyscraper located at 651 Uruguay Street, 21 km from José León Suárez (7 km further than Mucha Radio’s), and according to FM Reconquista the station used a power of 5 or 6 kW (compared to the 20 kW authorised). This was explained by Margarita Palacio from the organisation that manages the station, in a lengthy interview that appeared on the website of Radio Gráfica, another station in the capital that broadcasts on a nearby channel, 89.3 MHz.
The repression of President Nicolás Maduro’s regime has claimed another victim: Selecta FM, which operated on 102.7 MHz from Machiques, in the state of Zulia, in the northwest of the South American country. It was deactivated by Conatel (Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones) officials, who seized the equipment on the evening of Friday, 5 March 2021. This was reported by the SNTP (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa), which wrote on Twitter that the station had already been intimidated on 26 February, when its premises were attacked during an interview with an opposition leader. More details in the Swissinfo.ch article.
After the 2019 coup, the “radios de los pueblos originales” (RPOs) had almost been silenced: intimidation, fires, and theft of equipment had reduced their number drastically. The green light for the raids had been given by the then Minister of Communications, Roxana Lizárraga, who accused the RPOs of being “seditious voices” and called for them to be stripped of their equipment; journalists had also been persecuted. But after the elections and the formation of the new government, the situation has changed: Gabriela Alcón, deputy minister of Communication, reiterated that the government will rebuild the national system of Radios de los Pueblos Originales (RPOs) to give back a voice to the country’s rural and indigenous communities. She added that “from more than 100 RPOs, only 16 are left, and only two are functioning properly”. But this is going to change.
More details in the article published by GRA-Gruppo Radioescucha Argentino.
It would have switched off its transmitter on 31 December 2020, abandoning 580 kHz on medium waves. But the station made famous by its music programming focusing on tango, folklore and typical Uruguayan music continues to transmit. The decision by the owners, who wanted to continue on the web, was overruled by Pablo da Silveira, Minister of Education and Culture, who announced that the government would intervene to temporarily run the station to allow negotiations to take place with potential buyers, who have already come forward. Clarín broadcasts daily about 100 songs by Carlos Gardel, one of the most important interpreters of River Plate and Latin American song. The repertoire is limited to 488 recordings of the highest technical quality so that the same song can be heard every five days.
Eleven years after the last authorizations, new medium wave (AM) and FM radio stations will be opened in the South American country. The intention, for the Minister of Telecommunications Karen Cecilia Abudinen Abuchaibe, is to “strengthen this means of communication, recognizing it as a tool that consolidates the spread of regional culture, social responsibility and facilitates the development of the regions”. The project is divided into several phases: after the submission of the application, expected by September 17, 2020, the availability of the channels will be verified and the project can be submitted. Then the assignment and the feasibility statement will follow. Details will be added to FMLIST and MWLIST as soon as the information becomes available.
Colombia had almost been destroyed by over fifty years of armed conflict between guerrillas, private armies fighting for the drug cartels and the army. After 2016, when a Peace Accord was signed in Havana by the government and the largest guerrilla movement, a process of reconciliation was initiated. Part of this process included opening 20 radio stations in order to teach the pedagogy of peace.The first station was opened on June 25th, 2019, in Chaparral (in the department of Tolima) broadcasting on 103.5 MHz FM, followed by the second on July 2nd, 2019, in Ituango (Antioquia) on 92.3 MHz FM. They are equipping another three in San Jacinto (Bolivar), Fonseca (La Guajira) and Convención (Norte de Santander). They have recently decided where another six radio stations, all with 5 kW power output, will be located: Algeciras (Huila), Puerto Leguízamo (Putumayo), Bojayá (Chocó), Florida (Valle), Arauquita (Arauca) and El Tambo (Cauca). In this way the number of radio stations goes up to eleven out of the 20 planned until 2026.
Each radio station team is made up of six professionals who have been carefully selected and taken on by RTVC Public Media System. They have been trained to face the challenge of explaining the implementation of the Agreement (for example, explaining the conversion of large areas of the country from coca cultivation to that of cacao). The radio programmes are also checked by a committee made up of government bodies (such as the Ministry of Stabilization and the Office of the High Commissioner of Peace) and FARC delegates. FARC today is a political party.
Three strong points
The extensive and varied programming combines objective information and entertainment. The aim is to build a relationship between public radio stations and historically isolated communities that have suffered violence and poverty. It is a means to open a new window for dialogue and to promote peaceful coexistence. The radio programming content includes a block of time for information, another for building social networks and yet another for discussions with experts, whose aims are to explain new perspectives without sparking off heated debates.
Transmitting without a license is a criminal offence but the desire to start one’s own radio station drives people to break the law in every country. This time we talk about Peru and Italy
PERU: 20,000 enforcement actions to catch a thousand illegal broadcasters
About 5,000 licensed radio stations and 1,000 illegal broadcasters operate in the Andean country. The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) is very active. In 2020 the ministry has planned 20,000 enforcement actions. They closed down 14 radio stations in the region of Lima in January 2020 and in 2019 they confiscated 1,072 pieces of transmission equipment and closed 200 stations. The fine for those who get caught is 200,000 Peruvian soles (about US$ 58,000).
ITALY: One of Radio Maria’s antennas was illegal
A repeater transmitting on 105.5 MHz, operated by Radio Maria in the province of Salerno, was closed down on June 13th, 2020. After receiving a number of reports from local citizens, the carabinieri in Amalfi confirmed that the radio antenna, that had been installed years ago in the courtyard of a privately owned building in Via dei Naviganti in Conca dei Marini, a municipality on the Amalfi coast, did not have a license. The Regional Environmental Protection Agency (Arpac) in Campania also established (after multiple inspections) that the electromagnetic emissions exceeded the limits allowed by the law. As a result the radio station was subject to criminal seizure. The broadcaster’s lawyers opposed the shutdown but the appeal at the Court of Appeal in Salerno was rejected.
Record number of criminal charges for a pirate in Palermo
The phenomenon of illegal radio stations is limited on the peninsula because they not only face fines, but also criminal charges. On June 11th, 2020, the carabinieri assisted by officials of the Ministry of Economic Development (the body that carries out enforcement actions) deactivated a radio station that modulated on 97.4 MHz. The owner was charged on three counts: The first for violation of the electronics communication code (the transmitter was not licensed): the second for damage (it interfered with the frequency of a licensed radio station) by broadcasting from a residential building on a hill. In fact, it interfered with RMC – Radio Monte Carlo transmitting on 97.6 MHz from Via Barone Manfredi 8, in Monreale. However, what really takes the biscuit is that the whole building (where the owner had set up studios and put an antenna on the roof) was illegally connected to the city’s electricity grid. In this way, the 44-year-old man was charged with the third count of theft of electrical energy.
In another city on Sicily, a radio station, that only broadcast music without commentary, appeared in Syracuse in April 2020. It modulated on 88.6 MHz and later moved to 93.8 MHz. We have recently been informed that it has now been shut down.
Another closedown one week later
After the enforcement action in Ciaculli, investigations were continued in the province of Palermo. These led to the deactivation of another unlicensed radio station a week later, this time in Pioppo, a part of the municipality of Monreale. The transmitter operated in the same way as a licensed commercial radio by not only broadcasting music but also commercials. It caused interference with the frequencies of two national networks: RMC Radio Monte Carlo and R101.
Radio Ondas Azuayas, the historical Ecuadorian radio station with headquarters in Cuenca, permanently closed down broadcasting on June 7th, 2020, after being on air for 72 years. They used to transmit on medium wave on 1110 kHz AM from Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca, the third most populated city in the country and capital of the province of Azuay. Broadcasting started on April 12th, 1948. After lengthy discussions on whether to continue transmitting, the director Fausto Cardoso, in an editorial broadcast, confirmed their decision to close after a last transmission saying goodbye. The radio station was already in a financial crisis due to continuous sanctions imposed on them by Supercom (Superintendencia de Comunicacion) with the purpose of persecution. This control and censorship body against the media was created by the ex-president, Rafael Correa. It was closed in July 2019, thus cancelling the sanctions (more information can be found in this article in the Quito daily newspaper El Comercio). However, by that time it was too late and the economic crisis caused by the pandemic brought the radio station to its knees. Details can be found here.
President Nicolas Maduro’s regime holds broadcasters in check by imposing sanctions or closures. Hence journalists are self-censoring to avoid trouble. The radio stations are kept a check on by Conatel (Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones), the Venezuelan telecommunications regulator, which is very quick to revoke broadcast licenses of ‘rogue’ radio stations. They closed over 60 broadcasters in 2018. The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Prensa has reported that another 27 radio stations have suffered loss of equipment due to theft.
Rumbera has relocated to the Internet
The latest broadcaster to end up in the sights of the inspectors is a radio station of Rumbera Network (one of 21 stations) that transmitted on 106.9 FM from Los Valles del Tuy, in the state of Miranda. In February 2020 their antenna was damaged and then on May 15th, 2020 Conatel closed them down because their broadcasting license had expired. This was a decision that the owner, Eliu Ramos, deemed discriminatory because a large number of radio stations transmitting in the country have not been authorised and are not sanctioned. He added that he had applied for a renewal of the license several times, but the application had always been declined. Transmissions now continue on the Internet.
To find out more
The Venezuelan periodical, El Carabobeño gives more details onthe situation of broadcasters here. It was published on May 20th, 2020, on the occasion of National Radio Day which was established in 1926 when the country began radio transmissions on mediumwave. FM transmissions, on the other hand, began on January 1st, 1975.
Alfonso ‘Toto’ Arevalo, the President of ‘Asbora’ Bolivian Radio Broadcasting Association, interviewed by John Arandia for Capsula AM: The programme is aired by Radio Fides, transmitting on 101.5 FM from the capital, La Paz. Watch the interview here.
Having been brought to their knees because of the fall in advertising caused by Covid-19, a large number of Bolivian radio stations risk closure within a month. They are unable to pay salaries, the technicians, electricity and licensing fees. The association representing broadcasters (Asbora) has written an open letter to President Jeanine Anez Chavez asking her to launch new government advertising campaigns (and also pay the invoices for commercials that the public administration put on air last year). Asbora also asked for a discount of 50% on electricity bills and to postpone payment of licensing fees to next year. More details to be found here.