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.
In order to smother the protests after the rigged elections that reconfirmed Alexander Lukashenko as the President of Belarus for the sixth time, the regime has censored radio transmissions and they now only broadcast music and entertainment programmes. As a result, Poland has begun transmitting programmes in Belarusian (with three news broadcasts per day) from the long wave radio station, Solec Kujawski, that transmits on 225 kHz and, with its 1000 kW power, can be received all over Europe. In addition, Radio Liberty (financed by the United States Congress) has been reactivated on 1386 kHz from Viesintos, Lithuania. The transmitter was formerly used in Germany by the American Forces Network (the broadcast service for American troops) on 873 kHz. When transmissions from Weisskirchen (near Frankfurt) ceased in May 2013, the relatively new transmitter was mothballed and later taken to Lithuania. The portal Radios du Monde dedicated an article to this.
The Qataris employ a massive number of Asian workers. The number is so high that the native population only makes up 15% of all inhabitants. The Bangladeshi community is one of the largest (with a population of about 137,000 according to the last estimate). The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has launched a temporary radio station in Bengali to raise awareness of the risks of the pandemic and to inform Bangladeshi workers of how to take appropriate precautions.
The radio station broadcasting in Bengali on 95.3 FM in Doha is overseen by QMC (Qatar Media Corporation), a state organisation that also manages Qatar Radio Urdu on air on 107.0 FM. There are also commercial radio stations for the Asian public based in the capital: Qabayan Radio on 94.3 FM transmitting in Filipino and Malayalam Radio on 98.6 FM (in Malayalam, the language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala).
The Nicaraguan radio station’s medium wave transmission antennas have been sabotaged again on July 12th, 2020. With 25 kW of power their broadcasts are receivable in a large part of the Central American country. Some cables taking the signal to the antenna were cut, thus damaging the transmitter and interrupting the service. The radio station is continuing on 97.5 MHzFM (with 1 kW and limited coverage) as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. According to the technicians, repair work could take four months.
On examining where the material had been removed, the radio station’s technicians suspect that the thieves knew exactly how the antennas worked. A political motive is also suspected. Radio Corporación is the top radio station in the country and has continuously broadcast civil protests against the authoritarian regime of President Daniel Ortega.
The hard line taken by President Rodrigo Duderte has the upper hand. Parliament has refused to renew ABS-CBN’s broadcasting licence, that was due to last for another 25 years. The first problems began in March 2020 (we spoke about this here). The reasons for the dispute were unfavourable news coverage of the president and not broadcasting election commercials. Radio and TV frequencies have been turned off since May 5th, 2020, while awaiting a decision (we spoke about this here). The multimedia group that owns 16 radio stations and employs 11,000 people) has appealed.
Listeners consider radio as a trustworthy source of news, at times much more so than other forms of media, in contrast to the fake news that is going around on the web
Various market research companies have carried out surveys on the reliability of the means of communication during the pandemic. In Greece, according to a survey by Dianeosis and Metron Analysis, the winner was radio. In answer to the question ‘How much do you trust each of the following types of media’, radio got 56.4%, followed by the internet (46.5%), newspapers (33.8%) and television (32%). The complete results are here. The Spanish have a different opinion according to UTECA (an association of commercial TV stations that transmit in the clear on DTT), that commissioned a survey carried out by Barlovento Comunicación and Deloitte. On the Iberian peninsula the most trusted means of communication is television (55.3%), followed by the press (36.3%) and then radio (24%). Here is a PDF with the results.
After speaking to the Italian radio editors, we asked French editors to tell us about the impact the pandemic has had on them. 97 radio stations replied, most of them community radio stations (83), giving us an insight into the reality they have faced which differs from that of the commercial radio stations monitored by SIRTI, the union that represents them. The radios have increased information (62%), organised fund raising and played a role in social solidarity. Advertising has halved (-49%) but the radio editors have survived the storm. To date only 1% of the staff has been laid off (34% in Italy), however 38% of the respondents have already applied for the advantages of the ‘partial employment’ scheme. Regarding energy consumption, which is a hot topic in Italy (45% of the budget goes in paying the bills), this is regulated in France and the cost is half (25%). At the end of the survey there are proposals made by the editors on how to come out of the crisis.
ARTICLE (EN FRANÇAIS)
Après avoir interrogé les éditeurs italiens, nous avons demandé aux éditeurs français de nous parler de l’impact de la pandémie sur l’activité de leurs stations de radio. Les deux systèmes de media sont différents: en France, ils exploitent environ 900 radios (CSA – Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel), soit 6% de moins que les radios italiennes (957). Mais seulement une sur cinq est commerciale (environ 200, 22%), tandis que les 700 autres sont “associatives”: formule qui prévoit qu’une radio reste autofinancée et bénéficie d’une aide de l’Etat, avec une publicité qui ne peut dépasser 20% des recettes (et certaines stations ne la fournissent tout simplement pas). En Italie, par contre, les ratios sont inversés: 65% des stations (624) vivent grâce aux recettes publicitaires et pour les 333 stations, il n’y a qu’une limitation du nombre de spots publicitaires à diffuser (10% par heure, soit 6 minutes : pas peu).
Plus d’une station de radio sur dix a répondu
L’enquête a été réalisée par 97 diffuseurs, pour la plupart des associations (83), dont 78 radios locales, 5 régionales, une multirégionale et une nationale. Cela nous a permis d’enquêter sur une réalité complémentaire à celle des radios commerciales, déjà contrôlées par Sirti, le syndicat qui les représente (nous en avons parlé ici). La réponse à l’urgence a été similaire à celle des radios italiennes : au-delà des Alpes également, les radios ont réagi en renforçant l’information, en organisant des collectes de fonds et en jouant un rôle de cohésion sociale.
Publicité (et recettes) réduite de moitié? Il est “coupé”, mais seulement en grands groupes
La publicité a été réduite de moitié en moyenne (-49%), ce qui reflète la situation des stations de radio multirégionales (-50%), tandis que les spots publicitaires (-72%) et les stations de radio nationales (-90%) ont souffert. Le “préjudice” causé aux associations, qui se concentrent moins sur la publicité, a été limité: pour elles, la baisse a été de 24%. Le renforcement des espaces d’information a été en moyenne de 62% (54% en Italie), mais comme nous l’avons observé en Italie, les radios et réseaux nationaux ont fait beaucoup plus, augmentant les nouvelles de 85 et 105% respectivement, contre 63% pour les associations. Un effort organisationnel autofinancé, non indifférent et soutenu. Les éditeurs, grands et petits, ont résisté à l’impact sans recourir aux licenciements: des petites réalités aux stations de radio nationales, seulement 1,34% du personnel a été licencié (en Italie 34%). Mais 38% des entreprises ont demandé un chômage partiel, en particulier les radios multirégionales (55%). Les associations et les commerciaux sont au même niveau (avec respectivement 40 et 41%), aussi parce qu’ils sont gérés en moyenne par 5 employés et 40 bénévoles. Les grands groupes, au contraire, ont déjà commencé à couper : nous en avons parlé ici.
Juste ce qu’il faut au frais de fonctionnement
En France, l’éther est planifié et l’énergie n’est pas gaspillée: les factures d’électricité n’absorbent qu’un quart du budget annuel d’un radiodiffuseur, alors qu’en Italie, elles sont presque deux fois plus élevées (45 %). Seul un faible pourcentage de répondants (10%) est favorable à la réduction de la puissance des systèmes, mais ils souhaiteraient l’appliquer à tous les émetteurs, même ceux de moins de 100W. Concernant la durée de la réduction, 54% la limiteraient à trois mois, tandis que 27% souhaiteraient la maintenir pour toujours.
De nombreuses idées pour redémarrer
Nous avons regroupé les suggestions des éditeurs par thèmes, en essayant de les transformer en propositions dont les associations devront être les porte-parole. Deux radios sur trois (66%) demandent une prime et un fonds de soutien, mais sur le reste des mesures, il y a une nette distinction entre les radios commerciales et associatives. Les premiers demandent une aide financière, une réduction des impôts (ou leur suppression pour 2020 et 2021) et des charges salariales. Il y a ceux qui pointent du doigt les droits d’auteur (gérés par la Sacem et la Spre) et ceux qui suggèrent au gouvernement de prévoir un crédit d’impôt pour les annonceurs, pour relancer la publicité (une mesure également envisagée en Italie). Les radio associatives, quant à elles, réclament des subventions exceptionnelles, une augmentation du FSER (Fonds de soutien à l’expression radiophonique locale) et des formes de soutien indirect, comme la diffusion de messages d’intérêt général (payés par le gouvernement) afin de faire rentrer de l’argent frais dans les caisses désormais vides. Mais aussi des solutions rapides, telles que la réduction de la TVA. En bref, le monde entier est un pays, même le fait que (comme cela s’est produit dans le cadre d’une enquête italienne similaire), un seul éditeur s’est déclaré satisfait de ce que le gouvernement a fait jusqu’à présent pour la radio.
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 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
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
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+
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. Petersburgby 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).
In order to compensate for lower advertising revenues caused by the pandemic, the large networks are making savings like this: Altice has closed down the TV channel RMC Sport and laid off a third of its personnel, RTL has dismissed well known radio hosts and television presenters and NRJ has sold a stake to increase liquidity
In June 2020 the French subsidiary of the Altice group (a multinational with headquarters in Holland), presented a plan to the unions ‘in order to save the media group’. This involved all the divisions in the NextRadioTV group, including channels BFM TV and RMC. The goal is to streamline both organisation and programming by axing between 330 and 380 full-time staffers in addition to 200 freelancers. According to the union representing the employees at Altice CGT (Confederation generale du travail) ‘This drastic cut in personnel is incomprehensible for a profitable group in constant growth, which had a turnover of € 120 million in 2019, a 300% increase in 5 years’.
Unions jump into action
Following a number of strikes and union action, the company softened its stance on June 29th, 2020. It undertook to ‘offer voluntary redundancies to a maximum of 330 staffers and not proceed with layoffs until November 31st, 2021’. It will also try ‘to find alternative employment for staffers who cannot be placed in other positions inside the organisation and find a solution for freelancers’.
Capital gain of € 300 million in 2018
Up to a short time ago the group was flourishing to the point that the owner, Patrick Drahi, and Alan Weill, the Chief Executive Officer of NextRadioTV, made €300 million gross from the capital gain on the sale of some buildings. These four towers, located in the 15th arrondissement in Paris, are the headquarters of SFR (Societe francaise du radiotelephone, the second largest mobile communications company), BFM TV and the daily newspaper Liberation. The 85,800 square metres of floorspace accommodates 7,000 employees. Apparently in 2018 Drahi and Weill bought the buildings in their own names to then resell them to the group at a higher price.
RTL dismiss well known radio hosts and television presenters
The RTL group’s accounts for the first quarter this year closed with a fall of 3.14%. Two months later, the French headquarters announced the dismissals of a number of well known television presenters and radio hosts, the departure of the head of the political service and a cut in the budget of the correspondent in the United States. Details can be found on Jean Marc Morandini’s website
NRJ sells a stake to increase liquidity
Despite its leading position in the French market, NRJ is also feeling the pinch. On June 24th, 2020, NRJ sold a 5% stake in Euro-Information Telecom for €50 million. The company stated that the sale proceeds ‘will be used for the needs of the group’s business‘. See details here
Radio stations in France have also been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19 according to SIRTI, the union of independent radio stations, that has been monitoring the situation by carrying out monthly surveys. Up to April 2020 75% of the radio stations had not applied for the advantages of the ‘partial employment’ scheme (teleworking is not viable for 50% of the staff) because of the bureaucratic procedures being too complicated according to 39% of the respondents. No one had been dismissed (the 112 members in the survey answered) but if the crisis was to last longer, 55% planned to apply for aid from the solidarity fund that has been set up for businesses. More than half of the respondents did not have the resources to face further financial difficulty. After recording a drop of 56% in advertising in March (-32% for the national radio stations) a collapse was foreseen in April: -78% (-75% for national broadcasters).
The situation worsens
In the second survey carried out in May 2020, 72% were not confident of resuming normal business quickly, and 38% believed that the crisiscould jeopardise businesses in the short term. A return to normality, according to 95% of the respondents, would not happen before the beginning of the academic year, and for 21% not before the beginning of 2021. The reason for this was because advertisers, having been hit hard during the crisis, either cancelled their advertising campaigns or negotiated lower prices. More than one out of two radio stations have had to apply for bank loans and one in three has applied for aid from the solidarity funds or other means of support.
Cutting personnel is inevitable
In order to curb the number of dismissals, radio stations are considering implementing the partial employment scheme to balance their books and 32% predict extending this policy to the end of August 2020. 36% have not renewed or have terminated fixed-term contracts and have terminated employment for those employees working probationary periods. However these measures are not sufficient and if financial aid is not available by the end of the year, each radio station will most probably have to cut between one to three jobs. Due to the crisis there will be a reduction in events and concerts. 41% of radio stations predict reducing the number of events they organise at local levels.
Requests to the government
In June 2020 SIRTI estimated that three out of four radio stations will have to cut jobs in the next few weeks. Annual revenues from advertising could be down by at least 25% (€35 million) according to a more optimistic prognosis but could drop by €45 million if investments in advertising does not restart at the beginning of the academic year. The union is asking for a waiver of the last three months payment of both the employee’s and employer’s social security contributions. This is believed to amount to €10 million which could compensate for about a third of lost revenues.