Born in 1975 from a brilliant but simple idea by George Atkinson, journalist for the Canadian national network CBC, Farm Radio International is an organisation that produces radio content and programs aimed at farmers mainly from countries in the sub-Saharan belt. The main focus of the transmissions is on cultivation techniques.
A network of nearly 800 radio stations
To give scientific solidity to the programs, Atkinson had put together a team of scientists, experts from the University of Guelph’s Faculty of Agriculture and had contacted journalists around the world to learn about easy-to-use agricultural techniques. After writing scripts, in order to allow broadcasters to translate them into local dialects, he started sending them by post to broadcasters. That was back in January 1979. Today the organisation provides content to over 780 radio stations in 40 countries and works on projects with 100 broadcasters in 11 countries.
After making its debut in 2018 on the Ram 1500 pick-up truck of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), the 360L multimedia system of Sirius XM was implemented in a million cars from the GM group (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC). In addition to 200 commercial-free music channels, broadcast via satellite or streaming, a library of 10,000 hours of broadcasting that offers an interactive listening experience is available: while you follow a programme, the system proposes to follow insights (such as an interview with the artist or a concert). Furthermore, listening can continue outside the car, with the myChevrolet, myBuick, myGMC or myCadillac apps, which allow you to set customised listening profiles, which once on board synchronise with the system.
Exclusive events for subscribers only
Among the programmes there are also exclusive events, such as the one that will take place on January 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, in The Garage studios of SiriusXM: Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland of Coldplay, accompanied by other artists, will deliver an acoustic performance for a limited audience of platform subscribers; the event will go live between 7 and 10 pm on The Spectrum (channel 28), the replicas on Alt Nation (channel 36).
The chance of broadcasting – and being listened – via internet or using apps, without investing any capital to purchase a radio frequency, has made radio broadcasting way more democratic, even if standing out among the crowd of web radios is not easy. However, being noticed is not a big deal for popular music stars: U2, a famous Irish rock band formed in 1976, 170 million records sold worldwide, are working to launch U2X Radio next year. The channel will feature music, interviews and selected live performances of the band; it will be managed by SiriusXM, an American broadcasting company that provides satellite and online radio services. The company, that broadcasts via satellite the signals of more than 140 radio stations (also listenable in cars), has acquired Pandora Media last year, becoming the world’s largest audio entertainment company.
Once you go online, you’ll never go back
Tomorrowland World Radio was created to celebrate the fifteenth-year anniversary of the homonymous electronic music festival held in Belgium annually since 2005, with an attendance of 200,000 people from all around the world. The radio, that technically should have been broadcasted only for six months, is now permanent thanks to its success. It is available both on the website and on the app. It features exclusive tracks and programmes, new releases and the most iconic live sets from the past years.
Italians in the game
In Italy there is a similar project on-going: Radio TRX, an online radio dedicated to hip hop music, promoted by six of the most famous Italian rappers. (Clementino, Ensi, Fabri Fibra, Gue Pequeno, Marracash and Salmo) The broadcasting of Radio TRX already started two years ago. However, on the 5th of December 2019, an event to relaunch this radio (only available on the official app) took place in the Radio Italia’s Auditorium in Cologno (near Milan).
The six rappers, together with the producer Paola Zukar explained that the main goal of the project is becoming a curator to promote rap music. Even if rap has become a mainstream genre in Italy, listening to it on the radio is not that common. This is a big difference compared to other European countries such as France or Germany, where there are many thematic radio stations, broadcasting rap 24/7.
Italian rap ambassadors
The event started with a short video, made of interviews where the rappers talked about Radio TRX and its future. The role of radio in a world dominated by social media was mentioned. ‘TRX is like a guiding light for rap music’s audience’, said Ensi. ‘A valid alternative to the algorithm that drives the public choice’, mentioned Salmo. The slogan of the project is ‘Culture’ so, as the rapper Marracash said, leaving everything in the hands of the public leads to superficiality, that doesn’t help music. For this reasons, Gue Pequeno added, having an editorial made by some of the most important personalities in the rap scene can give a chance to fill this void. Thanks to TRX Radio, the rappers are able to be curators; they can explain the rap world from inside, and also promote new talents and organise live events.
The New Zealand Government is planning to disestablish public broadcasters (radio and television) and create a new public media entity in order to cut operating costs. The annual funding (25 million US dollars) primarily supports Radio New Zealand, whereas the television (TNZ) counts on advertising revenue. An advisory group is now working to create a new model with new funding options, such as introducing a fee and working on sponsorships (in addition to the actual funding).
Commercial TV crisis
The public radio and television sector is suffering, but also the commercial broadcasting is experiencing difficulties. The online giants, such as Google and Facebook, are draining resources from the advertising market, also affecting the private sector: MediaWorks, a New Zealand-based television, radio and interactive media company entirely owned by an American company, has recently put some of its channels up for sale: Three, Bravo and Three Life. This group also owns 9 national radio brands transmitted on 190 frequencies.
Follow the services of Jane Patterson, political editor of Radio New Zealand here & here Find a complete list of frequencies and repeaters on FMList.
SwissInfo.ch –the international unit of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR)– published a collection of historical photos and recordings on its website to commemorate 70 years of broadcasting. The partners of the “The Sounds of…” project are the international services of Canada, Poland, Romania and Czech Republic whose journalists provided videos to explain how they did their work. Sounds and images that enable to go back in time – when the sounds were disturbed by atmospheric noises and people were smoking cigarettes in their offices.
70 years of shortwave broadcastings
Switzerland’s international service started in 1935, called the SOC (Short Wave Swiss Service): in those days these bands represented the only effective way for radio to travel long distance, allowing to receive news from foreign countries. In 1989, when the Cold War came to an end and propaganda was no longer necessary, the governments started trying to cut the high broadcasting costs (being able to reach the whole world needs transmitters up to hundreds of kW and huge antennas). Operators have reacted in different ways, like turning off some frequencies, reducing the languages offered or changing the broadcastings method.
Optimism in technological transitions
Switzerland, for its part, has turned off the high energy-consuming transmitters and continued to broadcast programs via satellite and – since 1999 – via internet, making it one of the first online radio stations. The editorial staff has been extended adding new languages like Chinese, Japanese and Russian and new audio and video contents. This is the reason why the programme changed its name to Swiss Radio International.
Since 2002 every AM broadcaster in the United States is allowed to broadcast digitally by using HD Radio – a system that permits spreading to 3 thematic channels and provides services, such as the visualisation of songs’ or artists’ names (in addition to the analogue signal – still receivable by traditional receivers). However, this system can’t always be used; in fact, the digital signal occupies 40 kHz of the band – compared to the standard frequency range of 20 kHz – making digital broadcasting not possible if other radio stations are operatingon nearby frequencies.
Since listening to AM stations has become difficult due to the rising of radio electric interferences – caused by increasing proliferation of electronic devices- FCC is trying to promote and increase AM stations ratings by proposing broadcasters to switch to all digital broadcasting, meeting the standards set by the regulations (not exceeding 20 kHz) and thus minimising interferences. This is just one of the various initiatives taken by the American regulator almost one hundred years from the first radio transmission in the US: the Agency has also allowed the opening of some new broadcasting facilities.
Today, only one AM station is all digital
Today just one broadcaster in the US is allowed to operate all digital on AM. It is WWFD – a broadcaster from Frederick, Maryland (70 km from Washington). Since 16th July, 2019 this broadcaster – better known as The Gamut – transmits its digital-only AM signal on 820 kHz. Additionally, the station transmit its digital signal on 103.5 MHz in HD (a standard that allows to transmit up to four channels on the same frequency). Today -in the United States – 4,580 broadcaster are operating on AM and 10,850 on FM, divided in commercial (6,728) and non-commercial (4,122). In total there are 20,342 FM transmitters. You can find the complete list on FMList.
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With its 350 meters of height the Lotus Tower is the highest transmission structure in South Asia. The shape is inspired by the lotus flower, which in Sri Lankan culture symbolises purity: a thin, green stem with petals that change color thanks to a play of light. Under construction since 2012, it was opened on 16 September 2019 to ease a cost controversy ($ 104 million); the project was funded largely by the Chinese government within the scope of the Belt and Road project. The platform being 245 meters high, provides visitors with a panoramic view of the capital, Colombo.
Five floors of attractions and two of transmissions
The bud of the lotus flower conceals a seven-story structure: the first two host 35 FM radio stations, 50 TV stations broadcasting on DVB T2 and 20 telecommunication service providers. The other floors contain a museum, supermarkets, a revolving restaurant, banquet- & conference rooms and lastly a 1000-seat auditorium. The sixth floor is reserved for six exclusive suites.
Ransomware, a software that prevents the use of computers (by blocking them or encrypting files until you pay pirates a “ransom”), has paralysed the Cadena SER production system on November 4, 2019. To prevent risk of further infection, the computers connected to the network were turned off. However, since the Redacta platform (which assembles audio and text) could not be used, the journalists wrote the articles on sheets of paper or used word processing apps on their smartphones. Only after four days the 202 radio stations of the network were able to take up their work with their usual facilities again.
Services skipped, but no interruptions
Among the setbacks, the services on the MTV Awards, held in Seville the night before, were not broadcasted. On the other hand, radio hosts could provide a summary of an important electoral debate, by recording the audio from the TV (reduced quality). ‘El Confidential’ dedicated an extensive report on the emergency.
A restructuring plan “tears and blood” as announced by Deirdre Anne “Dee” Forbes, general director of the RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann). Over the next three years, cost-cuttings of up to 60 million euros are planned, including the stop of digital channel broadcasting only on DAB: RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Pulse, RTÉ Gold, RTÉjr Radio and RTÉ Radio 1 Extra. The RTE director also called for legislative action to reduce the evasion of the radio and television license fee (estimated at 11%, with a loss of revenue of around 20 million euros). In recent years RTÉ had already reduced costs by 30%.
If the public radio will free the channels, there is a commercial radio enterprise looking to acquire them: According to Kevin Branigan, Chief executive officer of Radio Nova, they are interested in expanding coverage nationally. The Dublin broadcaster has a team of 40 people and is the only station of the capital, authorised to broadcast the signal within a radius of about 50 km to cover the country and the commuter belt.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the Asian country’s media regulator, completed the switchover to digital terrestrial in October. In July, tests were carried out on the island of Langawki, in September it was the turn of the central and southern regions, followed by the northern and eastern regions mid-October while in Sabah and Sarawak the transition was completed on the 31st of October 2019.
15 TV and 6 Radio channels
On the myFreview Digital TV platform, 15 TV and six radio channels of Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), Media Prima, TV AlHijrah and Bernama News Channel (BNC) are available. Malaysia is the third Asian country to have completed the transition to digital TV, after Singapore and Brunei.