How are public broadcasting executives elected? A comparison of the procedures adopted by six European countries
In recent months, when the top management of Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE) was being renewed, a debate was opened in the country on the mechanisms that govern these choices. An article in the periodical Vozpópuli compared the Spanish situation with that of five other European countries: the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Italy and Germany. In Spain, the president of RTVE is chosen from a shortlist of ten candidates, six of whom are appointed by the Congress of Deputies and four by the Senate.
In Germany, the TV channel ZDF enjoys greater autonomy from political forces and the executive, in order to focus on the professionalism of the management.
A fire that devastated French repeaters on Italian territory has made it impossible to listen to various national and local programmes on the island’s east coast since 27 June 2021
Elba is a strategic location for illuminating the east coast of Corsica with radio signals. Mount Capanne is opposite Bastia and is about fifty kilometres as the crow flies from the Corsican coast, so much so that French public radio and television, in agreement with Italy, has repeaters on the summit since 1990.
The location is managed by the TDF group (a company set up in 1975 by the public broadcaster to manage the technical infrastructure), which broadcasts four radio channels from the site, including national and regional ones: France Bleu RCFM (an acronym for Radio Corse Fréquence Mora, on 88.2 MHz), France Culture (92.3); France Inter (96.8) and France Musique (99.8).
Forty years ago, Radio Corse Internationale was silenced
Mount Capanne was also at the centre of an obscure episode, as the Italradio website writes: the attack on several repeaters on 14 August 1980, two weeks after the Bologna station massacre. A book published in France in 2013 (Histoire politique des services secrets français, Editions La Découverte) relates the four explosions to similar actions carried out by the French secret services. Among the radio stations involved was Radio Corse Internationale, a station thatsupported Corsican independence. The French government tried to use diplomatic means to stop the station but was met with disinterest from the Italian authorities. The station stopped broadcasting in 1981.
A challenge between two Spanish journalists, kings of the ratings and rulers of the fans, took place in Spain at the end of the last century. The programs they invented aired on two networks after midnight, and were followed by millions of Spaniards. Thirty years later, that epic battle is being celebrated by a TV series
It is a beautiful story that the Italian magazine Contrasti, a sports and cultural magazine, dedicates to the challenge between two Spanish football commentators, which took place in Spain between the eighties and nineties of the last century. The protagonists are José Maria Garcia, the true “dominus” of commentators, who earned more than soccer players (in 1987 his cachet was one billion pesetas, equal to 6 million euros today, without indexation) and his antagonist, José Ramón de la Morena.
Garcia used to broadcast on Cadena Ser (an acronym for “Sociedad Española de Radiodifusión”: today it has about 250 owned and almost 200 associated stations,) but it was from 1982, when he moved to Antena 3 Radio (a national network closed in 1994) that his season of success began. “Supergarcía“, his program aired from midnight onwards (he decided at what time to close the microphones) would be followed by over a million people. Thanks to his program, the flagship of the network, Antena 3, exceeded Cadena Ser in terms of ratings, but when the station was purchased by the competitor (which absorbed its 93 stations) Garcia moved to the antagonist network, the Catholic Cadena Cope (acronym of “Cadena de Ondas Populares Españolas”, where he remained until 2000, and then moved to Onda Cero (third in ratings, it has 220 stations), where he remained until 2002. Garcia was so popular and powerful that he could tell team presidents and ministers to go to hell, and he had a special relationship with King Juan Carlos, who gave him exclusive interviews.
But at some point on his way, Cadena Ser bet on a young antagonist, José Ramón de la Morena, who created a new format for the program, managing over the years to catch up, then keep up and finally overtake him. In 2002, Garcia threw in the towel, thus breaking the magic of this no-holds-barred challenge (well described in the Contrasts article). So much so that a few years later, Ramon De la Morena also lost the scepter.
Ensuring high transmission quality requires regular checks of the efficiency of the radiating systems. They must be checked to ensure that they are in line with the design specifications, avoiding power reductions or lobe distortions. ORS’s Austrian technicians have used a drone that can “measure” even the tallest towers.
Austrian public radio and television tested an innovative method of measuring antenna efficiency. The tests were carried out by theORS Group, a technical structure controlled by the public broadcaster, which is responsible for transporting content across different platforms (from terrestrial transmitters to satellite, from cable to IP). The ORS Group manages around 430 sites, regularly checking their characteristics and performance. One of the most important is on the Gaisberg (a 1288-metre mountain in the northern Alps east of Salzburg), which serves around half a million residents in Salzburg and the surrounding area.
Designed in Germany, it is shielded
The idea of using drones for measurements is not new, but the data was often inaccurate due to the large number of signals broadcast by the most important radiant systems and the high powers involved. But the apparatus developed by ARGE Rundfunk-Betriebstechnik (a working group made up of ten German broadcasting companies) has solved the problem thanks to shielding that allows more precise values to be obtained, making it possible to verify the characteristics of the signal and the angle of dip (the angle at which the signal must take when it leaves the antenna, in order to concentrate it in the desired listening area).
From 1 June 2021, mobile phones manufactured in the South American country must integrate FM radio, to allow those in areas not served by the internet to get information for free. The government sees this as an opportunity for those who live far from large urban centres, where the mobile network signal is weak and FM stations are well received. As many as 40 million Brazilians do not have access to the internet, but almost all of them have a mobile phone. Smartphones will have to allow listening from 76.1 to 108 MHz: in the South American country, in fact, the FM band has been extended since 2013to allow AM stations to move to FM (1720 broadcasters out of 1781 operating on AM have requested this, but feasibility analyses are delayed).
Accused of brutality and abuses in repressing the demonstrations that inflamed the country in October 2020, the Nigerian police, in an effort to mend fences with its citizens and rebuild its image, has opened a radio station in the capital. This is how Nigeria Police Radio got its start in Abuja, on 99.1 MHz, which provides useful information to the population and updates on the operations carried out by public security. The official inauguration was made on March 31st, 2021 by the Chief of Police, Inspector General Mohammed Adamu, but a social account on Facebook had already been activated on March 2nd, where news is relayed.
We have already talked about the role played by community radio stations during the pandemic, in involving the population in rural areas and explaining the safety measures needed to prevent infection. The biggest problem is language barriers, such as those that Radio Naköj, a Guatemalan radio station that since 2013 has been speaking to the Kaqchikels, one of the indigenous Mayan peoples of the highlands, has been able to overcome with ease. The station, which broadcasts on 99.1 MHz from Santo Domingo Xenacoj, a municipality in the department of Sacatepéquez, aired stories with educational messages on how to prevent contagion. Explaining with grace and imagination how to use a mask correctly, the importance of washing hands or even bartering strategies to deal with the economic crisis.
A battle against discrimination
An extensive article can be readin the periodical Lado B, which, in addition to the radio station’s activities, talks about the discrimination against indigenous peoples. Although they are not a minority, they represent 43.8% of the inhabitants out of a total of 16.6 million: of these, more than a million are Maya Kaqchikel. Yet, the state does not inform them in their own language and allocates only a third of its spending (compared to mestizos and Latinos) for health services, education and social protection.
While in Europe people are thinking about digital radio and turning off FM, in South America, broadcasting in frequency modulation (FM) is still alive and well. In Peru, the MTC (Ministerio de Transportes y Telecomunicaciones) is promoting the opening of new FM stations in rural areas. In May, it assigned 54 frequencies in 17 locations in the regions of Áncash, Apurímac, Cajamarca, Cusco, Huancavelica, Junín, La Libertad, Piura, San Martín and Ucayali. These will benefit 607,000 inhabitants. Two localities, Pueblo Libre (Áncash) and Pacaipampa (Piura) will open their first ever FM radio station. On June 2, 2021, it was the turn of another 11 channels in the regions of Arequipa, Apurímac, Ayacucho, Puno y Madre de Dios. In all the concerned locations, FM was “virgin”: Tarucani de Arequipa (2 frequencies), Andarapa de Apurímac (1), Socos de Ayacucho (2), Copani de Puno (2), Tocota de Arequipa (3) and Nueva Arequipa de Madre de Dios (1).
The small country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine does not shine in terms of transparency and ease of circulation of radio and media news. The internal political situation is confused, the fact that Transnistria (with a Russian-speaking majority) is de facto independent (and has long since switched off all OIRT band installations) are other elements that do not help to easily decipher the situation.
However, up to the end of 2020, some fifteen installations on the ‘old’ FM were in operation, both from public and private operators. These included Radio Free Europe (in local language), the station funded by the US Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
If the news, although fragmentary, excludes the shutdown of the various stations (Radio Moldova Actualitati, Radio Micul Samaritean, Vocea Beserabiei and other smaller ones), some more concern is aroused by the situation of the three Radio Free Europe stations: in fact, the one operating on 69.53 has recently been reported switched off and this raises some questions. Is the shutdown temporary (due to a fault or something similar) or permanent? Will the other two RFE frequencies (68.48 and 70.31) soon be switched off too, or will they continue? However, the delicate political situation in the country (and in the area surrounding the Black Sea as a whole) means that even a partial shutdown of the station is unlikely.
And there are also lights on the analogue TV channels R2 and R3 (with the audio carrier, respectively, on 65.75 and 83.75 MHz) because the analogue-to-digital switch originally planned in 2015 has not yet been completed and it seems that the possible new end date isSeptember 2021.
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).