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
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.
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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.
Cuts for five major broadcasters in Europe are on their way. While in Italy some radio stations are asking their listeners for help.
Austria: ORF is cutting outgoings
The director general of ORF, Alexander Wrabetz, has announced cuts of € 75 million are to be made by the end of 2021. These will be implemented in all areas in the company, from equipment to the cost of personnel. This year the broadcasting station is predicting losses that go from a minimum of € 28.6 million to up to € 54 million, should the worst scenario play out. The budgets allocated for major events will not be touched (€ 40 million for the rights of the European Football Championship and the Olympics). This is also the case for other investments which include digitalisation. Click here for more details from the article on Horizont.
France: Cost cutting plans for the public radio causes controversy
Cuts in the budget had already been decided on in 2018, in a period long before the present crisis. The Government had demanded a reduction of € 190 million in funds to public broadcasters (by 2022). € 20 million of spending cuts were destined for Radio France and in 2019 the CEO Sibyle Veil had prepared a plan that involved cutting 250 jobs. This provoked the longest strike in the history of public radio. The strike lasted 63 days (in total) during the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. The trade unions consider the cuts unjustified and after a period of truce due to the Covid-19 crisis, the unrest could restart.
Germany: NDR raises the crossbar by € 60 million
The German broadcasting company Norddeutscher Rundfunk, NDR, wants to cut € 60 million more than the € 240 million that had been already decided on for the next four years. The director, Joachim Knuth, is not going to reduce personnel but will not be employing new staff for 200 vacant positions. Furthermore, programmes and a series of events will be cancelled. Among those to go are crime series, entertainment and game shows on TV. Click here for more details from the article on Der Spiegel.
Italy: Onda d’Urto is banking on subscriptions
Radio Onda d’Urto in Brescia has launched a campaign for subscriptions to compensate for the missing revenues caused by the probable cancellation of the Festival of Radio Onda. The event, that is to be held in August, is the main source of finance for the broadcaster and even if it is not cancelled, it will be much smaller.
United Kingdom: £ 125 million have gone ‘missing’ at the BBC
The coffers of the public broadcasting station, BBC, aredown £ 75 million due to a delay: Listeners over seventy five were due to pay TV fees from June 1st, 2020, but this has been postponed to August 1st, 2020. This amount rises further because of losses caused by a drop in advertising and the postponement of a plan to reduce the workforce by cutting 450 jobs. According to the director general, Tony Hall, the cuts need to total £ 125 million. Upper management salaries will be frozen until August 2021 and a freeze will be put on all recruitment that is not indispensable. Other TV stations are not doing any better. ITV, free-to-air, has made a cut of £ 100 million to their budget and Channel 4 (a public broadcaster) has made a cut of £ 150 million. Further details can be found here.
Spain: SER cuts cost of personnel
Spains main network, Cadena SER, owned by the Prisa group (they own the daily newspaper El Pais and have business interests in 24 countries) is reducing the cost of labour. Of the personnel employed by the radio, 256 workers have been laid off until July 12th, 2020, (on unemployment benefit) while another 924 have a salary reduction of 10% until December 31st, 2020. Cadena Ser has 202 stations and the Prisa group also owns Cadena 100 and Los 40 Principales. Click here for details in the article of El Español.
Everything will fade into past memories, but it is worth seeing some of the photographs taken in these last few months again. They include announcers and journalists broadcasting live from home, and courses for listeners on how to make their own radio programmes. It is also worth mentioning the vade mecums that have appeared in online magazines and on the websites of various associations. Their advice goes from how to choose equipment and software for a home studio to the procedures needed to protect radio station studios from contagion. There are even broadcasters that have put their studio disinfection procedures on show or have used their facemasks for self-promotion.
Radio stations broadcasting live from home
Belgium: While a lot of broadcasters, in spite of homely backgrounds, are narrowing the field of view with close-ups to give a professional touch, with the photographs of VRT Studio Brussel, a Flemish speaking public radio station, your eye tends to be drawn to the furnishings which reflect the personality of the announcer and goes from the large philodendron in the foreground to the bookcase on the right, and the door opening onto another room, making you wonder where it goes to.
Italy: When Roberto Zicchitella was conducting Radio3 Mondo live from his flat, his curious cat leapt onto his desk to sniff his tablet. The international news programme is on air on the public radio station, Rai Radio 3.
Spain: The SER network teaching listeners how to make a radio programme
The journalist, Pedro Blanco of Cadena Ser (a network of 202 radio stations we have spoken about in a previous article) on air with a radio workshop teaching listeners how to make their own programmes to then send to the radio station.
Canada: How to go on air from a distance
ARC, a Canadian alliance of community radio stations, explains how to equip yourself to produce your own show from home without excessive costs. They suggest a selection of hardware and software, some free of charge.
An antivirus guide for radio stations
This guide in the American magazine ‘Inside Radio’ lists 12 things to do in order to prevent contagion in radio stations.
And in Italy?
After disinfecting the Milan studios of Radio Millennium, the ‘ghostbusters’ pose for a photograph.
Radio Rock ‘designer’ masks: Back in the golden years of free radio, listeners used to stick adhesives of their favourite radio stations onto their cars. Today the Roman station, Radio Rock, has made face masks with their own logos on them. Will this become a fashion with other stations?
The crisis funds to support local radio and TV stations are ‘totally inadequate’. This is how the associations representing broadcasters have branded the funds allocated for the sector in the draft copy of the ‘ Revival Decree’, which the Government is preparing in order to shore up the Italian economy which has been weakened by the pandemic. The Italian Publishers Association reaffirmed in a brief press release that ‘while undergoing a drastic reduction in revenues (often up to 80%) radio and TV stations have continually carried out the role of public interest nationwide’. Aeranti-Corallo, Confindustria Radio Televisioni and Associazione Alpi are therefore asking for ‘an adequate allocation of funds’. This is because the sector is ‘strategic in order to restart the economy, which is based on small and medium-sized companies that produce 58% of the turnover of industry in Italy’. The 40 million euros planned in the Cura Italia Decree (March 16th, 2020) were cancelled at the last moment.
The complaints have had an effect. According to the latest draft of the decree (May 19th, 2020) which has not been published yet, the funds have apparently returned to € 40 million. We will update you shortly.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the championships and programme schedules of pay TV. Now they are arguing over payment of instalments for television rights.
The Italian football clubs are preparing to sue. At the end of April 2020 they issued invoices to Sky, Dazn and Img for a total of 220 million euros. If unpaid, their next move will be to file an injunction of payment. However, following a suggestion proposed by Sky, in order to give the clubs time to organise themselves, the TV stations are asking for an immediate discount on this season or the next.
BeIN Sports and Canal+ in France refused to pay their last instalments (42 million and 110 million respectively) for coverage of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2.
Since then, Canal+ has come to an agreement in order to avoid causing the clubs problems with liquidity.
Discovery, in Germany, is trying to terminate their contract with Bundesliga.
In Great Britain, DAZN has asked Premier League to defer rights payments.
Altice has suspended payments in Portugal.
In Brazil, Federcalcio di San Paolo sent a letter to Globo, declaring that they will not pay the last instalment for broadcasting rights of the championship, which has been suspended due to the pandemic.
Repeaters are to be turned off, transmitting power to be reduced, and frequencies to be reallocated, all in order to decongest the FM frequencies in this West African country, where they have 56 radio stations with a total of about 200 channels. MACRA – Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority stopped issuing new radio broadcast licenses and called for a tender for the reorganisation of the radio frequencies. This was subsequently won by the English consulting firm, CASiTEL.
The three phase plan
The consulting firm mapped out the current FM network and created a database of the frequencies and broadcasting sites. They examined the FM network coverage, identified the areas impacted by interference and presented a plan to significantly improve the quality of service. Finally, they optimised the broadcasting services coverage to enable the introduction of a greater number of channels that will be issued broadcasting licenses in the course of 2020.
In order to give more information to the public during the Coronavirus pandemic, Ofcom, the UK’s independent communications regulator, has approved the opening of some new temporary radio stations. Licences have been awarded in areas that are not already served by community radio stations on the condition that arrangements have been made with local community leaders. In support of this venture, the Community Media Association, the organisation for British community broadcasting, has contacted the societies that manage music royalties to organise favourable conditions. PRS for Music is asking only £ 86 a month plus 20% VAT for 12 weeks.
Funding programme for entertaining those at home
The Audio Content Fund, a government funded scheme that finances original public radio, has allocated £ 200,000 (later increased to £ 400,000) to ideas, targeting listeners in lockdown during the pandemic. Among the approved projects, there is a 15-minute transmission made by people overtheir 70s for an audience over their 70s, and a ‘virtual’ version of Strawberry Fair in Cambridge, a music and arts festival that attracts up to 50,000 people to East Anglia.
Julian Clover, Editorial Lead, Cambridge 105 Radio said: ‘Strawberry Fair is one of the highlights of the year for our city and is one of our most popular outside broadcasts. While we won’t be able to make it to Midsummer Common we hope that our Virtual Strawberry Fair is able to give a taste of summer to Cambridge 105 Radio listeners.’
Four radio stations covering the festival
In addition to Cambridge 105 Radio (105.0 MHz), parts of the coverage will be heard on neighbouring stations: Star Radio (Star broadcasts on 107.9FM in Cambridge, 107.1FM across Ely and the Fens and now on 107.3FM in Saffron Walden), HCR104fm (Huntingdon Community Radio) and Future Radio (107.8FM from Norwich).
Several countries have allocated funds to support broadcasting stations suffering from the drop in advertising. However, some are reducing salaries or putting their personnel on holiday leave. The USA has allocated 75 million dollars to the American non-commercial radio and TV stations.
Included in the act, passed by the House of Representatives on March 27th, 2020 to support the American economy during the state of emergency, there are also 75 million dollars allocated to the public radio and TV stations. This is in addition to the annual 445 million dollars, managed by the CPB – Corporation for Public Broadcasting, an independent non-profit corporation that distributes the funding to about 1,500 radio and television stations. President Trump wanted to cancel the annual funds in 2017, even though, according to the President of CPB Patricia Harrisins, the cost to each American citizen was only 1.35 dollars a year.
Spain: 15 million for television, cuts for Cope
On March 31st, 2020, the Spanish government allocated 15 million euros in support of television stations provided that they guarantee identical territorial coverage for the next six months. The funding will take advertising income into account in order to give greater help to stations with lower revenues. A Spanish radio station is cost cutting: The President of Cadena Cope, Fernando Gimenez Barriocanal, has written to the staff suggesting a 20% cut in salaries. They are currently negotiating with the trade unions.
France: National networks economising
Aiming to limit the consequences of a considerable drop in business caused by the epidemic, the Lagardere group has decided to lay off journalists in Europe 1, RFM, and Virgin Radio. This went into effect for Europe 1 on April 1st, 2020. The group, in reply to President Macron’s appeal to not pay dividends to their shareholders, has set aside 5 million euros. The group is present in over 40 countries, employing more than 30,000 people and had a turnover in 2019 of 7,211 million euros. The Radio France management, according to the national trade union centre CGT, have encouraged their employees to take at least five days holiday by the middle of May.
UK: Sport news station ‘tightens the belt’
Due to pausing sports transmissions because of the pandemic, Love Sport Radio, broadcasting nationwide on DAB, has streamlined its programming schedules. Listeners were informed in a pre-recorded announcement by the owner, Kelvin MacKenzie, who had also furloughed a large number of staff.