Nearly a century has passed since the beginning of radio broadcasting in Spain (the anniversary will be in 2024) and we are preparing to celebrate it. But who really deserves the podium?
There is a curious struggle for radio primacy that is recounted in the newspaper La Vanguardia by Jesus Fraiz Ordonez, author of “La Barcelona de antes,” a series that recovers the historical memory of the Catalan city. Talking about the first radio stations (in every country there is always someone who boasts of having broadcast first) he reconstructs what happened almost a hundred years ago. To go on the air first was Madrid’s Radio Ibérica. But perhaps its promoters did not read well the ordinance that required a prior visit by an official of the Directorate General of Communications to apply for an official license. It thus began illegally (a custom that has remained to this day: there are over a thousand unlicensed radio stations in the country), while in Radio Barcelona they followed the procedures and the radio received the coveted EAJ-1 license. The fascinating story of what happened can be read here. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
A company that assists radio stations to climb the ratings charts publishes on its website the share of the top radio stations
Which radio stations are the most listened to in New York, Paris, or Sydney? To find out, consult the rating page of Radio Intelligence, a radio consultancy that has put online the rankings extrapolated from audience surveys in thirteen markets. For the United States there are: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Miami (Nielsen Audio data); for Europe: France (Médiamétrie); UK and London (Rajar); Italy (TER); Berlin (Media-Analyse); Holland (NLO) and Spain (AIMC). Last but not least, the Australian hit, with the city of Sydney (GFK). A useful resource provided by the consultancy, which wants to ‘ensure that every minute of programming is focused on the broadcaster’s audience’ and cites success stories in which it has helped clients quickly climb the rating charts.
In order to intercept young people, who mainly inform themselves on online platforms, the German international broadcaster restructures and accelerates its digital transformation
Deutsche Welle, the German public broadcasterof international programmes, will close its German-language TV channel. Despite state funding amounting to 406.5 million euros, the broadcaster may have a deficit budget. Director Peter Limbourgrelies on digital transformation in order to intercept young and experienced target groups who inform themselves via online platforms. The German TV channel, whose audience has dropped to 250,000 viewers, and the German Twitter and Facebook accounts will be closed. The operation will result in the ‘socially responsible’ cutting of around one hundred jobs, mainly in the Berlin office. The broadcaster will continue broadcasting in 32 languages.
Despite being one of the founding members of the British streaming platform, the British public broadcaster has removed its radio channelsfrom RadioPlayer since January 2023. Listeners now only have to use ‘BBC Sounds‘, which is available as an app and can be accessed on the web in a special area of the British broadcaster’s official website. Retaining control of content with a proprietary app is a trend that is spreading especially among large broadcasters. In the UK, it was already put into practice by Global (owner of seven stations including Radio Capital, Heart Radio, Classic FM, and LBC), which created its own ‘Global Player‘ in 2017, while Bauer Media Group (owner of 150 radio brands in nine countries) has never directed listeners to the UK streaming platform.
The company is doing just fine! (but has few radio stations)
The founder and CEO of RadioPlayer downplays. On the contrary, he raises the bar: Michael Hillsays that the company is booming (the nineteenth foreign office was opened in March, with the launch of the app in Luxembourg). The platform, which claims to contain the best of radio, hosts the most important networks and commercial radio stations. These, however, are only a fraction of the stations that exist in each country. Two examples: in Luxembourg, you can listen to only ten, half of which belong to the RTL Group. In Italy, there are over 1100 active radio stations, but with RadioPlayer, you can listen to 125 of them, which is just a bit more than 10% of the mentioned number. This also includes 107 radio stations that only broadcast on DAB.
Among the many infrastructures damaged by the conflict in Ukraine, there is also the link network that enabled the connection between the regional TV offices and the central newsroom in Kyiv. The main antenna was on the capital’s broadcasting tower, which was damaged in March 2022. Since then, mobile crews who rely on the cellular network to send video footage have been handicapped due to the use of portable equipment which only allows for low-resolution transmission. To solve the problem, Japan thus donated a number of portable mini-repeaters to the public broadcasting company Nacional’na Suspil’na Teleradiokompanija Ukraïny.
Minsk launches a clone of the British aggregator. In defiance of copyright
As of February 2023, Belarusian citizens also have an app for listening to radio stations on the web, mobile devices, and smart TVs, Radio Player‘s website explains. Promoted by the Belarusian Broadcasting Industry Association, however, the app is a copy of one launched in 2010 in the United Kingdom and which has since spread to 13 other countries, not only in Europe. It allows listeners to listen only to radio stations based in the country, a feature designed by the British to protect copyright, but which in an authoritarian regime also allows citizens’ freedom of choice to be restricted. It is unclear whether it allows content to be sent to car infotainment systems-the Belarusian version’s website makes no mention of it. But how is it possible to violate copyright? Thanks to an “ad hoc” law that allows Western content to be used without the rights holder’s consent and without paying royalties. Approved on December 21, 2022, by the Belarusian parliament and signed by President Aleksander Lukashenko.
(From a post by Michel Fremy on Linkedin, edited by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
With the pandemic, traffic had plummetedand the ratings of Radio Circulation, Montreal’s traffic radio station, had declined. But since the renovation of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel (opened in 1967) began, the station has become very popular again. The tunnel to be renovated, to ensure its operation for another 40 years, passes under the St. Lawrence River and connects the island of Montréal with the south bank of the river in Longueuil, Quebec. It is a vital access route to the city and since three of the six lanes will remain closed until November 2025, many have thrown in the towel and opted for the train or the metro (+15%), while those in cars rely on the radio to seek alternative routes.
A bet won
Moreover, Radio Circulation owes its fortune to traffic jams: it opened in 2011, a year before the opening of the major construction site for the Turcot interchange, a multi-level elevated road system linking three motorways: Autoroute 15, 20, and 720. The station broadcasts on 98.5 FM and 730 kHz mediumwave, and in the studio, two editors take turns every half-hour in conducting and answering listener calls, never losing sight of the twenty or so monitors that show the hot spots at risk of traffic jams. The radio competes with online navigation platforms but manages to give faster and more up-to-date information than Google Maps and Waze, both in the portfolio of Alphabet, the web giant.
After twelve years of preparations to organise the World Cup, with an expenditure estimated by Forbes at between USD 6.5 billion and USD 10 billion, a Spanish-language radio station is among the supporting initiatives. Hola Qatar Radio, which opened on 2 November 2022, broadcasts on 92.0 MHz from Doha, taking over from MBC FM in Arabic. Run by the Qatar Media Corporation, a public media organisation, it is aimed more at Spanish-speaking Qataris than at World Cup fans who come in droves to watch the matches. In fact, among the ten nations that have bought the most tickets (almost three million have been sold) are Mexico and Argentina.
More entertainment than sport
The aim of the broadcaster is to introduce visitors to Qatari culture, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Thani Al Thani, CEO of the Qatar Media Corporation, said at the press conference. According to the Argentinian website iProfesional, which monitored the broadcasts, there is a relaxed atmosphere but few, if any, of the presenters give the impression of being professionals or journalists. Scattered reports are given on match developments, but there are no radio commentaries or real-time information on the progress of the matches. The commentaries are not comparable to an in-depth sports analysis and there are no guest players in the studio. Here is the site’s in-depth analysis in which the Qatari media system’s broadcaster is mentioned as well. And Hola Quatar Radio? What future will it have after the World Cup? (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
It’s as good a day as any in Ipswich, a Suffolk town where GenX Radio is based, a web station that within a year has been so successful that it has taken the leap into the airwaves, submitting an application to Ofcomto open a DAB channel (the authorisation will come a few days after Tim’s death). Even though it has no competition, because it is the only commercial station in the region, it needs to upgrade its palimpsest in order to land in the digital band. So it recruited a veteran of the airwaves for its most important programme: the breakfast slot, which between 6am and 9am takes listeners from waking up to resuming their activities. And Tim Gough is an exceptional presenter: he has decades in the business behind him and, above all, began his career in 1986 at Radio Orwell, a station based in Ipswich (transmitted on 1170 kHz on medium wave and 97.1 MHz on FM).
A morning like any other
The sun rose at 7.37am. The sky is grey but not cold, it’s 13 degrees. It’s Monday, a new week begins and it’s time to get the energy going. Tim is happy. These are the first broadcasts he is conducting after ten years away from the microphones. He lives 30 km from the station and to avoid travelling to the studios before dawn he has equipped himself at home. He has been on the air for almost an hour when he plays Grey Day by Madness, a ska group that in 1981 with this song parodied a grey morning like that, but in which you still have to get up and drag yourself like zombies to the office after a night of revelry.
Suddenly the music stops
Grey Day is a track full of energy, evoking for Tim the years when he took his first steps at Radio Orwell, in 1986, and he thinks it’s the right push to face a new cloudy week. But shortly afterwards, at 7.50, the music suddenly stops: Tim is taken ill, probably from a heart attack. The ambulance arrived and the paramedics tried to revive him, but after 25 minutes of effort, they had to throw in the towel. Tim left live. As soon as the news spreads, the emails start arriving: hundreds of messages of love. After all, Tim is a well-known personality: after his debut on Radio Orwell in 1986, he became a specialist in morning host. He moved on to Saxon Radio and SGR-FM and made appearances on Smooth Radio, several stations in the East Midlands and other national radio stations. The BBC article collects several testimonials from former colleagues, who agree thathe is afriendly, funny and very talented guy. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
The Iberian country is lagging behind in the transition of radio to DAB. Eighteen years after the activation of multiplexes, digital broadcasting seems not to have emerged from the experimental phase: they are active in Madrid and Barcelona, and a few other cities, still broadcasting in the old standard DAB and not in DAB+. The few programs carried are those of Radio Nacional de Espana (Radio 1, Radio 5: Radio Clásica, and Radio 3 remain excluded), and the main networks (the missing ones are, for example, Cadena Dial, Los 40, Rock FM). Similarly to FM, where inertia in granting authorizations has proliferated illegal frequencies, to which networks also resort, unauthorized multiplexes have been turned on. The number of official ones active mainly in tourist areas (the Costa del Sol and Canary Islands) is doubled.
Avalanche of appeals
Given the competition made to official radio stations by unauthorized ones, many broadcasters interested in digital broadcasting have appealed to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which between September and October 2022 upheld sixteen “recurso de amparo”, which added to those already pending bringing the total to 22. This ”recurso” is a legal formula that allows Spanish citizens to appeal to the supreme court when they believe constitutional norms have been violated. Giving an accurate picture of the situation is the magazine Panorama Audiovisual, which reconstructs its evolution since 2018 when broadcasters began turning to autonomous communities to apply for authorizations. Since some regions have refused, despite having an obligation to grant them, even though they did not proceed with the allocations, alaw firm has recommended appeals to the Constitutional Court. Will they be upheld? Let’s keep our fingers crossed! (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)