UK: New community radio licences awarded to provide information on Covid-19

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Ofcom, UK's independent communications regulator
Ofcom, UK’s independent communications regulator
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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

Audio Content Fund, a new scheme supported by the UK Government to provide funding for original radio and audio production
The Audio Content Fund
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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 over their 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. 

Strawberry Fair, Cambridge Festival 2020, 12 hour transmission on radio
The 2020 Cambridge festival, organised for June 6th, 2020, will be substituted by a 12-hour transmission.
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Julian Clover, Editorial Lead at Cambridge 105 Radio
Julian Clover, Editorial Lead, Cambridge 105 Radio
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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

Map showing radio coverage for Strawberry Fair, FMScan
A map from FMList shows the area covered by the four broadcasters.
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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).

Coronavirus: Funds arrive for broadcasters, but many are cutting costs

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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.

President Donald trump signing mega financial package for economy during coronavirus state of emergency
President Donald Trump as he signs the mega financial stimulus package worth  2,000 billion dollars to support the economy during the coronavirus state of emergency
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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

Spanish Government press conference
At the post Cabinet meeting press conference held on March 31st, 2020.  Those present (from the left): Pablo Iglesias, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda, Maria Jesus Montero,  Spokesperson of the Minister of Finance and the Government, and Nadia Calvino, Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation
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President of Spanish radio station Cadena Cope
Fernando Gimenez Barriocanal, President of Spanish radio station Cadena Cope
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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 

Facebook page of Radios du monde
Radios du monde on Facebook
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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’

Love Sport Radio, Website
Love Sport Radio, Website
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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.