Many Spanish broadcasters in recent years have abandoned amplitude modulation, a ‘duplication’ of FM that has become increasingly expensive. Until a few years ago they were local stations, with powers ranging from 1 to 5 kW (as explained in this article from 2015, which took stock of many closures). This year, energy prices skyrocketing due to the effect of the conflict in Ukraine, the ones throwing in the towel are heavyweight broadcasters that had resisted until now thanks to their regional catchment area.
In June, four important Cope stations bade farewell: Barcelona (783 kHz), Seville (837 kHz), Valladolid (882 kHz) and Pamplona (1135 kHz).
Public radio saves
Radio Nacional de España chose instead to reduce the power of six broadcasting centres from 300 to 100-150 kW, which becomes 75 at night. These are: Madrid (585 kHz), Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands (621 kHz), A Coruña (639 kHz), Sevilla (684 kHz), Barcelona (738 kHz) and Murcia (855 kHz). Quite a downsizing for the Spanish airwaves, which represented a conspicuous anomaly in the European radio scene, as it was the only nation with more than two hundred transmitters. Today, however, there are 163 transmitters, and public radio prevails with 104 transmitters from RNE and RNE5, against the 60 commercial ones from Ser and Cope.
Ser is not far behind
The radio group with the largest audience, Cadena Ser, is also reducing power and switching off: in June 2022, the signals of Radio Córdoba and Radio Mallorca disappeared from the airwaves. But the operation is being carried out without much fanfare. Sometimes the stations on the airwaves lack an authorised FM frequency, and the radio groups reuse the channels of other radio stations in the group (Cadena Dial, Los 40, Cadena 100 or Rock FM). This has already been done by Cope Ciudad Real and Cope Puertollano who, after broadcasting for years without a licence, have taken over the frequencies of Cadena 100.
The Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (Tribunal Superior de Justicia – TSJ) annulled the dismissal of a sound technician of Cope (Cadena de Ondas Populares Españolas, owned by the Spanish Episcopal Conference), and ordered the company to reinstate him and pay his back wages. The employee had written a comment on Twitter about a Spanish satirical film where Jesus is portrayed as a homosexual. The court upheld the appeal because an employee is not obliged to share a company’s ideology or decalogue of good practices and cannot be expelled for this reason. Moreover, he was not a journalist, broadcasting news or opinions, but a sound recording assistant; his Twitter profile was personal and did not indicate that he was an employee of the Catholic radio station. Therefore, the followers of the post could not have damaged the company’s image, as they were unaware of who he worked for.
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.
The economic crisis caused by the pandemic is having an impact on broadcasters’ turnover, which according to the InfoAdex study on advertising investment in Spain in 2020 will drop by 22.9% for all stations. This is a total of 111.5 million euros that will be lost and which will impact mainly on the large commercial networks such as Cadena Ser and Cope (which have lost 25.4 and 24.4% respectively). Broadcasters consider intervening again in the contracts of the big stars (including Pepa Bueno and Carlos Herrera), cutting them for the second consecutive year and probably until the end of 2021. And the situation shows no sign of improving, as the January 2021 InfoAdex figures put the decline at 26.7%.
More details on the smaller radio stations in the article by the independent newspaper El Español.
Radio Nacional de Espana has lost 190,000 listeners in just a few months, and now has around one million. It is an unprecedented collapse that emerged from the General Media Study (EGM) audience survey at the end of the third round of surveys. Compared to the first quarter (the survey was suspended in the second quarter due to the pandemic), the drop was 15%. And the drop does not only affect the flagship network, but also (although to a lesser extent) the other public networks.
Economía digital (Spain’s fifth largest news group, a native of the network) points the finger at the redundancies, resignations and new appointments made this year in the TV and radio networks. Changes made by Rosa María Mateo (RNE’s interim sole director) and Enric Hernández (news director) have triggered a reaction from the trade unions.
SER (+241,000) and, marginally, COPE (+20,000) gained. COPE is also the first in terms of digital audience: the Cadena de Ondas Populares Espanolas (also owner of Cadena 100, Rock FM and Megastar FM brands), has exceeded twelve million unique users, outstripping rival SER by over 600,000 followers.