Austria: Hitradio Ö3 put DJ’s into ‘shared flat’

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Hitradio Ö3 in Vienna, Austria in lockdown in bunker.
Situational Webcam Photo
Austrians radio station, Hitradio Ö3, set-up in a ‘shared flat’
Image: Webcam Radio Ö3, Source

If the pandemic has forced radio stations to set up emergency studios in presenters’ homes in order to keep broadcasting and protect them from contagion, in Austria draconian measures were taken. The national radio station literally ‘locked up’ the presenters working for Hitradio Ö3, the pop channel of Austrian public radio ORF. Their studios in Heiligenstadt, in the 19th district of Vienna, were converted into housing and 22 people (after medical checkups) were put into isolation from March 19th to March 26th, 2020.  As well as presenting their programmes live, they lived and slept in the flat for two weeks. (Hopefully none of them had tested positive after the lock in). 

All the most famous voices

Georg Spatt, station manager of Austria's Hitradio Ö3
Georg Spatt, Station manager of Ö3
Image: Roman Pfeiffer, Source

Apart from the Station Manager, Georg Spatt, who accompanied the team on this adventure, there were six presenters and DJs:  Robert Kratky, Andi Knoll, Sheyda Kharrazi, Verena Kicker, Tina Ritschi and Tarek Adamski.    The other fifteen members of staff included journalists, programming specialists and technicians. The offices were converted into rooms with bathrooms, communal areas such as a coffee bar and all essentials, from a TV to a washing machine, without forgetting the keep fit equipment. Meals were delivered through a security gate.

Public service broadcasters closed by virus

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Website RTVE in Spain, Article about the connection of Radio Exterior and Radio Nacional
Website of RTVE from Spain
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Some international broadcasters have been downsizing.  Radio schedules have been cancelled on Radio Exterior de Espana, an international service on short wave, that since March 16th, 2020, has been repeating bulletins on coronavirus transmitted by Radio Nacional de Espana (a national broadcaster on medium wave and FM).

Website of RAE and Radio Nacional in Argentina
Website of Radio Nacional from Argentina
Source


There is an identical situation in Argentina with RAE (Radiodifusion Argentina al Exterior), which  is broadcasting programmes transmitted by Radio Nacional.

Streets of Delhi in India
Streets of New Delhi, India
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Drastic cuts in India.  Since March 22nd, 2020, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reduced the national radio broadcasters down to Vividh Bharati (a propaganda radio station set up in 1957 to combat Radio Ceylon) transmitting from Mumbai, to All India Radio in New Delhi with news coverage, and to regional stations that cover local news.  All entertainment, music and sport has been cancelled. Digital transmissions on medium wave have been converted back to analogue to enable reception on common commercial radio receivers.

Ireland: Commercial stations are in crisis

trust radio and choose radio, a campaign launched by independent broadcasters in Ireland
#trustradiochooseradio, a campaign launched by independent broadcasters in Ireland
Source

From Galway, our correspondent John Walsh, from Flirt FM: The radio sector in Ireland is also struggling to deal with the COVID-19 crisis both in terms of staying on air and because of the financial implications of collapsed advertising revenue. In a special edition of the programme Wireless on Flirt FM, a community station in Galway, representatives of community and commercial stations explained the challenges in ensuring continuity of service and speculated about the future of the radio sector. Independent Broadcasters of Ireland which represent commercial stations have warned of the collapse of the radio industry.
Note: Ireland is in lockdown from March 24th to April 19th, 2020.  You can listen to the transmission of March 23rd, 2020 by clicking here.

Italy: Radio stations and TV broadcasters seeking finance

Lawyer Marco Rossignoli, Coordinator Aeranti-Corallo
Used by permission
Letter
Letter attached to Press Release from Confindustria
Source

We have already spoken about the problem caused by falling advertising revenue in a previous article, but with the passing of time the problem is worsening.   Franco Siddi, the President of Confindustria Radio Television (the association that represents all the major categories of the radio and television broadcasting industry) has written an open letter to the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.  

The Association Aeranti-Corallo, that represents 439 local radio and television stations, has requested 130 million euro: 80 million to double the annual government funding (from 80 to 90 million euro in 2019, to be distributed on the basis of a list of 903 broadcasters: 137 commercial radio stations 274 local community TV stations, 172  commercial radio stations, and 320 local community radio stations) and another 50 million as a 50% tax credit in order to cover the costs of studio rent, transmitters and electricity (for the months from March to June 2020).  We must keep in mind that an expected funding of 40 million euro was cancelled at the last moment by the decree Cura Italia on March 16th, 2020.

Radio and Coronavirus

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Website of dimensione suono Roma, stamoseneacasa, let us stay at home
Website of dimensione suono Roma
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How are radio stations reacting to the state of emergency?  We checked this in Italy, the first country the pandemic spread to in Europe.  On March 16, five days after the government issued a decree advising the population to restrict their movements, we visited all the active websites of the 1,094 radio stations transmitting on FM, the 273 on Dab and the 12 on medium wave on the FMLIST and FMSCAN.  A hundred or so sites gave wide coverage to the exceptional circumstances of the situation.  Among the networks and the superstations (those covering multiple regions), only Dimensione Suono Roma gave good coverage to the Government’s message. Their home page contains the hashtag #stamoseneacasa ( in Roman dialect advising everyone to stay at home).

More active local radio stations

Website of Radio C1 in Italy
Website of Radio C1
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Diverse approaches by local and community radio stations:  Radio C1 in Pescara sends a message of hope, Radio Punto Nuovo in Naples interviews a radio presenter from Radio Zona Rossa, the Radio Codogna programme on air since February 23. They broadcast two daily news programmes covering the spread of the virus in the town, which following the Chinese approach, was one of the first to be locked down.  Radio Nuova Macerata focuses on useful information such as free grocery delivery services which are beneficial for the elderly so they are not obliged to leave their homes and risk contagion.

The sacred and the profane in Puglia

Website of Radio Montecalvo
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Website of Radio Made in Italy
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There is no shortage of curiosities: Radio Montecalvo, a broadcasting station in Foggia announces a prayer to Padre Pio for protection against the coronavirus.  On the contrary, Radio Made in Italy in Bari draws particular attention to their special offer regarding the red light portal Porno Hub, giving free access to the premium services in order to ….. lighten quarantine. 

Luckily someone thinks about children

Website of SWR Aktuell, a German broadcasting company
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Website of NDR, a German broadcasting company
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With the school closures and parents having to control their hyperactive smaller children, Radio Millennium has come up with a highly appreciated idea for children by broadcasting fairy tales, recorded by the theatre company Teatro del Cerchio  in Parma.  However focusing on children is not an Italian prerogative.  In Germany, for example, the regional radio stations NDR and SWR have increased their numbers of educational programmes for the young.

Website of Radio Millennium in Italy
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Global: Facing state of emergency on the front line

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Facebook News Radio Bona Rossa in times of Coronavirus
Coping in times of Coronavirus at Radio Zona Rossa
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Codogno, one of the first Italian towns put into quarantine on February 21st, 2020, with all access roads blocked until midnight on March 9th, 2020, has a half hour programme called ‘Radio Zona Rossa’ on the parish radio station Radio Codogno.  The aim of the transmission is to give information through brief, live news updates to all those confined at home in the town. Community broadcasters serve the local populations more efficiently in emergencies and their work should be much more appreciated by governments.

More funds less bureaucracy

Cyclone Fani
Cyclone Fani
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In Italy funding is required. The associations of broadcasters are asking the government for financial aid due to them not being able to continue giving information about the coronavirus crisis because of lack of investment in advertising.

Whereas in India a simplified bureaucratic system would be sufficient. The national association of Indian community broadcasters has asked for more streamlined bureaucratic procedures to enable them to restart transmitting immediately when radio studios suffer damage by natural disasters.  This is in order not to have a repetition of the calamity on May 3rd, 2019, when Cyclone Fani interrupted broadcasting of a number of radio stations in the municipality of Puri in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.

The right words to prevent panic

CBAA Emergency Broadcasting in Australia
Article from CBAA: Emergency Broadcasting in Australia
Source

Managing emergency transmissions involves enormous responsibility.  Radio presenters must choose the words they use with great care to avoid spreading panic.  In countries like Australia, where bush fires devastated the continent until the middle of February,  broadcasters are obliged to follow the guidance of the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience.  They provide specific measures to be followed when deciding not only if and when to report the news and the way it should be made public, but they also outline how to structure the content and choice of words.

The consequences of Coronavirus on radio stations

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Website of Radio Energy Turin
Website of Radio Energy Turin
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Less commercials, cancelled events and audience loss: in Italy, first European country to quarantine its citizens, also the radio is suffering from Coronavirus.

With companies closed and consumptions limited to basic commodities (shopping at the pharmacy or at the supermarket) the consequences on advertisings revenue is the same for every media. Consequently, the Italian government had planned (and later cancelled) to assign 40 million Euros as a bonus to help radio-television broadcasters, out of the 25 billion Euros allocated to support economy (decree of March 16th, 2020, called “Cura Italia”) . This was based on the relevant cuts in advertising’s investments reported by Confindustria Radio Televisioni, an association that represents the main networks.

Record audience for TV

Website of Auditel
Website of Auditel
Source

According to Auditel’s data, however, during the first quarantine week a boom of TV-audience has been noticed, forcing the research institute (that does the scan with the meter) to postpone the report’s publication. On March 10th, 2020, the first day of quarantine for the whole country, the viewers increased by 1,7 million against one week before, with 2,65 million more during prime time.

On March 15th, 2020, despite sport programmes and other popular shows had been cancelled, the prime time viewers increased by 5,1 million. A rise in audience like this surely increases the value of commercials, but is still not enough to make up for the general loss in advertising investment.

And what about Radio?

Website of TER (Tavolo Editori Radio)
Website of TER (Tavolo Editori Radio)
Source

Radio broadcasters did register a loss of audience especially during the morning, usually rich in commercials: in car the traditional radio listening still prevails, but will the quarantined commuters still listen to the transmission that accompanied them on their way to work? Or are they going to sleep for an extra hour?

On the other hand, the ones that are experiencing smart working, or the ones that are at home forced by the temporary closure of their companies, are they going to turn on their radios or their TV sets? 
In a couple of months we’ll have some statistics that will tell us if radios took advantage of this epidemic, or if TV or other media prevail.
To know that, we have to wait for the next Ter’s research ( the “Tavolo Editori Radiofonici” published on March 10th, 2020, the results of the first round, made of 30.000 surveys done since January 21st, 2020)