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, are down £ 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.
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.
In previous articles we spoke about the collapse in advertising, the request made by Aeranti-Corallo for funds of 130 million euros and the allocations of funds made by other governments from Spain to the United States.
Five years after reopening, the Greek public broadcaster is renewing its installations and image. On June 11th, 2013, ERT Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation was closed because of austerity measures following the sovereign debt crisis, and was reopened by the Tsipras government on the same day two years later.
The board of directors called for tenders for the replacement of 162 FM transmitters (71 with outputs of 1kW, 20 of 2kW, 51 of 5kW and 20 of 10kW, costing € 2,606,000), for digital transmitters for TV (tender amount of € 3,924,000) and for redesigning the logo of the broadcaster.
Click here & here for more details.
(From our correspondent in Thessaloniki, Zacharias Liangas)
Nils Schiffhauer, a German radio enthusiast, has carried out a census of clandestine broadcasters. Financed by governments to destabilise inconvenient regimes, they rent transmitters mainly in Europe, as shown on the map drawn by the author, and send their signals mostly to Africa and Asia. There is an explanation of who is financing each radio station and who the target listeners are, as well as a short recording of the beginning of the programmes. It goes from Radio Erena, produced by Eritrean journalists in exile in Paris who are fighting against the dictatorial regime in their country, to the many stations financed by the United States Congress which includes those transmitting to Cuba, Iran and North Korea (which receives transmissions from seven clandestine stations).
The article can be seen here.
The slowdown or lockdown of businesses has led to a decrease in advertising on radio and television. The national broadcasters are increasing their programmes, but those not receiving state funding are suffering. Networks are cutting fixed costs and broadcasters are closing their less important frequencies. And if a transmitter breaks down … the risk is it’s not going to be fixed.
The BBC flexes its muscles
‘We need to pull together to get through this. That’s why the BBC will be using all of its resources – channels, stations and output – to help keep the nation informed, educated and entertained’ declared, Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC. The many measures the BBC is implementing, include their commitment not to discontinue any of their most listened to programmes on Radio One, to bring listeners up-to-date information on the Coronavirus through 5 Live, and the launching of Make a Difference, that will see every local radio station joining up with volunteer groups to help, co-ordinate and support the elderly by informing them of what help is available in their area. Their full package of measures can be found here.
Those depending on advertising are suffering
The closure of businesses has led to a collapse in commercials and a rise in unpaid invoices. These are the complaints of some of the Italian radio producers we interviewed. Some, after terminating their agreements with freelance staff and asking for government aid for their employees, are only playing music on air. However, the electricity bills for their transmitters have to be paid. In order to cut the bills, a group of broadcasters in Puglia, Italy, unable to lower radiated power (in Italy the authorisation process takes considerable time), have remediated by turning off their smaller sites. Tower operators are also having a bad time (they get paid rent for providing antenna space on their towers). Some have already received requests by some radio networks for hefty discounts on the rent. At the same time, given that the power of the transmitters are in excess, it would only need the authorities to allow radio stations to halve it. It would be a reform at zero cost and nobody would be disadvantaged.
In a breakdown, spare parts at risk
The lockdown of businesses has also hit transmitter manufacturers like Elenos, the internationally renowned company located near Ferrara. Leonardo Busi, the Chief Executive Officer, stated in an interview on Radio Globo (Lazio, Italy) that they have had to stop production due to no longer receiving the components that are indispensable for assembling the structures. The supplies are down to the bone and a radio or TV station with a breakdown could have to stop their service.
With the shutdown of businesses and stringent measures limiting movement in a large number of countries, there are those who are putting their energy into opening web radios. Pirate radio stations are opening up on air and those already functioning are raising their transmission power during this present state of emergency, knowing full well that it is highly improbable that the authorities will be checking.
Ireland: Two women from the world of show business found Radio Quarantine
“After having wasted hour after hour following the news on the imminent end of the world, we had had enough of it and decided to put our energy into making the lives of those having to stay at home more bearable”. So Anna-Rose Charleton, a film producer who had had all her work cancelled, and the London singer actress Kate McKeown, who had been forced to return to Dublin because of the Coronavirus outbreak, set up the Quaran Team, a team of experts under the guidance of Maitiú Charleton, Anna-Rosa’s quarantine partner, and started webcasting. The programmes go on air from Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 09.00 pm GMT with music, news and guests from the show business world. They focus on listener participation and try to involve people who have a talent or a story to tell.
New ‘pirate’ radio stations set up and some increase transmission power
Having a lot more time on their hands is also spurring radio stations to go on air without authorisation. In Italy, on March 20th, 2020 it was reported that Radio Zona Rossa was transmitting on 6330 kHz on shortwave. The name was inspired by a programme invented by Radio Codogna but it concerns an autonomous radio station and its own programme. In Great Britain, a group on Facebook reported that Fusion FM, a pirate radio station near Birmingham, had a more powerful signal than those from authorised broadcasters. There is no change in Madrid, where there are a great number of unauthorised radio stations, but the authorities do not carry out checks.
March 20th, 2020 will be remembered as the day European radio stations showed united solidarity during the coronavirus pandemic. At 8.45 a.m. 183 European radio stations, including RAI and the BBC, played the English group ,Gerry & The Pacemakers’ version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, an iconic, moving song considered a hymn to humanity. The song became even more popular after the Liverpool FC fans adopted it as the team’s official anthem (see here) after qualifying for the finals of Champions League in 2019).
The initiative was the idea of Sander Hoogendoorn, a disk jockey working for the Dutch pop music public channel, NPO 3FM, who wanted to bring all the radio stations in the Netherlands together. In the end the initiative went beyond their national borders (find a list of stations that participated here).
Three questions RadioReporter asked Sander Hoogendoorn
RR: Did you expect this success?
SH: No, I didn’t. The plan was to play this song with all the breakfast shows in the Netherlands. When they tagged along I was happy but then radio stations from Belgium started joining in. Then we started to make some phone calls to see if other European radio stations would like to join us. And they did!
RR: How long did it take you to arrange it?
SH: On Tuesday we started to talk to our listeners about the idea. In the same show I called some friends at other radio stations, asking them to join on Friday at 08.45. They were really happy to help. During the week more and more stations joined in, the last ones even on Friday morning. I think that all around the world more than 190 radio stations played the song!
RR: Which song would you choose to celebrate the victory over the pandemic?
SH: Queen – We Are The Champions
15.000 Italian transmitters connected
Three hours later, at 11.00 a.m., radio stations all over the peninsula united to show solidarity and bring everyone together by playing the Italian National Anthem and three very well known Italian songs: Azzurro (Adriano Celentano), La canzone del sole (Lucio Battisti) and Nel blu dipinto di blu (Domenico Modugno). The population was asked to tune in and wave the national flag. The radio stations involved included 19 private networks (Maria, Radicale and Mater only for the anthem) and more than 600 radio stations, members of Aeranti-Corallo and Confindustria Radio TV, all connected to more than 15,000 transmitters (there are 9.123 national network transmitters alone. Source: FMList and FMScan).