The scandal of Patricia Schlesinger, director of the Berlin public broadcaster RBB Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (illicit reimbursements and a rich consultancy to her husband) has been ridden by the right wing, but even some government parties are talking about reforming the public media. There are 21 television and 83 radio stations in the country, which share 8 billion in license fees (each household pays 18.36 euros per month). Deutsche Welle (financed by the federal government, however, not by the license fee) reconstructs the evolution of the German radio and television system: from the first stations opened in the four occupation zones (into which the country was divided after the Second World War) to the subsequent development and the emergence of new stations after reunification, and up to the present day. The topic of public funding and the credibility of information is also addressed: despite the scandal, 70% of citizens (2020 data) trust the public media. Here you can read the full article, in English.
After the floods that devastated North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate in July 2021, the role of the media in emergencies is being discussed. With such large-scale disasters, which increasingly strike suddenly, in addition to an early warning system such as sirens, it’s necessary to manage the rescue effort and inform the population. Radio is the most reliable medium for these tasks because it has been shown that mobile phones and internet networks tend to overload quickly and break down in such emergencies. Georg Rose, editor-in-chief of Radio Wuppertal, which received an award for its work during the floods, talks in an interview with Radioszene about how broadcasters can support the civil protection network, for example by being equipped with generators to keep the signal on the air and the editorial staff active for the crucial first 24 hours.
RadioSzene, a website for radio producers, published several articles on the role of the media during the flood emergency and possible countermeasures. Among them is an interview with Michael Radomski, in which the managing director of the Uplink group (over-the-air connection services) suggests the use of VHF channels (radio, TV, Internet, alarm applications and SMS) because they have proved to be less prone to interference and interruptions. There is also talk of the task force set up by the management of the WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk, public radio and television in North Rhine-Westphalia), which is to develop a digital offering capable of operating in adverse weather conditions, reaching as many people as possible in dangerous situations.
To support the reconstruction, a temporary local radio station was even set up for the Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler area, which had no local station. Ahrtalradio, broadcasting on 107.9, was created with the support of 20 radio producers from all over Germany to boost the economy, trade, tourism, society and associations. Listeners can introduce themselves, make suggestions and offer jobs. Companies, restaurateurs and service providers affected by the flooding receive 60 free spots to inform customers about the resumption of business.
Markus Weidner, an editor since 1999 of the telecommunications site teltarif.de, has published on his blog a report on the new car radios on display at the IAA Mobility in Munich, the fair that replaces the biennial Frankfurt Motor Show, overwhelmed (like the Geneva Motor Show) by the pandemic. According to Markus, after having integrated the car radio more and more into the car (making it difficult to replace with third-party products), car manufacturers are now limiting its functionality. In the most recent models, the receivers offer a list that integrates FM and DAB stations, updated in the background. The function is useful because it avoids searching and memorizing the station, which can be recalled (more and more often) with a voice command. Such an organized list is convenient for those who listen to the most powerful radio stations, but it limits the choice: if the signal is not strong enough or slightly interfered, or without RDS (in FM there are still some) it is completely ignored. Weidner suggests an expert mode that enables the old manual tuning in FM and DAB. Otherwise, this “rationalization”, prevents you from freely choosing the radio of your heart.
Berlin-based Schlager Radio has announced the launch of its own visual radio station, which will be receivable via satellite on Astra and with a smart TV connected to the internet. The station’s intention is to offer additional information, such as displaying the title of the song being broadcast. “The aim”, says press spokesman Heiner Harke, “is to offer our listeners visual added value without being a TV programme“.
Boom in Italy
In Italy, on the other hand, live video broadcasts from radio stations are almost like television programmes and are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, around 19 million Italians now follow them on a screen (TV, smartphone or PC), 11 million of whom use TV. And according to the Censis research “La transizione verso la radiovisione” (“The transition towards radiovision”) “visual radio is strongly in tune with the expectations of Italians: 52% declare that they would like to have more and more the possibility to enjoy radio contents on different devices also in video format. And 50% of those who follow radiovision find it pleasant, 27.5% engaging, 24% innovative”.
Public radio also adapts in Switzerland
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.