Radio is also a passion, for those who make it and listen to it. Among those who ‘turn the knobs’, Dario Monferini has left an indelible mark: in almost fifty years he has listened to and visited thousands of radio stations

Dario Monferini, in the middle, in the studios of a Venezuelan broadcaster in 1992

His unmistakable look sticks in the memory of thousands of radio operators who welcome him into the studios. He is well-informed about all radio stations, not just the ones he listens to. He visits as many as possible to get to know them better, to ask for information and, above all, for gadgets. He dreams of a museum that tells the history of stations all over the world. To do so, he collects everything that bears witness to the radio epic: newspaper cuttings, specialised magazines, books, stamps, coins and phone cards with station logos, programme schedules, and photographs. In the pre-internet era, he created a network of hundreds of correspondents scattered all over the world, who, like him, hunt for material and exchange it. Swirling.

The character

Smiling, in front of Pueblo 870 AM, belonging to the Circuito Nacional Belfort.

The picture above shows him on an overseas trip. It’s the nineties: Dario poses in front of the trademark and slogan of a Venezuelan Circuito Nacional Belfort, closed in 2009 when President Ugo Chávez withdrew the concession from radio stations opposing his regime. The shot is by Marzio Vizzoni, a passionate photographer who follows him on the South American stage. Almost everyone welcomes this curious Italian who knows frequencies and radio names inside out, even though he lives on the other side of the ocean: in the analogue era, he has the memory of a computer. In his hand he holds PlayDx, a fanzine edited every Sunday morning with a typewriter. Uninterruptedly until 2012, when the tapes become unavailable. He published more than 1500 issues before migrating to digital, helped by friends.

Fifty years of travel

During a BDXC meeting, The British DX Club, an English club of radio listening enthusiasts

In almost fifty years, Monferini travelled the length and breadth of Europe and the American continent. He visits thousands of stations. Some interview him live, and air the recording of the programme he received in Italy. Friendly, he dispenses vitriolic jokes in various languages. He learns them as an autodidact, to decipher the details of programmes that often arrive with a signal at the limit of comprehensibility. He listens to everything, on short, medium and long waves. He approached radio listening at the end of the 1960s: passion, intelligence and willpower immediately made him excel. He became an institution and actively participated in international conventions of enthusiasts’ clubs, representing Italian radio listening.

The trophy room

The room where he listens: the walls are covered with station pennants. All around are binders and boxes full of stickers. He started with a Grundig Satellit 6001, moved on to various receivers, such as the Drake in the photo, and finally landed on the Japanese JRC NRD 525, among the best in the 1980s

He becomes a leader. For him, listening is also redemption. Polio has left heavy marks: he wears orthopaedic shoes and has to get help from friends to open drinks cans. But his will makes up for the gaps and drives him to wear out the soles of his shoes by travelling the world far and wide. He throws himself into his hobby and renounces starting a family. He marries radio. In just a few years, he has hit the ground running and is a cut above other enthusiasts: he writes to every radio station he can tune into. In the first four years, he gets 1,200 replies. A record. He listens to practically everything that reaches Italian latitudes (disadvantaged by propagation, which gives northern Europeans exceptional openings, thanks to the earth’s magnetism and the many hours of darkness). He compensates for the lack of propagation with commitment.

From North American medium wave stations to FM

Monferini under the Pic del Martell, in the Garaf massif, located behind Castelldefels, Catalunya. Next to him is Jordi Brunet, who has found this excellent spot for listening. From a height of three hundred metres, you have an open horizon as far as Corsica and Sardinia and Naples, in Italy. The massif shields the super-powerful signals from the Collserola tower, which serves Barcelona.

He runs on the bands every night until the wee hours to receive South American stations. And when the cone has no more secrets, he switches to North American medium-wave stations. He wakes up between four and six o’clock to take advantage of the cone of shadow that precedes the rising of the sun and that favours reception. He identifies favourable days by phoning the observatory in Boulder, Colorado, every day, which broadcasts a recorded message with the solar activity values. These were the roaring years of radio on short and medium waves. And, when the liberalisation of the Italian airwaves began in 1975 and frequency modulation became populated with broadcasters, he also devoted himself to FM. The wave of freedom spreads over the band and crosses Europe. It sweeps away the dreariness of state radios and brings a generation of youngsters onto the airwaves, some of whom are still in the saddle today, almost fifty years later, but just as passionate as they were then. Thousands of broadcasters were born: an opportunity not to be missed to gather material to document them.

An immense collection… dispersed

Dario at La Capannina di Ciccio, in Bocca di Magra, during a break between listening sessions in the company of Giampiero Bernardini (in 2018)

To collect a memento on each radio he makes whirlwind exchanges with enthusiasts all over the world. In fifty years he created an immense collection and filled a flat with stacks of boxes reaching up to the ceiling. Unfortunately, the unforgivable decision of the tutelary judge (two years after a heart attack in 2021 and the first stroke) and the insensitivity of the support administrator sent everything to the scrap heap in order to sell the flat and pay for the retirement home. A pity. But if the collectors at the time and the radio editors, all now in their old age, join forces, they can realise that dream they perhaps shared in their hearts. Something that tells their story. It would be an opportunity to reconstruct their memory since the publicity materials collected by enthusiasts are often the only evidence of many of the more than 12,000 Italian radio stations that have been in existence since 1975. To organise the materials, valorise them and organise travelling exhibitions instead of letting them get mouldy in some cellar. Or have them end up in a landfill. Dario left us on 17 October 2022 before dawn, in the health facility where he had been hospitalised for months in Milan.

Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini

SAN MARINO: The republic’s TV will cover Italy

The republic's TV will cover Italy
In the press release published on its website, the San Marino broadcaster does not mention the two radio stations that broadcast from Monte Titano: Radio San Marino (102.7 MHz) and Radio San Marino Classic (103.2 MHz): will these also be broadcast on digital terrestrial TV?

RTV San Marino will get frequencies from Rai to cover the Italian territory. During a meeting of the board of directors of the Italian public broadcaster, held on June 30, 2021, the proposal to transfer frequencies to the San Marino station was unanimously approved. The general manager of RTV San Marino, Carlo Romeo, recalls that thirty years ago it was the then general manager of Rai Sergio Zavoli who aired this possibility. The agreement between the two governments is now awaited, essential for the decision to become operative. It will probably have to wait until 2023, when, with the passage to DVB T2, Rai’s increased availability of transmissions will allow it to host the San Marino station in its multiplex, thus enabling it to serve the peninsula.

ITALIA Visual radio: la Rai scende in campo. Intervista a Roberto Sergio, direttore delle radio pubbliche

Abstract (English)

Radiovision is a typical Italian phenomenon, ridden mainly by RTL 102.5 – from the small screen they receive a dowry of 1.1 million listeners (1.8 million during lockdown). Since 2000 the broadcaster from Cologno has developed a successful format, patenting and exporting it, and many Italian radio stations have imitated it. And to underline the importance of a video presence for the traditional radio stations, now come the ones of Rai. On 14th September, 2020 Radio2 started, with Radio1 to follow in 2021, while Radio3 and the other thematic channels will progressively increase their video spaces. But unlike the other radio stations, the public ones will not be visible on digital terrestrial television (DVB-T) but on RaiPlay, a portal that also hosts all the Rai television channels and an archive of programs. We interviewed Roberto Sergio (RS), director of Radio Rai, the structure that groups all the radio and thematic channels broadcast on DAB.

Article (In Italiano)
L’avvio delle visual radio è stato annunciato il 16 luglio 2020 a Roma, nel corso della presentazione dei palinsesti della stagione 2020-2021
L’avvio delle visual radio è stato annunciato il 16 luglio 2020 a Roma, nel corso della presentazione dei palinsesti della stagione 2020-2021

La radiovisione è un fenomeno tipicamente italiano, cavalcato soprattutto da RTL 102.5 che dal piccolo schermo riceve in dote 1,1 milioni di ascoltatori (1,8 durante il lockdown). L’emittente di Cologno ha messo a punto (dal 2000) un format di successo, brevettandolo ed esportandolo, e tante radio italiane l’hanno imitata. E a sancire l’importanza di una presenza in video della radio tradizionale oggi arrivano le radio della Rai. Il 14 settembre ha iniziato Radio2, seguita l’anno prossimo da Radio1, mentre Radio3 e gli altri canali tematici incrementeranno progressivamente i loro spazi video. Ma a differenza delle altre emittenti, quelle pubbliche non saranno visibili sul digitale terrestre ma su RaiPlay, la piattaforma che ospita anche tutte le tv e un archivio dei programmi. Per far luce su alcuni dettagli, abbiamo posto alcune domande a Roberto Sergio (RS), direttore di Radio Rai, la struttura che raggruppa tutti i canali radiofonici e quelli tematici trasmessi sul DAB.

Roberto Sergio, direttore di Rai Radio
Roberto Sergio, direttore di Rai Radio 
Fonte: Ufficio Stampa Rai

RR: Puntare sul format, la professionalità e la simpatia dei conduttori viene fatto da molte emittenti. A settembre svelerete delle innovazioni nel vostro modo di fare radiovisione?

I conduttori di Rai Radio2
I conduttori di Rai Radio2
Fonte: Ufficio Stampa Rai

RS: La nostra visual radio avrà tutti i contenuti di Radio 2: i programmi con i nostri oltre 60 conduttori, la musica con i video, l’informazione, il meteo e così via. Sicuramente non siamo i soli a farlo, ma credo di poter dire che solo noi possiamo mettere in campo tutta questa ricchezza di contenuti e una qualità delle conduzioni che non teme confronti con voci, che adesso diventano volti, di altissimo profilo. E con una cura estrema per il confezionamento di un prodotto che ha come faro guida l’intrattenimento leggero ma intelligente. C’è poi da dire che la nostra scelta di posizionamento è molto diversa da quella di alcuni nostri competitor della radiovisione. Noi non vogliamo fare una tv. Non a caso non andiamo a occupare un canale televisivo. Faremo una radio che, potendosi vedere, potrà andare sui media digitali nativi video.

Radio 2 in visual radio andrà su Rai Play e da lì, magari con contenuti brevi, con pillole di video, contiamo di andare “in giro” sulle varie piattaforme video. Per portare la nostra radio anche a chi non la conosce. E comunque, Rai Play è oggi visibile sui televisori connessi con estrema facilità. Quindi non andiamo a competere con i canali tv classici, ma ne condividiamo il mezzo, che diventa uno dei modi per arrivare alle persone. Tutto un altro approccio rispetto alla radio tale e quale riproposta in tv, accesa magari per incrementare la notorietà del brand e far salire i dati delle rilevazioni Ter.

RR: Si è parlato di una progressiva migrazione in video di tutte le radio Rai: che tempi vi siete dati per mettere a punto Radio2 e in che tempi la trasformazione toccherà gli altri canali?

Rai Radio Logo
La Rai ha 12 canali radio, metà dei quali difusi anche in FM (Radio 1, Radio2, Radio3, Radio 3 Classica, GR Parlamento, Isoradio), gli altri solo sul Dab. Tutti sono ascoltabili su Raiplay
Fonte: Ufficio Stampa Rai

RS: Radio 2 è pronta. Dal prossimo settembre sarà tutta in visual radio tranne la notte. Alcuni contenuti si affineranno strada facendo, ma la partenza è garantita. Per gli altri, l’orizzonte è il 2021, anche se c’è da fare un distinguo. Radio 2 è un canale di intrattenimento di flusso, quindi ha motivo di essere sempre in modalità visual. Gli altri canali accenderanno alcune finestre in momenti specifici. Quei momenti che riterremo di appeal per il pubblico delle piattaforme video. Per capirci, Radio 3 non sarà sempre in video, ma potrà accendere le telecamere in occasione di concerti o piece teatrali che si svolgeranno nelle nostre sale, oppure se in un determinato programma avremo ospiti di eccellenza. Il tutto soprattutto per la distribuzione sui social, con l’obiettivo di far girare i contenuti al di là del nostro target primario, come detto precedentemente.

RR: La versione video di un canale informativo come Radio1 potrebbe togliere ascolti a RaiNews24?

La regia video delle visual radio Rai
La regia video delle visual radio Rai
Fonte: Ufficio Stampa Rai

RS: Anche Radio 1 seguirà la stessa strategia, non sarà sempre in onda (non avrebbe senso). Ma potrà passare in modalità visual per brevi pillole. Quindi nessuna competizione con RaiNews24, che ha ovviamente altri mezzi e un’altra piattaforma di elezione. La visual radio è un modo per uscire dal mezzo “audio only” e andare a intercettare pubblico nei mezzi visuali. Ma non è un competitor della tv. Del resto, se così non fosse, non avremmo scartato l’idea di avere dei canali video su Dtt.

Fabrizio Carnevalini

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