PIRATE RADIO STATIONS: Illegal broadcasting is proliferating ‘from the Apennines to the Andes’

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Transmitting without a license is a criminal offence but the desire to start one’s own radio station drives people to break the law in every country. This time we talk about Peru and Italy

PERU: 20,000 enforcement actions to catch a thousand illegal broadcasters 

The antenna of an illegal radio station was destroyed by an enforcement team
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About 5,000 licensed radio stations and 1,000 illegal broadcasters operate in the Andean country. The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) is very active. In 2020 the ministry has planned 20,000 enforcement actions. They closed down 14 radio stations in the region of Lima in January 2020 and in 2019 they confiscated 1,072 pieces of transmission equipment and closed 200 stations. The fine for those who get caught is 200,000 Peruvian soles (about US$ 58,000). 

ITALY: One of Radio Maria’s antennas was illegal

Radio Maria’s list of frequencies (over 900 in Italy) also includes one in Amalfi, broadcasting on 105.5 MHz from the transmitter site in Conca dei Marini, now under seizure 
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A repeater transmitting on 105.5 MHz, operated by Radio Maria in the province of Salerno, was closed down on June 13th, 2020. After receiving a number of reports from local citizens, the carabinieri in Amalfi confirmed that the radio antenna, that had been installed years ago in the courtyard of a privately owned building in Via dei Naviganti in Conca dei Marini, a municipality on the Amalfi coast, did not have a license. The Regional Environmental Protection Agency (Arpac) in Campania also established (after multiple inspections) that the electromagnetic emissions exceeded the limits allowed by the law. As a result the radio station was subject to criminal seizure. The broadcaster’s lawyers opposed the shutdown but the appeal at the Court of Appeal in Salerno was rejected. 

Record number of criminal charges for a pirate in Palermo

The antenna of the illegal broadcaster: a simple dipole antenna on the roof of a house in the hills of Ciaculli in the suburbs of Palermo 
Source: Press office of the Carabinieri provincial command in Palermo

The phenomenon of illegal radio stations is limited on the peninsula because they not only face fines, but also criminal charges. On June 11th, 2020, the carabinieri assisted by officials of the Ministry of Economic Development (the body that carries out enforcement actions) deactivated a radio station that modulated on 97.4 MHz. The owner was charged on three counts: The first for violation of the electronics communication code (the transmitter was not licensed): the second for damage (it interfered with the frequency of a licensed radio station) by broadcasting from a residential building on a hill. In fact, it interfered with RMC – Radio Monte Carlo transmitting on 97.6 MHz from Via Barone Manfredi 8, in Monreale. However, what really takes the biscuit is that the whole building (where the owner had set up studios and put an antenna on the roof) was illegally connected to the city’s electricity grid. In this way, the 44-year-old man was charged with the third count of theft of electrical energy. 

In another city on Sicily, a radio station, that only broadcast music without commentary, appeared in Syracuse in April 2020. It modulated on 88.6 MHz and later moved to 93.8 MHz. We have recently been informed that it has now been shut down. 

Another closedown one week later

A photograph of the ‘studio’. On the left, with his back to the camera, an officer from the Radio Monitoring unit in the Ministry of Economic Development 
Source: Press office of the Carabinieri provincial command in Palermo

After the enforcement action in Ciaculli, investigations were continued in the province of Palermo. These led to the deactivation of another unlicensed radio station a week later, this time in Pioppo, a part of the municipality of Monreale. The transmitter operated in the same way as a licensed commercial radio by not only broadcasting music but also commercials. It caused interference with the frequencies of two national networks: RMC Radio Monte Carlo and R101.

The Covid-19 bill

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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

APA News reporting on Horizont about Austria's ORF planned cost cutting due to Covid-19
APA News reporting on Horizont about Austrians ORF’s planned cost cuttings
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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

Radio France cutting costs for radio broadcasting due to the Coronavirus pandemic
Report on Le Figaro.fr
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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

NDR, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, cutting costs due to coronavirus.
NDR logo located in Osnabrück
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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 has launched a campaign for subscriptions to compensate for the missing revenues
‘Take care of the black cat’
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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

BBC needs to make 125 million pound sterling savings this year due to the coronavirus crisis
BBC TV studio
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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

the Spanish network, Cadena SER, is reducing cost of labour. Article from inertia, el espanol.
Cadena SER radio studio in Madrid
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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.

Italy: More resources for radio from the government

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the publication of the relaunch decree in italy
The publication of the ‘Relaunch Decree’
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The ‘Relaunch Decree’, published late in the evening on May 19th, 2020, contained a wonderful surprise. The radio and TV stations, that have been broadcasting information on the pandemic, will be receiving € 50 million (in the first draft it was 20 million, which became 40 after protests made by the broadcasting associations). The allocation of the funds will be according to a points system, which is used by the fund that has the task to promote pluralism and innovation of the media. The only obligation for the broadcasters is to put government  information campaigns on air during the Covid-19 health crisis. In addition, in order to relaunch advertising (that saw a fall of up to 80%) companies that buy radio and TV spots will be able to deduct 50% off their taxes (€ 20 million have been allocated, but considering that the deduction has been extended to national TV stations, the effectiveness of this measure will be largely diminished).

More advantages and simpler procedures

the relaunch decree from may 2020, italy
The ‘Relaunch Decree’, May 19th, 2020
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The decree includes other concessions for businesses which the broadcasting stations will be able to benefit from. For example, a tax credit of 60% on rents in March, April and May 2020 (for both studios and repeater stations) if revenues are not over € 5 million and there is a drop of 50% in turnover compared to the same period last year. There is also a postponement of tax deadlines from April 16th to May 16th, 2020, for companies with a fall in turnover of at least 33% in the months of March and April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Furthermore, companies will not be obliged to pay IRAP (Italian Regional Production Tax) in June 2020 (balance and advance payment for the following year) if turnover is not over € 250 million. The procedures for applying for furloughing of staff and for having a reduction in the electricity bills will be simplified. Some expenses (cost of energy transport, electricity meter management and general expenses) will be reduced for three months (May to July 2020), but this will not affect energy consumed, which would have been welcomed by the associations.

Italy: The State speeds up funds

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Website of Aeranti-Corallo
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A breath of fresh air for broadcasters has arrived in the form of state funds, albeit years overdue.  Outstanding government subsidies for both 2017 and 2018 were paid at the end of April this year. About a thousand community and commercial radio and TV stations benefit from this aid, which is calculated by following a points system.  Further help has arrived through ‘extra revenues’ from the RAI license fees. Since monthly instalments of  the public broadcaster’s license fee have been added to the citizens’ electricity bills, evasion has been reduced. This little ‘nest egg’ (higher revenues than before the law passed) is divided between RAI and the local broadcasting stations.

How the funds have been allocated

Website of Italian Ministry of Economic Development
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The attached documents show how the funds have been divided.

216 commercial radio stations have been allocated € 12,383,220.26 for 2017.

207 commercial radio stations have been allocated € 6,073,587.90 for 2018.  

314 community radio stations have been allocated € 4,127,740.09 for 2017.  

207 community radio stations have been allocated € 2,024,529.30 for 2018.  

These, on the other hand, are the allocations of the extra payments of RAI license fees in 2018 which were distributed to 26 commercial radio stations.

and to 25 community radio stations.

Not much choice: Even frequencies have lost value

Frequency auction
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Some time ago radio stations that had multiple frequencies could sell them off to networks. In this way they could balance their budgets and, hopefully all being well, renovate their studios.  However, due to the financial crisis in 2008 the going prices were more than halved and a surplus of channels on sale was created. The Florentine radio station RTR957 bankruptcy auction,  that had no bidders on two occasions, is evidence of this. The prices the liquidator was asking for were those of the past, the quality control head of one of the large networks pointed out:  € 118,000 for the Monte Morello station (in the municipality of Sesto Fiorentino in the suburbs of the Tuscan capital), and € 63,000 for the one in Poggio Ciliegio in the municipality of Carmignano in the province of Prato.

Italy: Radio stations ask for adequate funds

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radio studio, female host with headphones and microphone, currently broadcasting
Insight into the studio
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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.

Covid-19 and Radio: Situation in France, Spain and Italy

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Wireless, a programme produced by John Walsh on Flirt FM in Galway, 101.3 FM, is back with a special edition on the crisis, that radio is facing because of the pandemic. They are presenting an overview of how European broadcasters in France, Spain and Italy are dealing with the impact that the crisis is having on radio stations. Their previous transmission covered the situation in Ireland which we spoke about in one of our recent articles.

Click here to listen to the Wireless podcast.

Wireless, programme on Flirt FM in Galway, their blog, where one can listen to their podcast
Wireless Flirt, Radio about Radio from Ireland
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