To counter possible damage to its FM repeater network, Ukraine has switched back on some radio stations operating on medium waves. They had been switched off in 2018, like so many energy-intensive installations supplanted over the years by the frequency modulation network, which has the advantage of offering better audio quality. But reactivating them has become strategic because they are installations that can serve large areas of the country and are often located in areas far from those affected by the conflict, and could operate undisturbed. Of the six reactivated, mainly between 24 and 26 February 2022, only one was damaged. They all broadcast the first programme (UR1 Pershiy Kanal).
Rumours coming from the back
549 kHz from Mykolaiv (Миколаїв)(100 km east of Odessa) with 400 kW: reactivated on 24 February 2022, on air until 6 March 2022 (it had been off since 1 January 2022). 657 kHz from Chernivtsi (Чернівці́)(400 km south of Kiev, near the border with Romania) with 25 kW: reactivated on 26 February 2022 (no longer active since 1 February 2018). 837 kHz from Kharkiv (Ха́рків)(150 kW): on-air since 25 February 2022, discontinued the next day (had ended broadcasting on 1 February 2018, broadcasting the cultural programme UR 3 Radio Kul’tura). 873 kHz from Chasiv Yar (Часів Яр) (25 kW): this is in the Donetsk region, in the self-proclaimed Doneck People’s Republic (it had been off the air since June 2017). 1278kHz from Kurisove (Курісове), near Odessa (100 kW): reinstated on 8 March 2022 (it had been broadcasting the cultural programme UR 3 Radio Kul’tura until 1 February 2018). 1404 kHz from Izmail (Ізмаї́л)(in the Odessa region, but close to the border with Romania): restored since 26 February 2022.
To inform millions of refugees, who have arrived in neighbouring countries, Poland has been broadcasting Українське Rадіо (Radio Ukraine) on a DAB channel since 4 March to inform Ukrainians in their mother tongue. The digital network reaches 70 per cent of the Polish population, focusing on urban areas and main communication routes. Similar situation in the Czech Republic: Radio Ukraine has been included in digital radio multiplexes since 11 a.m. on Friday, 4 March and is repeated on the website of the national radio station, Český Rozhlas. Pictured is a coverage map showing where the digital signal can be received on Czech territory.
Longwaves cover the whole of Ukraine and the Russians can’t “switch them off”
But Poland has done more: Polskie Radio Jedynka (the first Polish public radio programme), shortly after the invasion, started broadcasting news items in Ukrainian, produced by the native speakers working on the international radio programmes. The channel is also broadcast on long waves, on 225 kHz, from the Solec Kujawski/Kabat broadcasting centre, which with its 1200 kW of power (reduced to 700 at night) covers most of the Ukrainian territory. In this way, the population in war zones can be informed even if the telecommunications networks are interrupted.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has vetoed the media law passed by the nationalist government, believing that it would be unpopular and undermine the confidence of foreign investors. The measure required companies to reduce their stake in radio and TV stations to 49% to ensure that no non-European companies could control the media that help shape public opinion. The loser would be U.S.-based Discovery, which was forced to relinquish control of TVN, the country’s most important network and the largest U.S. investment in Poland. Many Poles perceived the move by the ruling party (Law and Justice, on whose positions the president is aligned) as an attempt to silence TVN24, an inconvenient station with an evening news program watched by millions of people.
The pandemic does not seem to have had much effect on the listening habits of Poles, 72% of whom tune into a radio station every day, while another 19% turn on the device once a week. On the other hand, the ways in which radio is enjoyed have changed, with 60% following it in the car in 2019, a percentage that has been drastically reduced due to the limitations imposed by Covid-19. Almost one in three Poles choose RMF FM (29.49%), a leading station whose followers increased by an additional 1% during the pandemic. Second in terms of audience is Radio Zet, albeit at a considerable distance: it has almost a third of listeners (12.48%) but its site (radiozet.pl) is the most followed, with over seven million users.
Catholic radio stations are also very popular
Diocesan radio stations are also gaining an audience (but with very different numbers), but they have been overtaken byRadio Maryja (one of the seventy affiliated to the “World Family”, an association that promotes its development throughout the world) which, with a total audience of 1.73%, is in fifteenth place in the ranking. And to think that space on the media for programs of a religious nature was prohibited until 1980: it was the Solidarity movement that imposed on the authorities free access to all religious denominations, previously prohibited by censorship. So much so that today religious programs are very much present in the programming schedule of broadcasters: even the state TV broadcasts the rosary live every day in connection with the sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Łagiewniki. More details about Poland’s leading Catholic radio stations can be read in the article published by the Catholic news agency Sir.