The grip is tightening on the Lagardère Group, propped up months ago (read more about it here) by injections of liquidity by Vincent Bolloré (owner of Vivendi, a multimedia group created around Canal+) and Bernard Arnault (owner of LVMH, an international fashion group). Bolloré would have set his eyes on Europe 1, a generalist radio station very much listened to in France, and would like to absorb it and, in view of the next elections, align it with the positions of Marine Le Pen. Arnault, instead, first hour supporter of President Emmanuel Macron, would be interested in the Journal du dimanche and Paris Match. So in the looming tug-of-war, the money may not be enough to get the radio station into Vivendi’s orbit. An extensive summary can be read on the webmagazine Succede Oggi (in Italian, consultation is free). Prima Comunicazione, on the other hand, also talks about Bolloré’s interest in the French group M6, which the German group Bertelsmann is interested in selling.
Although in December 2020 he told Prima Comunicazione “it is not a gift”, Lorenzo Suraci, publisher of nationwide RTL 102.5 and Radio Zeta (a so-called “superstation”), then took advantage of the opportunity offered by Law 176/2020, which allows a national network to transform a community licence into a commercial one. It thus had Radiofreccia purchased by RTL 102.5, making it its second licence and transforming it from a national community radio station into a commercial one. This removes the advertising limit of 10% per hour, which can be raised to 20%.
Reconstructing the history of the broadcaster7
In July 2016, Mediaset took control (72.12%) of the Finelco Group (owner of Radio 105 and Virgin Radio) and formed a partnership with RMC-Radio Monte Carlo (later acquired in 2018), exceeding 10 million listeners on the average day (including R101, already owned by the group). Suraci, who can count on the 7 million listeners of RTL 102.5 (first in Italy for ratings) and Radio Zeta, found himself bypassed. In order to counter the firepower of Mediaset, which can sell advertising on its radio stations on a “package” basis, he tried to grow his group by buying Radio Padania (a Lega Nord station with a national community licence) for 2.1 million euros, transforming it into Radiofreccia, a station with a rock format. The community licence allows the broadcaster to turn on hundreds of repeaters without buying them from other radio stations (the law was tailored to favour the Lega Nord and allow it to extend Radio Padania’s coverage throughout the Peninsula), but limits advertising to 10% per hour. Now the “cap” has been blown off, and the only national community radio station remains Radio Maria, which has never used this loophole to turn on new equipment.