A few days have passed since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. One morning, a listener of Radio San Marino is stunned: on the car radio screen of his Audi, a new generation model displaying the brand logo of the stations tuned in, the Russian flag appears. Yet the programme he is listening to is precisely that of Radio San Marino. He thinks of action by hackers: these are days when the invasion is taking its first steps, the information is confused but the propaganda is very active. He wonders what it could be about: in the previous days, nothing was visible. He takes a couple of photos and emails them to the broadcaster. The message reaches the technical management, which turns to an expert.
There was already an anomaly
Let’s go back two months. Radio San Marino has been experiencing problems with some car radios for some time: their brand logo does not appear. Therefore it commissions an investigation from Radio Data Center, a German company specialising in new-generation multimedia systems that display the broadcasters’ logos. Research shows that the problem is confined to the brands of the Volkswagen Group (including Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Skoda) and Ford. During the research, a technical incompatibility emerges: the station is not using an identification code reserved for the San Marino state, as prescribed by international regulations. It has inserted a number reserved for Italy in the equipment that generates the RDS: a correct one is identified and communicated to the technical office. The broadcaster repositioned itself correctly in February 2022 and… a few days later, the picture of the screen with the Russian flag shows up.
What had happened?
Radio Data Center does the first test on an Audi Q5 at the Reggini dealer in Falciano: nothing appears on the screen. Not even the Radio San Marino brand, but that’s normal: the RDS change was announced 30 days ago, but since the car is not connected to the Internet, you have to wait for the update to become available, download it onto a memory stick and do the upgrade (but the company is late: it is still suffering from the slowdowns caused by the pandemic and has not released it for some time). The anomaly is therefore confined to older-generation, Volkswagen-made car radios and shows on the screen Radio Rossii, the most important Russian state broadcaster, which has the flag in its logo. The update will correct this.
But the devil got in the way
The change, announced in February, is on the waiting list: with tens of thousands of radios to chase, and constant changes, those managing the logos have so many backlogs. The request is examined after six months. But there is a setback: due to an error, only the data of the second network Radio San Marino Classic (which has similar problems) is updated. It’s therefore necessary to wait for the next update, scheduled for December 2022. (Written byFabrizio Carnevalini)
During the Cold War, the FM band in Eastern European countries was different. Radio stations transmitted between 65.8 and 74 MHz (except in East Germany), called the OIRT band; frequencies used in the West by television. As a result, citizens could not pick up signals from capitalist countries, and vice versa. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the band was gradually abandoned, but there are still several nations in Europe that have not switched off all their OIRT transmitters: Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. In recent years, however, the decommissioning of the band has accelerated and the signals are now drastically reduced. In a number of articles, we examine the situation in each country.
Russia: in large cities the switch off goes slowly
In the report published in 2020, we talked about the decision of the government to move the broadcasters from the OIRT band to the CCIR (87.5-108.0 MHz). The state-owned Radio Rossii, which has already deactivated many installations, proceeds to switch off as soon as the communications authority makes available a frequency in the CCIR band. The switch-off has gone fast in the most peripheral areas of the endless Russian Federation, where the band is free, but it is going slow in the biggest cities, where the band is close to saturation. It also does not help that Russia uses a very “wide” channel spacing: in Moscow, the standard distance between stations is 400 kHz (while in many European countries it is 300 kHz, and drops to 200 kHz in some large Italian metropolitan areas). So in St. Petersburg, there are still four frequencies active in the OIRT: Rossii on 66.3 MHz, Radio Peterburg on 69.47 MHz, Orfey on 71.66 MHz, and Grad Petrov on 73.1 MHz. On YouTube you can listen to a scan of the OIRT band, recorded on March 27, 2021, and hear the four stations. In Moscow, only 66.44 MHz (Rossii from Ostankino), 68.0 MHz (Avtoradio), and 72.92 MHz (Radio Radonezh) are active. In the Kaliningrad Oblast (Russian enclave wedged between Latvia and Poland), 65.9 MHz and 66.02 MHz of Radio Rossii have been switched off, and only 72.11 (Radio Shanson) is on air.