RUSSIA: The market is not mature enough for DAB radio

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Produced by the Academy of the media industry, a report of 150 pages was drawn up by a team of academics from various universities and research centres
Produced by the Academy of the media industry, a report of 150 pages was drawn up by a team of academics from various universities and research centres
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The annual report on the information industry in Russia covers many aspects of the media. Among these, we have focussed our attention on the move to digital TV, FM band migration and the increase in numbers of transmitters, and digital radio coming to a stop.

Analogue TV is dead! (but still operating alongside digital)

The television broadcasting network has 5,040 transmitters broadcasting 20 TV channels and three radio stations (Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM) covering 98.4% of the country.
The television broadcasting network has 5,040 transmitters broadcasting 20 TV channels and three radio stations (Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM) covering 98.4% of the country.
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The switchover to digital was completed in 2019. It was proudly announced that the transition took ten years, which was faster than the United States (11 years), Australia (12) and Great Britain (14). In addition, with 98.4% of the population being able to tune in, Russia beats France (97.3%), Austria (96.0%), Switzerland (*) (95.0%) and Portugal (92.7%). However analogue TV is not totally dead. The national channels have been switched off, but the regional channels are still operating. And there are quite a few of them. Our FMLIST correspondent in the Republic of Karelia (east of Finland) confirmed that there are a good five of them in the city where he lives.

(*) Switzerland has switched off terrestrial TV via DVB-T in summer 2019

Radio stations move to FM

In order to listen to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in big cities, new transmitters will be switched on and the present number of 1,167 will be increased to 2,000 by 2021. 572 have already been ordered

In order to listen to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in big cities, new transmitters will be switched on and the present number of 1,167 will be increased to 2,000 by 2021. 572 have already been ordered
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The state radio network will be moving from broadcasting on the OIRT band (between 65.8 and 74 MHz) to the European FM band  (87.5-108 MHz), where the commercial radio stations are already present. New licences will be granted to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in order to allow them to broadcast in all cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. In order to manage the increase in number of channels, they are studying isofrequency networks used abroad in countries like Moldavia, where the radio station Inter-FM can be received with traffic information along the motorway. A solution based on a lot of low power transmitters would also not infringe health regulations that limit the use of high power transmitters.

‘The market is not ready’ for DAB

Digital radio is widespread in many European countries. From 2020 a European law has made it mandatory for automakers to equip all new cars with DAB radios
Digital radio is widespread in many European countries. From 2020 a European law has made it mandatory for automakers to equip all new cars with DAB radios
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

The development of digital radio in Europe is analysed in the report. But this ‘revolution’ will not be happening in Russia. Even though frequencies for DAB+ transmissions have been allocated, this does not mean that they will be activated. The Ministry of Communications believes that the advertising market is not mature enough yet to justify the increase in the numbers of radio stations that can use updated technology.

St. Petersburg is experimenting with DRM+

Digital broadcasting on 95.7 MHz FM enables more than one channel to use the same bandwidth as analogue radio and does not interfere with radio stations in the vicinity
Digital broadcasting on 95.7 MHz FM enables more than one channel to use the same bandwidth as analogue radio and does not interfere with radio stations in the vicinity
Source: Report on radio in Russia 2019

Therefore the aim is to develop broadcasting systems such as DRM+ that allow a radio station to also transmit digital channels on the same FM frequency, leaving listeners free to equip themselves to receive transmissions in high quality sound, but not being obliged to replace their radio with a new one (estimated cost of about $10 US). In July 2019 Comedy Radio carried out tests in St. Petersburg by digitally broadcasting three channels on 95.7 MHz FM. The first one was a repeat of their analogue channel with a bitrate of 33 kbps, the other two were Avtoradio (43 kbps) and Evropa Plus (20 kbps).

Coronavirus: US Christian radio stations in crisis

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The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the largest Christian group of radio stations in the United States into crisis.

The Christian radio group’s business plan was to charge pastors for time on their transmissions to broadcast their sermons
Source

The Salem Media Group had a business model that protected them from the highs and lows of the advertising market. In 2019 they made US$79 million by selling pastors time on their transmissions to deliver their sermons. However, they certainly did not forgo both local and national commercials that brought in $68 million. Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic caused their shares to plummet to 80 cents (they were at US$8 in 2018 and US$30 in 2004). Moody’s, an American credit rating agency, has classified investments in the company as high risk.

The report published by Cristianity Today provides more details on the financial crisis in Salem
Source

The Salem Media Group has a network of 3,100 radio stations (100 of which they own) with a guaranteed 298 million listeners per week. The board of directors have announced a dividend block, a reduction of 10% in managers’ salaries and they are now considering personnel cuts (a total of over 1,400 employees). In this article the magazine Christianity Today outlines the situation in-depth.

UAE: A radio station entertains everyone getting tested

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Coronavirus Screening Center in Abu Dhabi
Coronavirus Screening Center
Source

To date the United Arab Emirates ministry of health has opened 24 drive-through centres enabling them to carry out 115,000 coronavirus tests per week. Coinciding with the mass screening campaign launched by the DoH (Department of Health) in the United Arab Emirates, a number of radio stations broadcasting on the FM band have also been opened. A welcome message is broadcast on air as citizens arrive at the centres in their cars for a throat swab (free of charge for those at risk, otherwise it costs 370 AED, equivalent to US$ 101) to check if they are positive for Covid-19. At the first centre, opened in Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, messages are transmitted on 104.6 MHz. The acronym SEHA (the Abu Dhabi Healthcare Company that manages the tests) appears in RDS.

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’
Source

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
Source

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.

Malawi: Reorganisation of FM band to alleviate interference

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Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA)
MACRA – Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority
Source

Repeaters are to be turned off, transmitting power to be reduced, and frequencies to be reallocated, all in order to decongest the FM frequencies in this West African country, where they have 56 radio stations with a total of about 200 channels. MACRA – Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority stopped issuing new radio broadcast licenses and called for a tender for the reorganisation of the radio frequencies. This was subsequently won by the English consulting firm, CASiTEL.

The three phase plan

workshop about achievements
One of the workshops at which the improvements achieved and the required changes were presented to the broadcasters
Source

The consulting firm mapped out the current FM network and created a database of the frequencies and broadcasting sites. They examined the FM network coverage, identified the areas impacted by interference and presented a plan to significantly improve the quality of service. Finally, they optimised the broadcasting services coverage to enable the introduction of a greater number of channels that will be issued broadcasting licenses in the course of 2020.

Broadcasting stations and authorities join forces against pandemic fake news

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A great deal of fake news circulated at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, but now media and regulators seek to firmly counteract it.

telephone repeaters
Virus mutated by telephone repeaters and strange bird deaths. Two topics linked to Coronavirus these days, while chemtrails and wind generators fade away.
Source

Alongside the battle against the Coronavirus, another front has opened up to counteract fake news. It was realised early on how much damage misinformation could cause by favouring the spread of the pandemic, so much that the media started increasing checks to counteract it more firmly. We can see what happened in China where strict Chinese censorship created a void of information which led other countries to underestimate the problem (today experts are even questioning the official number of deaths in China). And when the number of cases in Europe began to multiply, fear and a thirst for news favoured the spread of media hoaxes. These were generally limited to the social networks and chats but there were also programmes put on air that gave credit to odd theses and thus reinforced their credibility. This caused some people to really go around burning 5G telephone repeaters, accusing them of having created the epidemic. This resulted in the necessity for the British Government to intervene. In addition, President Trump’s press conferences could have also created confusion and misinformation when he tried to minimise the impact of the pandemic.

KUOW-FM no longer broadcasts Trump live

Press conference American President, Trump, health emergency, coronavirus
One of the American President’s press conferences during the health emergency
Source

Even playing down the risks of Covid-19, as the Americans have tried, can cause damage and open up immense prairies to the virus. In April 2020 they can boast of winning the sad prize of being the first in the world for the number of cases. Since March 25th, 2020, a national public radio station in Seattle has suspended all live press conferences of President Trump.  It was not a political policy, the KUOW editorial board clarified, but deontological and will be reconsidered from day to day.  After the first two weeks they realised that the statements being issued needed to be verified first (an arduous task with the time limitations of live broadcasting) to avoid spreading false or misleading information.  Among examples cited is the statement issued on March 19th, 2020: ‘Nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion’ despite warnings given by the secret services at the beginning of the year. Then on March 20th, 2020 ‘You’re seeing very few empty shelves,’ while on television one could plainly see that the shops had run out of basic necessities including hand soap. 

FMScan KUOW-FM USA
The KUOW coverage area displayed on the FMSCAN website using data from the worldwide FMLIST radio station database

KUOW-FM, owned by the University of Washington, is operated by a non-profit community organisation. They transmit in Seattle on 94.9 fm with 100kW, power that enables them to cover a wide area, as you can see on the FMScan map above. It is a member station of  NPR (National Public Radio) that has about a thousand non-profit transmitters.

British radio station forced to rectify

Ofcom, the UKs communications regulator, has imposed a sanction on Uckfield FM for having breached the Broadcasting Code. The community radio station that transmits on 105.0 MHz from Uckfield, a town 80 km south of London in East Sussex, on February 28th, 2020, had broadcast potentially damaging and misleading information by linking the explosion of the epidemic in Wuhan to the launch of 5G technology, one of the pieces of fake news going around the globe. It is a sensitive geopolitical topic (the UK has started launching 5G in Britain and hence ‘are betraying’ their American ally), but if people start believing the hoax, trouble will follow.  At the end of March several vandals destroyed repeaters in Birmingham, Liverpool, Melling and Belfast with the shouts of ‘f**k 5G’.
The PDF of Ofcom’s decisions can be viewed here or downloaded below.

Italy is studying the phenomena and sets up fake news unit

Antonio Di Bella, director of RaiNews Italy
Antonio Di Bella, the director of RaiNews, leads new specialist unit
of State broadcaster to undermine fake news.  
Image directly received from RAI press office

On March 31st, 2020, RAI appointed Antonio Di Bella, the director of RaiNews, to lead a new unit to enable the public broadcasting service to avoid spreading misleading or fake news.  A scientific committee will be set up to check the deluge of information that arrives for the editorial staff.  Di Bella will be assisted by Gerardo D’Amico, in charge of scientific information at Rai News 24.  One episode a week of the programme, Tutta Salute, will be dedicated to the fake news that is circulating about Coronavirus.  





Report on online disinformation
Report on online disinformation
Source


Agcom, the Authority for Communications Guarantees, has increased its usual monthly monitoring of the media by producing a special report on Coronavirus. Apart from online sources, they have also studied the amount of time dedicated to news about the pandemic on radio and television networks. You can find details of the research about national radio stations here. In order to counteract misinformation, the authority is involving research centres and academic institutions to set up teams to carry out advanced studies into the phenomena. 

Coronavirus weakens Radio

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The slowdown or lockdown of businesses has led to a decrease in advertising on radio and television. The national broadcasters are increasing their programmes, but those not receiving state funding are suffering. Networks are cutting fixed costs and broadcasters are closing their less important frequencies.  And if a transmitter breaks down … the risk is it’s not going to be fixed.

The BBC flexes its muscles

Headquarters of BBC in London, United Kingdom
BBC Headquarters
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‘We need to pull together to get through this. That’s why the BBC will be using all of its resources – channels, stations and output – to help keep the nation informed, educated and entertained’ declared, Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC. The many measures the BBC is implementing, include their commitment not to discontinue any of their most listened to programmes on Radio One, to bring listeners up-to-date information on the Coronavirus through 5 Live, and the launching of Make a Difference, that will see every local radio station joining up with volunteer groups to help, co-ordinate and support the elderly by informing them of what help is available in their area. Their full package of measures can be found here.

Those depending on advertising are suffering

Transmission Towers
Transmission Towers
Source

The closure of businesses has led to a collapse in commercials and a rise in unpaid invoices. These are the complaints of some of the Italian radio producers we interviewed.  Some, after terminating their agreements with freelance staff and asking for government aid for their employees, are only playing music on air.  However, the electricity bills for their transmitters have to be paid.  In order to cut the bills, a group of broadcasters in Puglia, Italy, unable to lower radiated power (in Italy the authorisation process takes considerable time), have remediated by turning off their smaller sites. Tower operators are also having a bad time (they get paid rent for providing antenna space on their towers). Some have already received requests by some radio networks for hefty discounts on the rent. At the same time, given that the power of the transmitters are in excess, it would only need the authorities to allow radio stations to halve it. It would be a reform at zero cost and nobody would be disadvantaged.

In a breakdown, spare parts at risk

Elenos Group, Website, transmitter manufacturers
Website Elenos
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The lockdown of businesses has also hit transmitter manufacturers like Elenos, the internationally renowned company located near Ferrara.  Leonardo Busi, the Chief Executive Officer, stated in an interview on Radio Globo (Lazio, Italy) that they have had to stop production due to no longer receiving the components that are indispensable for assembling the structures. The supplies are down to the bone and a radio or TV station with a breakdown could have to stop their service.  

CORONAVIRUS: Boom in web and pirate radio stations

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With the shutdown of businesses and stringent measures limiting movement in a large number of countries, there are those who are putting their energy into opening web radios. Pirate radio stations are opening up on air and those already functioning are raising their transmission power during this present state of emergency, knowing full well that it is highly improbable that the authorities will be checking.

Ireland: Two women from the world of show business found Radio Quarantine

Kate McKeown, live from home
Kate McKeown, live from home
Image directly received from
Kate McKeown

“After having wasted hour after hour following the news on the imminent end of the world, we had had enough of it and decided to put our energy into making the lives of those having to stay at home more bearable”.  So Anna-Rose Charleton, a film producer who had had all her work cancelled, and the London singer actress Kate McKeown, who had been forced to return to Dublin because of the Coronavirus outbreak, set up the Quaran Team, a team of experts under the guidance of Maitiú Charleton, Anna-Rosa’s quarantine partner, and started webcasting. The programmes go on air from Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 09.00 pm GMT with music, news and guests from the show business world. They focus on listener participation and try to involve people who have a talent or a story to tell.

Quarantine FM Logo
Logo of Radio Quarantine
Source

Click here to listen to Radio Quarantine. You can also find them on the following channels. Instagram: @quarantinefm
Twitter: @FmQuarantine
Tik Tok: @quarantinefm
Facebook: @FmQuarantine 

New ‘pirate’ radio stations set up and some increase transmission power

Having a lot more time on their hands is also spurring radio stations to go on air without authorisation. In Italy, on March 20th, 2020 it was reported that Radio Zona Rossa was transmitting on 6330 kHz on shortwave. The name was inspired by a programme invented by Radio Codogna but it concerns an autonomous radio station and its own programme. In Great Britain, a group on Facebook reported that Fusion FM, a pirate radio station near Birmingham, had a more powerful signal than those from authorised broadcasters. There is no change in Madrid, where there are a great number of unauthorised radio stations, but the authorities do not carry out checks.

Online FM broadcast monitoring station in Madrid, Spain
Source

Coronavirus: Radio stations paying respects

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In China, radio stations were involved in the national day of mourning, which was organised as a sign of the country gaining closure from Covid 19.  But in the rest of the world, the pandemic is fast and furious and has not spared infecting radio and television staff and producers.

All Chinese radio websites in black and white

CNR, China National Radio Website in black and white, paying respects to those lost their lives due to coronavirus
Website CNR, China National Radio, going black and white
Source

April 4th, 2020 was decreed by the State Council as China’s day of national mourning. The Chinese Government gave a signal to the world as it moves to returning to normality. Radio stations took part in paying their respects to the Coronavirus victims by removing colour from their websites. Among the mourners were the state broadcaster CNR (China National Radio),  Qingting, one of the biggest sites of audio streaming in the country, which interrupted transmission of all their programmes for the whole day, and Baidu, the most popular research engine in China. Flags were lowered to half-mast all over the country and at their Embassies around the world. Public entertainment was suspended. Three minutes of silence were observed at 10 am with car and train horns, ship and air raid sirens sounding in the background.

Radio and TV personalities among those infected

Website Brescia Today, Italy
Website Brescia Today
Source

At first count, based on the social media, the most hit today are in Italy (up to April 4th, 2020), the first European country to be attacked by the virus.  Among the infected are Enrico Gualdi and Clarissa Martinelli from Radio Bruno, Claudio Chiari and Luca Viscardi from Radio Number One, and Graziano Fanelli of Radio Studio Più. Television personalities include two presenters from Rete 4:  Piero Chiambretti, the presenter of La Repubblica delle Donne and Nicola Porro who presents Quarta Repubblica.

Radio Populare Website
Website Radio Popolare
Source

Others, unfortunately, have not recovered.  These are Raffaele Masto, a journalist for Radio Popolare, Raniero Cecchini, one of the founders of Veronica HitRadio in Pesaro, and Franco Lo Conte, who in the seventies was the founder of Cine Radio Sud in Ariano Irpino, a province of Avellino. Our thoughts go to their families.

RTVE, Radio Nacional de Espana, José María Candela, sport journalist at RNE died cause of Coronavirus
Chema Candela, a sports journalist with a long standing career on air on RNE (Radio Nacional de España)
Website RTVE
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In Spain, where the contagion swept in after Italy, Jordi Basté has tested positive. His voice has the most listeners in Catalonia with his programme El mon (the world) on air on the regional station RAC1 from 8 to 9 in the morning with 270,000 listeners tuning in.  Condolences to Radio Nacional de Espana for the passing of one of the most famous faces of Iberian news, Jose Maria “Chema” Candela, a sports journalist who specialised in Atletico Madrid and had had a long career both in radio and on TV. For further information please click here.

Jean-Jacques Lester, radio host at France Bleu Loire-Atlantique, one of French regional public radio stations
Jean-Jacques Lester from France Bleu Loire-Atlantique
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In France, Jean-Jacques Lester, a radio host at France Bleu Loire-Atlantique, one of the French regional public radio stations based in Nantes, recovered from the virus.

Outside Europe

Chris Cuomo from CNN with daily updates about Coronavirus
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Chris Cuomo,  presenter for CNN, the TV station broadcasting through cable in the United States and via satellite to the rest of the world.
Although the virus arrived late on the American continent, it has already struck public figures. Among the most famous is probably Chris Cuomo, a popular presenter for CNN and brother of Andrew, the Governor of New York, who speaks about his experience here.  While in Mexico the infection has hit Esteban Arce, a Televisa presenter.

Sadly,  Julio Quintanilla did not win his fight against Coronavirus. Originally Salvadorian, he was a speaker on WUNR 1600AM, one of Boston, Massachusetts, oldest ethnic radio stations.  He had presented the news, events and sports programme ‘Impacto Centroamericano’ for 25 years.