President Nicolas Maduro’s regime holds broadcasters in check by imposing sanctions or closures. Hence journalists are self-censoring to avoid trouble. The radio stations are kept a check on by Conatel (Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones), the Venezuelan telecommunications regulator, which is very quick to revoke broadcast licenses of ‘rogue’ radio stations. They closed over 60 broadcasters in 2018. The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Prensa has reported that another 27 radio stations have suffered loss of equipment due to theft.
Rumbera has relocated to the Internet
The latest broadcaster to end up in the sights of the inspectors is a radio station of Rumbera Network (one of 21 stations) that transmitted on 106.9 FM from Los Valles del Tuy, in the state of Miranda. In February 2020 their antenna was damaged and then on May 15th, 2020 Conatel closed them down because their broadcasting license had expired. This was a decision that the owner, Eliu Ramos, deemed discriminatory because a large number of radio stations transmitting in the country have not been authorised and are not sanctioned. He added that he had applied for a renewal of the license several times, but the application had always been declined. Transmissions now continue on the Internet.
To find out more
The Venezuelan periodical, El Carabobeño gives more details onthe situation of broadcasters here. It was published on May 20th, 2020, on the occasion of National Radio Day which was established in 1926 when the country began radio transmissions on mediumwave. FM transmissions, on the other hand, began on January 1st, 1975.
Even in full crisis the radio stations are busy on all fronts with increasing information slots, adapting programme schedules to the changing needs of the listeners and … even fund raising. Here are some examples:
The national radio networks, Radio Italia (Cologno Monzese), the public TV and radio broadcasters Raiuno, RaiPlay (a streaming platform) and Rai Radio2 joined forces on a project called ‘Music that Unites’. The event included brief information interludes and previously unpublished live sets where the performers recorded from their own homes creating non-stop music to share. Funds raised came to more than € 7.5 million to be donated to the National Civil Protection Organisation (a government body that deals with the management of emergencies).
Discoradio in Milan (broadcaster covering Lombardy and Piedmont) and the Buzzi Foundation, that manages a research centre and children’s hospital, are raising funds to increase the number of beds in the intensive care unit.
Radio NumberOne (Bergamo) has taken part in #SostieniAMOBergamo and given their support to the Fondazione Della Comunità Bergamasca.
Radio Barbagia in Nuoro, Sardinia, has donated thousands of face masks to the city hospital with the help of their listeners.
Three Roman radio stations in the RDS group (Dimensione Suono Roma, Dimensione Suono Soft and Ram Power) have supported the capital’s hospital, Policlinico Gemelli, to create the Columbus Covid-2 Hospital by transforming an existing building into a hospital with 80 beds and another 59 beds in the intensive care unit.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.