The decision by the German group Bertelsmann to sell two leading broadcasters in terms of ratings (TV M6 and radio RTL are both in second place) has opened up competition between major French patrons. Four bids have already been submitted and the competition is expected to be fierce. There are also political interests: in 2022 there will be presidential elections, and the transfer of the two stations could reshape the media landscape. Especially if Vincent Bolloré, who has changed the political line of CNews (all news network) and shifted it to extreme right-wing positions, wins the elections. Details on the protagonists and the political balances at stake in the article of the Italian newspaper ‘Corriere della sera’.
The economic crisis caused by the pandemic is having an impact on broadcasters’ turnover, which according to the InfoAdex study on advertising investment in Spain in 2020 will drop by 22.9% for all stations. This is a total of 111.5 million euros that will be lost and which will impact mainly on the large commercial networks such as Cadena Ser and Cope (which have lost 25.4 and 24.4% respectively). Broadcasters consider intervening again in the contracts of the big stars (including Pepa Bueno and Carlos Herrera), cutting them for the second consecutive year and probably until the end of 2021. And the situation shows no sign of improving, as the January 2021 InfoAdex figures put the decline at 26.7%.
More details on the smaller radio stations in the article by the independent newspaper El Español.
Thanks to the patience and intuition of Luke Owen, defined by The Guardian as a “musical archivist”, it is possible to relive the atmosphere of London in the Eighties by listening to the commercials aired by London pirate radio stations between 1984 and 1993, which have been collected on two CDs. Owen in fact recorded the free-range and unprofessional commercials that were aired and that, given the lack of professionalism, were considered a boring interlude between one song and another. And yet, listening to them again, one finds a London that has disappeared, in an era in which there was no web, and in which listeners, in order to be informed about the musical events taking place in the city, had pirate radio stations as their only resource: programming of public or official radio stations was only musical, aiming at the English middle class and did not represent the different ethnic groups present in the capital.
Space also for minorities
Thus are curious the advertisements in Greek, the news about raves or the advertisements of stores that allow to reconstruct a map of alternative shops. The two CDs are published by the London label founded by Owen: “Death Is Not the End“, which is also the name of a program broadcast online by the London internet radio station NTS Radio.
More details in the Guardian article.
Ofcom, the authority that regulates telecommunications in the United Kingdom, is considering an application in which Bauer asks to change the format (the type of programs broadcast) of Absolute Radio, a station it acquired that broadcasts on 105.8 MHz FM from the Crystal Palace site in London. Ofcom has issued a statement to that effect in which it says that “Because these changes would substantially alter the character of Absolute Radio London, we are seeking the views of listeners and other interested parties before making our final decision.” A station’s program type is closely tied to its broadcasting license, so the authority is reviewing whether the format change will not eliminate a service to which listeners are accustomed.
On the side of consumers
The decision will follow the authority’s guidelines, as detailed on the website: “We also help to make sure people across the UK are satisfied with what they see and hear on TV and radio, and that programmes reflect the audiences they serve. We consider every complaint we receive from viewers and listeners. Often, we investigate further and we sometimes find broadcasters in breach of our rules. We are independent, and funded by fees paid to us by the companies we regulate“.
From Absolute to Greatest Hits Radio
If the request is accepted, Absolute Radio on 105.8 MHz will change its name to Greatest Hits Radio and will broadcast pop classics and rock hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s, as well as local news and information aimed at Londoners aged 25-54. The consultation will close on March 10, 2021. Greatest Hits Radio is the new radio network that began broadcasting in September 2020 when Bauer changed formats at 49 of its 56 radio stations. We talked about it here.
Greatest Hits Radio is already now available to Londoners on digital radio (DAB) on the London 1 multiplex on block 12C, in the standard MP2 flavour. On the same multiplex, Londoners also can listen digitally to their beloved Absolute Radio. It will be interesting to read OFCOMs decision – will the DAB presence have any influence?
What is your view? Who should be on 105.8 MHz FM in London?
RadioZ, the federation that brings together some 30 independent stations from the Walloon region and Brussels, has appealed to the authorities not to halve funding for the transition to digital radio and to simplify procedures. Independent radio stations are a resource for the media sector: they provide information, support culture and municipal administrations, but above all they are a breeding ground for talent that can then aspire to work in more professional broadcasters. A training job that costs the state nothing, because it does not receive subsidies as, for example, in France. On the contrary, RadioZ denounces the fact that this year several radio associations were refused the annual FACR (Fund for Radio Creation) subsidy due to a lack of resources, used to finance the transition to DAB, which, however, only benefits private networks and the public broadcaster RTBF, which have been broadcasting in digital for more than a year.
You can find all details about DAB in Belgium in our web app at https://www.dablist.org.
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 on the 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).
‘A helping hand for the Civil Protection Organisation’ was organised by Gruppo Klasse Uno in Castelfranco Veneto, a province of Treviso (seven local and regional radio stations took part : Birikina, Bella & Monella, Radio Marilù, Radio Piterpan, Radio Sorriso, Radio Gelosa, and Vibra FM)
Help for other nationwide organisations
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.
In previous articles we spoke about the collapse in advertising, the request made by Aeranti-Corallo for funds of 130 million euros and the allocations of funds made by other governments from Spain to the United States.
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.
Click here to listen to the Wireless podcast.
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.