The UGT (Sindicato Unión General de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores de España) has formally asked public broadcasting to modify its strategic plan, providing for new measures to plug budget losses. RTVE lost 31.6 million euros in 2020, and by the end of April 2021, the debt had reached 184 million euros. The main demand concerns advertising, which the union is asking to reintroduce, at least in a limited way, also to re-establish competition, today very limited because in fact 95% of the market is controlled by a duopoly. An article published in the economics section of the newspaper El País goes into the details of the proposal, analyzing the similarities with the “French model”, which inspired the financial law of the Spanish government, which provides four channels of financing for public radio and television.
How are public broadcasting executives elected? A comparison of the procedures adopted by six European countries
In recent months, when the top management of Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE) was being renewed, a debate was opened in the country on the mechanisms that govern these choices. An article in the periodical Vozpópuli compared the Spanish situation with that of five other European countries: the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Italy and Germany. In Spain, the president of RTVE is chosen from a shortlist of ten candidates, six of whom are appointed by the Congress of Deputies and four by the Senate.
In Germany, the TV channel ZDF enjoys greater autonomy from political forces and the executive, in order to focus on the professionalism of the management.
Details can be read here.
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.
Before splitting its activities into two branches, the company with the largest number of radio stations in Spain divests abroad. If in the domestic market the Grupo Prisa refuses offers, abroad it has divested three radio and television companies. After Panama, with Los 40 Principales, the divestments continued in Portugal with the Media Capital group, which in addition to radio stations (Comercial and M80) owns a TV chnnel (TVI), an audiovisual production company (Plural) and a portal for digital natives (Iol.pt). In Argentina, instead, it has sold two radio stations in the capital: Radio Continental (104.3) and Los 40 Principales (105.5).
More details in the article of Economia Digital.
Radio Nacional de Espana has lost 190,000 listeners in just a few months, and now has around one million. It is an unprecedented collapse that emerged from the General Media Study (EGM) audience survey at the end of the third round of surveys. Compared to the first quarter (the survey was suspended in the second quarter due to the pandemic), the drop was 15%. And the drop does not only affect the flagship network, but also (although to a lesser extent) the other public networks.
Economía digital (Spain’s fifth largest news group, a native of the network) points the finger at the redundancies, resignations and new appointments made this year in the TV and radio networks. Changes made by Rosa María Mateo (RNE’s interim sole director) and Enric Hernández (news director) have triggered a reaction from the trade unions.
SER (+241,000) and, marginally, COPE (+20,000) gained. COPE is also the first in terms of digital audience: the Cadena de Ondas Populares Espanolas (also owner of Cadena 100, Rock FM and Megastar FM brands), has exceeded twelve million unique users, outstripping rival SER by over 600,000 followers.
If in 2018 it was the PP (Partido Popular) that sank DAB, it now was the Socialists of the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) who rejected the bill presented by Compromís, a political coalition from Valencia, to the Senate. The spokesman in the Senate of the Valencian political coalition, Carles Mulet Garcia, points out that from next December in Spain all cars will have digital radio (as required by European regulations) but that owners will not be able to receive programs, turning the nation into “a technological island of Europe”. In Spain the technical plan for the development of digital radio was launched in 1999. It foresaw the coverage of 80% of the population in 2005, then reduced to 20% in 2011. Today listening is limited to Madrid and Barcelona, although there are unauthorized transmissions on the Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands.
Listeners consider radio as a trustworthy source of news, at times much more so than other forms of media, in contrast to the fake news that is going around on the web
Various market research companies have carried out surveys on the reliability of the means of communication during the pandemic. In Greece, according to a survey by Dianeosis and Metron Analysis, the winner was radio. In answer to the question ‘How much do you trust each of the following types of media’, radio got 56.4%, followed by the internet (46.5%), newspapers (33.8%) and television (32%). The complete results are here. The Spanish have a different opinion according to UTECA (an association of commercial TV stations that transmit in the clear on DTT), that commissioned a survey carried out by Barlovento Comunicación and Deloitte. On the Iberian peninsula the most trusted means of communication is television (55.3%), followed by the press (36.3%) and then radio (24%). Here is a PDF with the results.
Cuts for five major broadcasters in Europe are on their way. While in Italy some radio stations are asking their listeners for help.
Austria: ORF is cutting outgoings
The director general of ORF, Alexander Wrabetz, has announced cuts of € 75 million are to be made by the end of 2021. These will be implemented in all areas in the company, from equipment to the cost of personnel. This year the broadcasting station is predicting losses that go from a minimum of € 28.6 million to up to € 54 million, should the worst scenario play out. The budgets allocated for major events will not be touched (€ 40 million for the rights of the European Football Championship and the Olympics). This is also the case for other investments which include digitalisation. Click here for more details from the article on Horizont.
France: Cost cutting plans for the public radio causes controversy
Cuts in the budget had already been decided on in 2018, in a period long before the present crisis. The Government had demanded a reduction of € 190 million in funds to public broadcasters (by 2022). € 20 million of spending cuts were destined for Radio France and in 2019 the CEO Sibyle Veil had prepared a plan that involved cutting 250 jobs. This provoked the longest strike in the history of public radio. The strike lasted 63 days (in total) during the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. The trade unions consider the cuts unjustified and after a period of truce due to the Covid-19 crisis, the unrest could restart.
Germany: NDR raises the crossbar by € 60 million
The German broadcasting company Norddeutscher Rundfunk, NDR, wants to cut € 60 million more than the € 240 million that had been already decided on for the next four years.
The director, Joachim Knuth, is not going to reduce personnel but will not be employing new staff for 200 vacant positions. Furthermore, programmes and a series of events will be cancelled. Among those to go are crime series, entertainment and game shows on TV. Click here for more details from the article on Der Spiegel.
Italy: Onda d’Urto is banking on subscriptions
Radio Onda d’Urto in Brescia has launched a campaign for subscriptions to compensate for the missing revenues caused by the probable cancellation of the Festival of Radio Onda. The event, that is to be held in August, is the main source of finance for the broadcaster and even if it is not cancelled, it will be much smaller.
United Kingdom: £ 125 million have gone ‘missing’ at the BBC
The coffers of the public broadcasting station, BBC, are down £ 75 million due to
a delay: Listeners over seventy five were due to pay TV fees from June 1st, 2020, but this has been postponed to August 1st, 2020. This amount rises further because of losses caused by a drop in advertising and the postponement of a plan to reduce the workforce by cutting 450 jobs. According to the director general, Tony Hall, the cuts need to total £ 125 million. Upper management salaries will be frozen until August 2021 and a freeze will be put on all recruitment that is not indispensable. Other TV stations are not doing any better. ITV, free-to-air, has made a cut of £ 100 million to their budget and Channel 4 (a public broadcaster) has made a cut of £ 150 million. Further details can be found here.
Spain: SER cuts cost of personnel
Spains main network, Cadena SER, owned by the Prisa group (they own the daily newspaper El Pais and have business interests in 24 countries) is reducing the cost of labour. Of the personnel employed by the radio, 256 workers have been laid off until July 12th, 2020, (on unemployment benefit) while another 924 have a salary reduction of 10% until December 31st, 2020. Cadena Ser has 202 stations and the Prisa group also owns Cadena 100 and Los 40 Principales.
Click here for details in the article of El Español.
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.
Ransomware, a software that prevents the use of computers (by blocking them or encrypting files until you pay pirates a “ransom”), has paralysed the Cadena SER production system on November 4, 2019. To prevent risk of further infection, the computers connected to the network were turned off. However, since the Redacta platform (which assembles audio and text) could not be used, the journalists wrote the articles on sheets of paper or used word processing apps on their smartphones. Only after four days the 202 radio stations of the network were able to take up their work with their usual facilities again.
Services skipped, but no interruptions
Among the setbacks, the services on the MTV Awards, held in Seville the night before, were not broadcasted. On the other hand, radio hosts could provide a summary of an important electoral debate, by recording the audio from the TV (reduced quality). ‘El Confidential’ dedicated an extensive report on the emergency.