The abolition of the radio and television licence fee does not please the workers of the public broadcasters, who went on strike on 26 June. A populist measure designed to ease the burden of inflation on French households, the abolition of the licence fee was one of President Emmanuel Macron’s battle horses in his campaign for the 2022 legislative elections. But workers fear that the more than three billion euro hole that will be created will take away the independence of public broadcasters, and argue that compensatory funds cannot be decided by the government, nor face the pitfalls of the annual finance law. In France, the fee amounts to 138 euros per year (88 for residents abroad) and is only payable by households that own a TV set: those who watch programmes from smartphones, PCs, TVs and tablets pay nothing. The radio networks (France Inter, France Culture, France Musique, France Bleu, FIP), the television stations and France Media Monde (France 24, RFI and MCD) are affected.
ITALY: Radio and television sector radiography
The Confindustria Radio Televisioni association has published the “Economic study of the private radio and television sector“, which from 2020 presents in a single volume the national and local radio and television operators (previously two publications were prepared). The study examines the financial statements filed with the Chambers of Commerce by joint-stock companies (thus excluding community broadcasters, which are not required to publish them), providing a picture of the most structured part of the radio and television industry, within which very different companies coexist. The sector is in a stabilization phase, after two economic crises (2008 and 2012), the entry of some reforms (including that of the fee and contributions to local broadcasting) and a changed competitive environment, due to the rise of OTT platforms that (like Netflix) distribute content via the internet. The financial statements are for 2018, as it was necessary to wait until a fair number were available for the study to be representative.
A summary of key trends can be read here, while the full volume can be downloaded here.
ITALY: Aid to broadcasters should be distributed fairly
The 50 million EUR allocated by the Italian government to support broadcasters affected by the drastic drop in advertising due to the pandemic have not been distributed fairly. Stopping the decision of the old executive (Conte II) is Agcom, the Italian Communications Authority. The “Fund for emergencies relating to local broadcasters” had been established by Article 195 of the Decree Law of May 19, 2020, but the implementing decree had been issued by the Ministry of Economic Development only on October 12, 2020. The text defined the procedures for the allocation of the contribution, reserving 95% of the resources for the first hundred television stations in the ranking, and dividing the remaining 5% among those from the hundredth place onwards. This choice, which had already aroused controversy, was rejected by Agcom because it could create market distortions, and the authority hopes to divide it into two portions: one among all the broadcasters meeting the eligibility requirements, in proportion to the score in the ranking list, and the other, in equal parts among the broadcasters, taking care to ensure that the latter portion of resources has a sufficient amount to guarantee adequate subsidizing for the smaller broadcasters.
SPAIN: RTVA Andalucia is the cheapest public channel in Europe
It’s been months of unrest for workers at RTVA-Canal Sur, Andalusia’s public radio and television station. At the end of November 2020, 400 workers had signed a manifesto against the budget cuts decided by the regional government. To support his argument, the president of the Andalusian junta Juanma Moreno Bonilla had stated several times in interviews that regional television was expensive. But he was defeated by a recent study by the University of Santiago de Compostela, carried out in collaboration with the universities of Valencia, Malaga, Castilla-La Mancha, Barcelona, Madrid, Vigo, Carlos III of Madrid and A Coruña. The report, “Current Panorama and Trends in Public Radio Television in Europe”, shows that the cost for Andalusian citizens is only 16.16 EUR per year, the lowest in Europe. As a whole, Spanish public TV costs citizens 44 EUR per year compared to 160 EUR in Denmark and 113 EUR in the UK.
UK: How much energy is consumed to transmit and listen to BBC radios?
In a study by the British public broadcaster, the energy impact of radio broadcasts on all bands was calculated: Medium Waves, FM, DAB and digital terrestrial TV. In addition to the consumption to produce the programs and distribute them on the different platforms, the research also estimated those to listen to them, then linking them (for each medium) with the hours of listening, to quantify the hourly energy consumption. This highlighted the key points where to concentrate efforts to reduce the energy footprint.
BBC radio attracts over 30 million listeners in the UK every week through live stations, podcasts and other on-demand content. Unlike TV, which completed the digital switchover in 2012, the BBC still provides analogue radio services that continue to make up a considerable portion of the audience. While broadcasters are discussing whether radio should switch to digital, the media industry has been studying the possibility of migrating to distribution exclusively over the Internet. Both of these approaches would have inevitable environmental impacts that have yet to be quantified. The research then assesses the effect that a digital radio switchover or a transition to IP-only services could have on energy consumption, and addresses also alternative scenarios.