Now Europe 2 will return to “reaffirm its original mission: to nurture the link between artists and audiences, through its musical offer aimed at adults and young adults, by investing heavily in musical events and promoting live sessions”

From January 2023, Europe 2 will return on Virgin Radio‘s 243 frequencies: this is one of the changes envisaged by the reorganisation of the Lagardère Group (of which the Europe 1 and RFM radio networks are also part) announced in June 2022 when Vivendi took control. Europe 2 is a historic brand, which had given way to Virgin Radio in January 2008, after 20 years in business. The agreement with Virgin, which covered frequencies in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Andorra and Monaco, had been signed in December 2007 by Sir Richard Branson, who had appeared on the Champs-Elysées dressed as Father Christmas for the occasion. Originally Europe 2 was a programme distributed to broadcasters. It became a network but left room for local programmes. Now, for Arnaud Lagardère, President and CEO of the group, and Constance Benqué, who heads the news hub, Europe 2 will return to its original mission: to connect audiences and artists. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)


Changes are in the offing for the radio stations of the Lagardère group: a reorganisation has been announced that will reshape the ownership and governance of Europe 1, RFM and Virgin Radio

The French group Vivendi takes another step towards control of the Lagardère group. At the end of the takeover bid (which was reopened from 29 May to 7 June 2022), Vincent Bolloré’s group reached 57.35% of the capital. The decision of the Autorité de la Concurrence is now awaited, which will have to pronounce on the 47.33% of voting rights that Vivendi acquired with the takeover bid (it currently holds 22.45%). In the meantime, the group has announced its intention to restructure the ownership and governance of the radio pole, which includes the three national networks Europe 1, RFM and Virgin Radio. The operation will have to be financially neutral, and (as ‘Les Echos’ writes) the activities could be brought together in a limited partnership in which the limited partners would be companies of the Lagardère group and the general partner Arnaud Lagardère.


Radio Zeta becomes national
Lorenzo Suraci, president of the RTL 102.5 radio group that includes Radio Zeta and Radiofreccia, pictured during the press conference in which he announced the acquisition of the national concession

From being a multi-regional broadcaster, Radio Zeta has become national, with the purchase (on May 25) of the concession that gives it the right to broadcast its signal no longer over certain regions but throughout Italy. The authorization to broadcast the signal nationwide was held by Monradio, a company in the Mediaset galaxy, the second-largest television hub after RAI (with the Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4 brands) and which through Mediaset Radio owns four radio networks (Radio 105, R101, RMC – Radio Monte Carlo and Virgin Radio) and the superstation Radio Subasio. To keep it from lapsing, the concession had been used for years to broadcast (lately from a single facility located in Valtellina, in the province of Sondrio, in Lombardy) Radio Orbital, a Portuguese broadcaster. Why a foreign broadcaster on Italian soil? Because the concession had been created in the 1990s (requested from the then Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications) by Radio Milano International to repeat a foreign broadcaster, VOA-Voice of America. And when Monradio took over the RMI network (which has since become Radio 101-One O One) from bankruptcy in 2005, turning it into the current R101, it found itself with a second valuable concession to use.

How many national radio stations are there?

In the table produced by Confindustria Radio TV, for each radio network the company that owns it, the publishing group to which it belongs, and the type of concession (public, commercial or community) are indicated

The announcement of the acquisition was made by Lorenzo Suraci, president of RTL 102.5, during the press conference of “Future Hits Live 2022,” a festival promoted by Radio Zeta. In Suraci’s statement reported on the website of the association Confindustria Radio TV, of which the publisher is also a director, it is stated that “Radio Zeta to all intents and purposes is the 18th national radio station.” However, the same Confindustria, in a study on national advertising some time ago, had published the list that we reproduce, which counts 21. Since then Radiofreccia has turned into a commercial radio station (in 2021) thus leaving Radio Maria as the only national community radio station, while Radio Radicale, which has a commercial concession, does not carry advertising.

Acquisitions restart

Radio Zeta was established 1 January 2016 on the frequencies taken over from the multi-regional radio station of the same name

Radio Zeta can now complete its national coverage. It has 256 repeaters, less than half the number of Radiofreccia (the group’s other station has 545) and one-third of flagship RTL 102.5 (which can boast 765). After all, the radio station had to concentrate only on certain regions in order not to exceed coverage limits, which the law sets at 15 million potential listeners for superstations (broadcasters with multi-regional coverage). To reach uncovered areas, the broadcaster is acquiring dozens of new frequencies in different regions, either by taking over redundant channels from other broadcasters in the group or by purchasing them. This could revitalize somewhat the frequency market, which has been depressed by the crisis and with prices in free fall. This is a typical anomaly in the Italian market, in that no new authorizations have been issued since 1990 (pending regulation that never happened), so they must be purchased from other publishers.


Vincent Bolloré, patron of the Vivendi group, should retire in February 2022: it is assumed that accelerating the Opa on Lagardère tries to fix the company before leaving the helm to his children
Vincent Bolloré, patron of the Vivendi group, should retire in February 2022: it is assumed that accelerating the Opa on Lagardère tries to fix the company before leaving the helm to his children

The conquest of the French media group by the Breton financier Vincent Bolloré is approaching its final stages. The Opa (the takeover bid aimed at shareholders to invite them to sell their shares to the company that would like to take control), initially scheduled for December 15, 2022, has been brought forward to February 2022. Vivendi will take control of Radio Europe 1, the RMF and Virgin Radio networks and the publishing houses Hachette and Editis. The Antitrust Authority and the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) have yet to pronounce on the acquisition. They could impose the sale of certain assets in the book sector, particularly in France, because with the acquisition of the two big names in publishing and book distribution in France, Vivendi would have a dominant position. This and other aspects are discussed in the Italian monthly Prima Comunicazione, specialized in the world of publishing.


Among the Virgin Radio sites affected by the closure is Angers, the capital of Maine and Loire

The Lagardère group has unveiled a plan to redeploy 30 journalists and 4 presenters involved in closing 26 Virgin Radio and four RFM locations. Ownership attributes the need for the cuts to the music broadcasters’ declining audience due to competition from streaming platforms. But the CFDT union disputes this, attributing the crisis to the group’s management problems, as the other major generalist radio stations have not lost listeners. On the contrary, the stations that will be closed have sent €3.6 million in dividends to the Lagardère group in 2020.

We have already discussed the crisis at the Lagardère Group here and here.

Desertification risk

Closing the network’s regional offices also reduces news coverage in certain territories, particularly rural areas, which are already under stress due to the crisis: since 2009, the number of journalists has fallen by 10%

In the communiqué issued by the union, the workers are acknowledged for their dedication to working as presenters in the morning, especially in “isolated editorial offices“, with net salaries of less than 1,900 euros per month. And fearing the danger of information desertification in certain areas, particularly rural ones, the CSA (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel) is asked to monitor the merger in progress within the group and compliance with agreements. Indeed, operators are obliged to open local offices in order to broadcast local advertising. ”Certainly, shareholders dream of radio stations without journalists or presenters, but the media will die that way.”

ITALY: Radiofreccia becomes a commercial broadcaster

Radiofreccia becomes a commercial broadcaster
The article published on Prima Comunicazione Online, with statements by Lorenzo Suraci, now owner of Radiofreccia

Although in December 2020 he told Prima Comunicazione “it is not a gift”, Lorenzo Suraci, publisher of nationwide RTL 102.5 and Radio Zeta (a so-called “superstation”), then took advantage of the opportunity offered by Law 176/2020, which allows a national network to transform a community licence into a commercial one. It thus had Radiofreccia purchased by RTL 102.5, making it its second licence and transforming it from a national community radio station into a commercial one. This removes the advertising limit of 10% per hour, which can be raised to 20%.

Reconstructing the history of the broadcaster7

The Newslinet article examines the transformation of the licence from a legal point of view

In July 2016, Mediaset took control (72.12%) of the Finelco Group (owner of Radio 105 and Virgin Radio) and formed a partnership with RMC-Radio Monte Carlo (later acquired in 2018), exceeding 10 million listeners on the average day (including R101, already owned by the group). Suraci, who can count on the 7 million listeners of RTL 102.5 (first in Italy for ratings) and Radio Zeta, found himself bypassed. In order to counter the firepower of Mediaset, which can sell advertising on its radio stations on a “package” basis, he tried to grow his group by buying Radio Padania (a Lega Nord station with a national community licence) for 2.1 million euros, transforming it into Radiofreccia, a station with a rock format. The community licence allows the broadcaster to turn on hundreds of repeaters without buying them from other radio stations (the law was tailored to favour the Lega Nord and allow it to extend Radio Padania’s coverage throughout the Peninsula), but limits advertising to 10% per hour. Now the “cap” has been blown off, and the only national community radio station remains Radio Maria, which has never used this loophole to turn on new equipment.

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