Radio broadcasters in Greece will soon face a new challenge - licenses. Next month a new FM frequency map for Attica (greater Athens) will be revealed, said Alternate Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis, quoted by I Avgi (February 7). After the requisite period of public consultation broadcasters will be invited to fill out the appropriate forms.
“Our goal is not to disadvantage anybody,” said Minister Spirtzis. “In any case, it will be preceded by an exhaustive dialogue.” Only in the Attica region has Greek radio broadcasting be subjected to licensing rules. Fifteen stations were awarded four year licenses in 2001 and 2002. All were simply renewed thereafter. Licensing national television stations is also in process. (See more about media in Greece here)
The new frequency map may offer more allocations by reducing FM signal spacing. Public broadcaster ERT now uses fewer FM frequencies. Several private-sector radio operations have changed ownership in recent years and some have closed altogether. Plans for digital radio licenses appear abandoned.
The new radio licensing procedure is expected to be similar to television licensing, including staffing and public affairs requirements along with stable financial backing. “If you want more features, you must have certain obligations,” said Minister Spirtzis, who added that power output monitoring will be implemented.
People, it is obvious, are consuming news in new ways. Reporting on media usage with a particular eye on news media Portugal’s media regulator ERC offered that 70% of the population are news users. Television is the greatest access point, followed by social media, then newspapers.
A direct relationship between internet access and online news consumption is a little more hazy. While 87% of Portuguese are using the internet for email and 80% to connect with social media with 60% looking for news at least once a day and just 35% go to the web for “breaking news.” Two-thirds (67%) of those with internet access look at the Facebook news feed. (See more about media in Portugal here)
People between 45 and 54 years are the biggest online news users, younger people go to their smartphones. National news is most accessed (81%), then international news (61%) and health-related subjects (31%). Only 10% are interested in national politics. A scant 3% of those surveyed said they had paid for online content and 62% said they never would. (See more on online news here)
Results of this ERC Portuguese media consumption study are strikingly similar to patterns seen elsewhere. There is a temptation to conclude from it all that new delivery modes have redefined news. Certainly “silo effect” and “confirmation choice” are real concerns for fundamental journalism. But the definition of news - here, me, now - remains the same.
Protestors attacked a remote broadcast vehicle of Czech public broadcaster Cesky Rozhlas (CRo) on Saturday reported news agency CTK (February 7) with others following. The CRo news crew was covering demonstrations in central Prague by far-right extremists sympathetic to Pegida, the anti-immigrant protest group rising in eastern Germany. The attackers attempted to enter the vehicle, threatened the CRo crew and, finally, disabled the remote generator.
Riot police on hand, when asked to assist, were dismissive, telling CRo reporter Filip Titlbach to “take care of yourselves, because you’re liars. Hire your own security guards.” Pegida rioters in Germany - and elsewhere - have regularly targeted “lying press,” news media perceived as unsympathetic to their ugly far-right views. (See more about press freedom here)
“I went to them only when it was unbearable and we needed help,” said Mr. Titlbach. “When they told me this, I ran back to help the technician.” About a thousand protestors descended on the Hradcany Square district near Prague Castle. After the demonstrations broke-up a social center aiding refugees was fire-bombed.
A Prague police spokesperson said there was “no information that police erred in any way. But if anyone has such information, we ask them to contact police supervisors that we will investigate and deal with it.” Interior Minister Milan Chovanec promised to investigate, “particularly the behavior of police officers at the Czech Radio broadcast vehicle.” He wants results of the inquiry “within two weeks.”
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
Convergence happily described, last century, the great prospects for technology to disrupt and replace the inefficient with really cool stuff. It has moved at lightening speed. Through the gift of physics mobile technologies are converging with nearly everything. We have Facebook, ads on Facebook, Netflix, Uber and more.
Policy makers at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and European Commission (EC) saw this coming years ago and, with like minded around the world, studied how to grab hold of that lightening bolt and convert it to happiness. If not that, exactly, at least a gravitational force attracting money. Like everything else on our small planet there are constraints. Mobile technology can only fulfill its ever expanding promise by optimizing the radio frequency spectrum. For a more complete explanation visit your friendly neighborhood physicist.
EC digital everything commissioners Andrus Ansip and Günther Oettinger proposed this week moving digital terrestrial television (DTT) transmissions out of its home in the UHF spectrum so mobile telecoms can use it for 5G services like The Internet Of Things. European TV broadcasters will have four years to get out if their national governments all agree. This was already proposed several years ago by then EC Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, who once described getting all Member States to agree on anything as “like herding cats.”
“We cannot have high quality mobile internet for everything and for everyone everywhere unless we have modern infrastructure and modern rules,” said Commissioner Oettinger in a statement. “With this proposal we show that we can have both: a vibrant audiovisual sector as well as the spectrum we will need for 5G. The 700 MHz band will be ideal for new promising fields like connected driving and the Internet of Things. I want Europe to lead in 5G. That is why all Member States must act by 2020.“
Watching carefully all this, as it has for a decade, is the European Broadcasting Union, the association of European public broadcasters. They are “concerned.” DTT is the primary vehicle for TV watching in Europe. Viewers would need to upgrade receivers, again. Broadcasters, public and private, would need to upgrade transmitters and such.
“Broadcasters will need to make costly changes to their infrastructure,” accounted EBU chief EU lobbyist Nicola Frank in a statement. “Member States should clearly be able to provide for compensation for both consumers and broadcasters in order to cater for the investment needed to implement the change.” (See EBU presser here) The cost of it all could run to €4.4 billion, reported Les Echos (February 3).
Public broadcasting leaders in Bosnia - Herzegovina are warning that financial strain and government inaction could soon fade public broadcaster BHRT to black. License fee revenue collected through fixed-line telephone bills has fallen significantly as Bosnians cut the cord for mobile services, escaping the €3.8 monthly license fee. Ad spending in Bosnia - Herzegovina (BiH) fell 75% between 2008 and 2013, reported the South East European Media Observatory (SEEMO), and BHRT radio and TV channels are limited to six minutes per hour.
In the aftermath of the 1990’s Balkan Wars new public broadcasters were created to replace State broadcasting institutions. Ethnic, religious and political rivalries subsumed the region, horrifically, into a battleground. States that rose from the former Yugoslavia were persuaded as bullets and bombs, mostly, stopped flying to adopt the European public broadcasting model as a means of promoting national and European solidarity.
“Our situation is critical,” said Belmin Karamehmedovic, named BHRT general director last June, to Balkan Insights (February 3). “We cannot even pay our gas and electricity expenses, not to mention the €5 million that we should pay the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). It's a problem that has been going on for years.” Last May the EBU appealed to the BiH government for an “adequate funding model.”
After months of one austerity budget after another the BHRT management board indicated program output would be “gradually” reduced until a “complete switch-off”, reported Serbian news portal nezavisne.com (January 29).
“Everything is directed toward maintaining our basic function, which is the program, for which all this exists,” said Mr.Karamehmedovic to RFE/RL (January 29). “We work in one large building that was built over thirty years ago, which was badly damaged during the war. We still have some equipment in the building before the Winter Olympics of 1984. and continue to work with equipment that should be in a museum. The question is how much longer it can endure.
“We feel like an orphan, an unwanted child in this whole thing.”
Observers of Hungarian media politic await each day another round in the slug-fest between billionaire Lajos Simicska and Prime Minister Viktor Orban. There is now a Budapest radio station in the mix, to be called Karc FM with Otto Gajdics as manager. He’d been manager at news-talk station Lanchid Radio, principally owned by Mr. Simicska. Last year he vacated that position along with Gabor Liszkay, editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet, also principally owned by Mr. Simicska, and various other executives for “reasons of conscience.”
Mr. Simicska's media holdings had been reliably supportive editorially of PM Orban and the Fidesz political party, to which Mr. Simicska contributed generously. The “bro-mance” ended with the imposition of a tax on advertising revenues, largely directed at television broadcaster RTL Klub, principally owned by RTL Group. Finding lawyers for RTL and Bertelsmann a bit overwhelming the ad tax law was withdrawn and replaced with another directed at all privately-owned media companies and somewhat less draconian. At about the same time PM Orban effectively moved moved the not-insubstantial government ad budgets from privately-owned media outlets to State-owned MTV. This did not please Mr. Simicska, who declared “total media war,” presumably directed at PM Orban. (See more about media in Hungary here)
There was also, not long ago, that tiff about Mr.Simicska’s outdoor advertising company Mahir Cityposter. It had a 25 year deal with the city of Budapest for some 600 installations. Last September the city cancelled the contract with Mahir Cityposter, several years early, and ordered all installations removed. When the city’s wrecking crews arrived in early January Mr. Simicska sent in security guards to provide a little distance. The police were called. All parties moved to court rooms, removal of the installations suspended.
Karc FM will occupy the Budapest frequency of NG 105.9, reported hvg.hu (January 29), once intended to be the radio adjunct of business newspaper Napi Gazdaság, which disappeared in August 2015. The vacated NG 105.9 frequency was transferred to Gabor Liszkay, who, with friends close to Fidesz, acquired the assets of Napi Gazdaság. Regulator NMHH (National Media and Infocommunications Authority) allowed an “expanded profile” for the station. It is expected, with the personnel and name changes, Karc FM will be reliably pro-government.