Radio Newsbeat

Selected from the Radio Today Site:

BBC Radio 3 to play non-stop Schubert

BBC Radio 3 is to play nothing but Schubert for eight days – from 23 – 31 March 2012.

The station will offer over 200 continuous hours of Schubert’s music to celebrate the 215th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

The Spirit of Schubert Season will cover all of his ‘performable’ pieces, many of the scraps, and finished versions of incomplete works. Each day the station will explore a different aspect of Franz Schubert’s life.

There will be 24 live performances broadcast and the network will also recreate the spirit of Schubert’s time through lunchtime gatherings in intimate venues around the UK known in Schubert’s day as Schubertiades and featuring artists Imogen Cooper, Melvyn Tan, Michael Collins and many of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists.

Controller of Radio 3, Roger Wright, says: “I am delighted that BBC Radio 3 is uniquely able to dedicate our whole schedule to the celebration of a single composer through distinctive and engaging programming spanning live performance, documentary and expert comment. We hope that our exploration of every performable Schubert work across 200 hours of programming will bring new and old audiences together alike, to explore and celebrate the spirit of this truly remarkable composer.”

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Garrison FM adds two more FM locations

The British Army’s radio service has added two more transmitters to its network.

Garrison FM is now broadcasting to the 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland and in the nearby Cameron barracks area of Inverness.

Families at home in Inverness will now be able hear their loved ones in weekly link ups to 3 SCOTS base in Afghanistan, broadcast on 87.7 FM in both locations. The Officer Commanding Rear Party, Major Colin McInroy said: “I think its fantastic that Garrison FM has launched here. Inverness might be slightly out of it geographically but Garrison FM helps us feel part of the wider Army family and brings the community closer. I walk in to the Community Centre and the wives are listening to and enjoying the radio station.”

Former England and Rangers captain, Terry Butcher, who is manager of local SPL side Inverness Caledonian Thistle, did the honours for the Fort George switch-on. He has a son in the Army and talked on the air about the high regard British soldiers are held in. “I think the whole of Britain has come to terms with what they do. I think everyone realises just what they put themselves through and it’s just fantastic. It’s really heart-warming the reaction they, the soldiers are getting, from the British public.”

At Inverness, the city’s Provost, Councillor Jimmy Gray, joined Army families at the welcome event at the Wimberley Way Community Centre to officially launch Garrison FM’s twelth UK location.

Inverness is now the second city to receive Garrison FM broadcasts, after Edinburgh. The new locations were launched by live broadcasts hosted by Edinburgh Garrison FM’s Mark McKenzie and Managing Director Mark Page, who added; “We have been able to extend radio for soldiers, their families and MoD workers, within the current resources, so everyone benefits.”

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Naughtie to profile 60 public figures

BBC Radio 4 presenter James Naughtie is to profile 60 public figures who have made the greatest impact in the UK during The Queen’s 60 year reign.

The profiles will be scheduled on the network during the summer.

Radio 4 listeners will be invited to suggest people who have defined the past six decades and illuminated the character of the age. These will be passed to a panel of historians who will add their own suggestions before debating and deciding on the final list of The New Elizabethans.

James Naughtie says: “This is going to be an exciting journey into our recent past. Trying to find the 60 people who’ve left the most indelible marks on the second Elizabethan age is going to be a challenge, but fun. We hope listeners will deluge us with suggestions and we’ll try to reflect all the diversity of our last six decades – men and women in politics, entertainment, the arts, sport, business, science, academe, and anywhere else who’ve helped to make us who we are.

“Writing 60 profiles of these people is going to be an adventure. Some names will be obvious, and I hope some will be obscure. But they will all tell a story – about ingenuity or courage, brilliance or sheer luck. They’ll help to explain us to ourselves. The result will be a radio portrait of our age. I can’t wait to get started.”

Gwyneth Williams, Controller, BBC Radio 4, says: “The search is on at Radio 4 for the brightest and best among us; for those who have made a lasting impact on the way we live now. I am delighted to broadcast, in the Diamond Jubilee year, The New Elizabethans, which will examine the last 60 years through exceptional individuals chosen by our listeners and a panel of eminent historians.”

John Myers joins Spectrum FM in Spain

Radio Academy CEO John Myers has joined a radio station in Spain as a consultant and presenter.

He’ll oversee the expansion of Spectrum FM and also host a weekly Sunday morning show at the English speaking station, in addition to his Radio Academy role.

The station broadcasts around Spain, Majorca, The Canary Islands and Gibraltar – but is now operating under new legislation which was introduced recently in Spain, tightening up the rules on how radio stations operate.

John told RadioToday.co.uk: “I live in Spain a lot of the time so I am delighted to be able to help them build on their current success. It will also be fun to be able to play a small part in focusing the output to be the best it can be and getting back on air once a week. Music and Sunshine, what more can anyone want?”

Tim Smith, programme controller at Spectrum said: “John Myers will help us ensure we deliver the best radio station on the dial and focus our operation on delivering results for clients and an output that people want to hear. We are live 24 hours a day and his agreement to present a weekly show for us each Sunday morning is an added bonus.”

Owner Gary Lewis added: “Spectrum FM is committed to delivering the best English service radio station in Spain. This investment allows us to further improve our position as Spain’s number one English speaking radio station.”

Comedian Serafinowicz joins 6 Music

BBC Radio 6 Music has hired comedian, writer and actor Peter Serafinowicz for a series of six shows.

The three hour weekly show will air every Saturday from 10am-1pm, starting this weekend.

Following Richard Bacon’s series of programmes, Peter will present musical choices, opinions and weekend guests. He’ll be answering some challenging listener questions in his Q&A sessions and will be looking to listeners for some musical suggestions.

Peter said: “I’m excited and thrilled to be presenting a show on BBC 6 Music. I’m a huge fan of the network and I’m looking forward to playing some great music (on my violin) and putting the ‘fun’ back in radio, so it becomes ‘rafundio.”

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Record number of entries for 2012 Sonys

The Radio Academy has received a record number of entries for this year’s Sony Radio Academy Awards.

Over 120 radio judges will soon start listening to entries across 34 categories ahead of the annual event, on May 14th.

This year the nominations will be announced via a webcast around six weeks before the event, instead of a social evening – full details of which will be announced shortly.

John Myers, CEO of The Radio Academy and Chairman of the Sony Organising Committee said: “These are the most sought after awards in the radio industry and to have a record number of entries, underlines their importance to the industry. The Radio Academy will be hosting a very special event this year to mark the 30th year of The Sony Radio Academy Awards.”

“For each category, the Committee appoints a panel of judges varying in size according to the number of entries received – with each judge chosen because of a particular expertise that directly relates to whichever kind of radio they’re being asked to assess. Judges are drawn chiefly from the radio industry and balanced across all broadcast sectors.”

Full details of the 2012 Judging Panels will be available on the Sony Radio Academy Awards website once the judging is underway.

Winners will be revealed at the 2012 Sony Radio Academy Awards Ceremony on Monday 14th May at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London. Coverage of which will as always be available via Radio Today Live.

Bush leaves Heart for Absolute Radio

Heart Bristol breakfast presenter Andy Bush is joining Absolute Radio.

Andy will join the national station to host the afternoon show, replacing Nick Jackson who left last year.

Since Nick left, Leona Graham has been covering the 1-5pm slot but will hand over to Andy on April 2nd.

Tony Moorey, Content Director Absolute Radio says “Andy’s a star. His creativity has made that breakfast show one of the country’s most successful and as a lover of live music, football and comedy, we think Absolute Radio is his natural home”.

Andy said: “It’s going to be a real honour to go to work with so many people I’ve admired for so long. It’s a radio station with a tradition of excellence, the guts to take risks, and a leadership that knows how to get the best from its talent. Also, being able to stick on The Stone Roses will be the sweetest moment of my career to date.”

From Radio Netherlands Media Network Blog

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RNW Madagascar off the air following tropical cyclone
February 14th, 2012 – 18:55 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Today a category 4 tropical cyclone (Giovanna) crossed the island of Madagascar. The road from the capital city to our relay station is a mud stream right now and lower parts of the Island are flooded. Schools and businesses are closed.

First reports mention a lot of damage. We lost the roofs from two small buildings including the high voltage area. So this forced us to close down the operation this morning completely because of the massive rain showers. Four antennas and two satellite dishes are damaged and need to be repaired. Fortunately the transmitter building was not damaged and luckily none of our team was injured. Also our office in Antananarivo in Ivandry had some damage and we lost our wireless link from the office to the station. Communication with the station is difficult.

Tomorrow at daylight we can exactly assess the damage and start repairing. We expect to be on air with the most important services at 1300 UTC. We’ve been in contact with all clients. IBB, DWL and Vatican will try to cover from their own sites.

(Source: Rocus de Joode, RNW Programme Distribution)

Andy Sennitt adds: Tomorrow we hope to publish some photos. This evening I am working on our main website till 2200 UTC so I have no time to prepare them.

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Bulgaria drops online piracy treaty after protest
February 14th, 2012 – 13:19 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Bulgaria will not ratify an international anti-piracy agreement after a mass protest over fears it will curb freedom to download movies and music for free and encourage Internet surveillance, Economy Minister Traicho Traikov said on today. More than 4,000 people marched in the capital Sofia last Saturday calling on parliament not to ratify the act. Similar rallies drew thousands of protesters across eastern Europe, as well as in Germany, France and Ireland.

“I will table a proposal to the Council of Ministers to stop the procedure of Bulgaria’s signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA),” Mr Traikov told reporters. The decision means Bulgaria will not take any action concerning ACTA before European Union member states come up with a unified position.

ACTA aims to cut trademark theft and tackle other online piracy but the accord has raised concerns, especially in eastern Europe, over online censorship and increased surveillance. Some protesters have compared it to the surveillance used by former Communist regimes. Many Bulgarians also fear the free download of movies and music, a common practice in the bloc’s poorest state, might lead to imprisonment if the treaty is ratified. “Bulgarian society is not ready to accept mechanisms which raise suspicions of violation of the freedom of expression and freedom in Internet,” Mr Traikov said.

Negotiations over ACTA have been taking place for several years. Some European countries have signed ACTA but it has not yet been ratified in many countries.

(Source: Reuters)

Related story:

Europeans protest controversial Internet pact

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EU radio spectrum policy programme at ‘risk’
February 14th, 2012 – 12:18 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Members have warned that the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme’s (RSPP) balanced approach in spectrum management might be put at risk at this year’s World Radio Conference (WRC-12) which is currently taking place in Geneva. The RSPP, that will be approved this week by the European Parliament, is Europe’s five-year policy programme to strategically plan and harmonise the use of spectrum in order to ensure the functioning of the internal market.

Although not in the original WRC-12 agenda, but after pressure from the African and Arab regional administrations, delegations at the World Radio Conference are currently looking to allocate the 700MHz band (694-790 MHz) to mobile services.  Such a decision would cause considerable problems in Europe, where the 700MHz band is heavily used for terrestrial broadcasting with, in many cases, long-term licensing arrangements in place.

It would cause considerable disruption, additional expense and loss of services for millions of viewers across Europe. Broadcasters also consider this band as being crucial to the future development of innovative new terrestrial services.

The RSPP instead refers to existing spectrum legislation, the EU Telecom Package, and urges future spectrum policies to be in line with its core message: spectrum is a scarce public good which must be managed with ‘special attention’, striking a balance between economic, cultural and social values in the public interest.

The EBU also supports the idea of a European Spectrum Inventory as proposed by the RSPP. The inventory should identify spectrum bands where efficient use of spectrum could be improved, re-allocated and/or shared. The inventory would also look at possible future spectrum needs of all services. Any mobile allocation in the 700 MHz band may preclude the outcome of the spectrum inventory.

(Source: EBU)

Related story/video:

Interference Problems Loom (Critical Distance Weblog)

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South Koreans want increase of TV licence fee
February 14th, 2012 – 11:51 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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More than six out of ten South Koreans believe the National Assembly should swiftly pass a pending bill on raising the television licence fee. Public broadcaster KBS commissioned Media Research to conduct a survey on one thousand Korean adults nationwide in January. Sixty-four percent said they agree the Assembly must act responsibly and quickly decide on the licence fee hike.

Regarding the one thousand won increase, 67 percent said the amount is adequate or too small, while 32 percent considered it high. Over 65 percent said the TV licence fee in Korea collected by KBS is low compared to other nations.

The survey results have a 95 percent reliability rate with a margin of error of plus minus three-point-one percentage points.

(Source: Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union)

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India: Two high power DRM transmitters almost ready
February 14th, 2012 – 11:45 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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The 18th Annual Broadcast Engineering Society of India (BES) international conference and exhibition has concluded in New Delhi. All India Radio’s (AIR) current digitalization programme was discussed by speakers during the conference and by visitors at the exhibition.

According to AIR’s Additional Director General Yogendra Pal, two 1000 KW mediumwave transmitters at Rajkot and Kolkata are likely to be operational by March 2012, and the rest of the 72 DRM transmitters would be commissioned between June 2012 to March 2013.

The ongoing roll-out by AIR spurred the interest of receiver manufacturers who were present at the event with their products. DRM’s Alexander Zink and Ludo Maes made presentations about DRM technology and receivers respectively, which enhanced a very interactive session on Success of Digital Radio broadcasting. DRM member companies Nautel, RFmondial, Digidia, Fraunhofer, Harris and Thomson attended the BES conference this year.

(Source: DRM Consortium)

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International TV Network launches on FreeviewHD in UK
February 14th, 2012 – 11:02 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Vision 247 yesterday announced the launch of the Vision TV Network, delivering live streamed international broadcasts via compliant FreeViewHD connected devices. The service enables broadcasters and video content owners to broadcast their channels over the internet, to all FreeviewHD enabled devices in the UK.

Vision247’s own channel, Vision TV Network, aggregates premium channels from national broadcasters around the world into simple to access and view TV packages. Audiences can now watch a wide variety of international programming across distinct channels through FreeviewHD including news, entertainment and music, sports, business and culture in native languages.

Located on Channel 110, Vision TV Network launches with a network of local language channel packages including Polska Plus, TeleFrance, Hellenic and TeleTurk for the Polish, French, Greek and Turkish speaking communities living in the UK. With many more channels set to follow, Vision247 is able to extend the reach for any international broadcaster wishing to reach expatriate communities in the UK.

Through this service, broadcasters can use the FreeviewHD electronic programme guide to promote their channels and use Vision247’s studio production and internet broadcast playout services to deliver compelling new channels for up to 5.5 million households in the UK currently with access to FreeviewHD.

John Mills, CEO of Vision IPTV, said: “For the first time we can provide live broadcasts over the internet and onto FreeviewHD televisions and set top boxes in British living rooms. This is an opportunity to add value to the FreeviewHD proposition, not only extending the choice of what to watch, but also the way viewers watch TV.”

Digital interactivity enables viewers to vote live with a click of a button. By tracking programme or channel selection, Vision247 can deliver contextual advertising or associated retail offers to viewers with the option to make use of a transactional gateway to buy as they watch. This digital interactivity also provides existing FreeviewHD channels the chance to create an interactive channel to add value and viewer services to existing broadcasts.

“This service extends the scope of FreeviewHD, offering users more channels to choose from and broadcasters the opportunity to take advantage of FreeviewHD as a more engaged and economically viable route to a wider audience,” said Mr Mills.

Vision247’s platform supports the latest compliant FreeviewHD enabled television sets and set top boxes on the market, ensuring broadcasters can deliver compelling new TV services to wider audiences in the UK. Legacy devices, non-compliant or FreeviewHD devices not connected to the internet will receive a call to action message displayed on screen advising users on what is required to view the new internet delivered channels.

Visit Vision 247 for more information.

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Merger of RFI and France 24 has been completed
February 14th, 2012 – 10:47 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Extraordinary general meetings of Radio France International (RFI), its Arabic subsidiary Monte Carlo Doualiya and l’Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France (AEF) have endorsed the merger of the radio station with the international news channel France 24, the AEF announced on Monday. In a statement, the AEF said that this “allows the creation of an official French broadcasting group of international dimensions”, after more than two years of conflict and a procedural battle conducted by the RFI unions against the merger.

The General Assembly of the AEF, the holding company, in fact consists of one person – its CEO Alain de Pouzilhac, who represents the sole shareholder, the State. “With this merger a new page opens, the constitution of a major international audiovisual group that is powerful and competitive”, reads the statement of the AEF co-signed by RFI, France 24 and Monte Carlo Doualiya.

The principle of creating the AEF was decided by President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009, but the process was punctuated by repeated strikes at RFI, as some of the employees were opposed to a merger with France 24 and the relocation of the radio station.

A redundancy plan as part of the merger was opened in early January, and some 102 applications for voluntary reundancy had been received by early February. The plan calls for a total of 126 job cuts at RFI, France 24 and Monte Carlo Doualiya.

In a letter to Prime Minister Francois Fillon, RFI trade unions had denounced the “second round of redundancies” launched by the management, with “126 further positions eliminated in addition to the 206 that were already in the 2009 Plan.”

(Source: AFP French via Google Translate)

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India won’t censor social media: minister
February 14th, 2012 – 10:15 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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India does not intend to censor online social networks such as Facebook, a minister said today, but he demanded that they obey the same rules governing the press and other media. “I want to say once and for all, without any obfuscation, no government in India will ever censor social media,” Telecoms Minister Kapil Sibal said at an IT summit in Mumbai. “I never wanted to censor social media and no government wants to do so. But like the print and electronic media, they have to obey the laws of the country,” Mr Sibal told the gathering.

Mr Sibal held a number of meetings with leading Internet companies late last year in which he asked about the possibility of pre-screening content posted online by users. He reportedly showed executives examples of obscene images found on the Internet that risked offending Muslims or defaming politicians, including the boss of the ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi.Since then, 19 Internet firms including Google, Yahoo! and Facebook have been targeted in criminal and civil cases lodged in lower New Delhi courts, holding them responsible for content posted by users of their platforms.

The Indian government has given its sanction for the firms to be tried for serious crimes such as fomenting religious hatred and spreading social discord, offences that could land company directors in prison. Google and Facebook said earlier this month that they had removed the allegedly offensive content used as evidence in the court cases. The groups have appealed to the Delhi High Court asking for the cases against them to be quashed on the basis that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of their clients.

The comments of a judge hearing the case raised further fears that freedom of expression online could be restricted. “You must have a stringent check. Otherwise, like in China, we may pass orders banning all such websites,” the judge said during a hearing in January.

(Source: AFP)

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BBG publishes 2013 budget request
February 13th, 2012 – 19:05 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
1 comment

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today released its FY 2013 budget request, which contains a set of strategic measures to advance its core mission and meet the challenges of the changing global media environment within current spending constraints.

“In these times of fiscal austerity, the BBG faces tough choices,” Board members said in a message to agency employees.  “And we are not alone:  Every branch and each element of the federal government has had to take a hard look at itself to achieve efficiencies without sacrificing its essential work on behalf of our country.”

Noting the extraordinary coverage in the past year of the Arab Spring, conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ferment in Iran and Russia, the struggle over Tibet and other developments in China, the humanitarian disaster in East Africa, and human rights in Cuba and around the world, the Board affirmed, “US international broadcasting will continue to serve people the world over who lack access to accurate, credible news and who need lifeline information.  Our record audience of 187 million people in 2011 attests to the importance and success of your work. “

For FY 2013 the BBG has requested more than $720 million for US international broadcasting, a decrease of 4.2 percent from FY 2012.  This request supports US foreign policy priorities and is grounded in the five-year strategy adopted by the Board in October 2011. The proposals in it include retooling to reach strategically important audiences from Cuba to China and build out the agency’s digital infrastructure.

The request contains $9 million in increases that would:

create weekly television programs and related new media efforts for Egypt
add satellite TV broadcasts to Central Asia
elevate and expand social media
emphasize innovation across media platforms, and
revamp content and delivery to be more competitive.

It also contains $11.6 million in censorship-fighting Internet circumvention funding to continue the deployment of emerging technologies and partnerships with cutting-edge experts, developers and in-country networks.

The FY 2013 budget request includes programme, transmission and staffing reductions at the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the International Broadcasting Bureau, in part through efforts to restructure operations and end duplication. While four broadcast languages are proposed for elimination, the budget request preserves broad-based service in diverse vernacular languages to meet the needs of BBG audiences worldwide. The request also cuts more than $21 million in administrative and technical support costs throughout the agency and grantee organizations.

Board members acknowledged that some of the proposed changes will create anxiety, if enacted, and present very difficult circumstances for the men and women involved, but they affirmed, “We will do everything possible to limit the impact on our employees through a combination of agency buyouts, early-out authority and reducing positions via attrition.”

The BBG FY 2013 budget request is available for download (PDF 5.9Mb)

(Source: Broadcasting Board of Governors)

Andy Sennitt adds: Taking a quick look at this very detailed document, I note the following points concerning MW/SW:

Taking all transmission and language service reductions into  account, the budget request proposes to discontinue the use of shortwave and mediumwave except for Cuba, China, North Korea, Burma, Iran, Tibet, Uyghur, FATA (Afghan-Pakistan border region), Pakistan, Afghanistan, Belarusian, Russian to the Caucasus, Russian, Turkmen, Khmer, and Africa.

The Poro, Philippines tansmitting station would close and discontinue 10 positions. This one megawatt station [on 1170 kHz] currently provides only five hours per day of mediumwave transmission to audiences in Southeast Asia, and the potential requirements for this station will be reduced in FY 2013. The Agency plans to maintain and develop FM radio, television, satellite, Internet, mobile services, and other platforms that are more effective for serving target audiences currently served by Poro.

Major cuts in the VOA Newsroom

My attention has also been drawn to a plan to ‘Consolidate and Reorganize Central News and English Divisions’ which, if implemented, would save $5.660 million:

“As part of this budget request, VOA’s Central News will accelerate its transition from a large scale producer of English-language content, much of it based on wire services, to a much leaner newsroom, producing original content, and a short menu of top stories. Central News would also act as a clearinghouse for original content produced by VOA language service journalists.

“VOA Central News will be at the heart of a global newsroom for all US international broadcasting entities. Under this budget, VOA will continue successful efforts to produce content for web and other  digital  platforms (including audio and  video) for targeted English-speaking audiences. Radio functions and corresponding staff would be consolidated. Learning English would absorb Special English functions, and  take on a broader strategy of producing effective American English teaching products for a global audience. Seventy-one positions will no longer be required under this proposal.”

My source in Washington comments that the plan “contains some of the most devastating cuts to VOA ’s Central News operation in decades, impacting English language reporters, along with multimedia staff.”

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Information Ministry reshuffles South Sudan TV, radio execs
February 13th, 2012 – 16:33 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has reorganized the South Sudan Television and Radio (SSTV/Radio) following the Public Service policy that civil servants be reformed for better performances.

The internal transfers and circular from the Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Atem Yaak Atem said that the reorganization followed widespread meetings and consultations involving the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Barnaba Marial Benjamin, senior officials of the Ministry, Managers and staff of the SSTV/Radio.

The reshuffle affected the Directors of both SSTV and Radio but according to the official document from the ministry the reformation of the two institutions would be done fully to improve the services and programming. A directorate of English Language Service of SSTV shall be created as a separate department from the Arabic Language Service. Meanwhile a Directorate of drama shall be created to cater for the social fabric on social and moral values.

SSTV is expected to work 24 hours. The ministry would advertise the vacant position when it completes reorganization.

(Source: The Citizen, Juba)

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Nostalgia: Wolfman Jack on government radio in Iran!
February 13th, 2012 – 14:56 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
2 comments

Ehard Goddijn has drawn to my attention to this video in the AFRTS Archive featuring airchecks of the closedown announcement of AFRTS Iran and its replacement, the English-language station NIRT International Radio, operated by the Iranian Government in 1976. The latter features, amongst others, the legendary Wolfman Jack. The station operated on mediumwave 1555 kHz.

February 13th, 2012 – 12:18 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

Qatar Foundation (QF) Radio will launch a new all-English broadcast on 91.7 FM, with the current frequency 93.7 FM switching to 100% Arabic. Currently the station carries a mix of Arabic and English programming on the same frequency. QF Radio also plans to shift to new HQ behind the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art. This building will house new studios equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

(Source: The Peninsula)

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RNW Madagascar off the air following tropical cyclone
February 14th, 2012 – 18:55 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Today a category 4 tropical cyclone (Giovanna) crossed the island of Madagascar. The road from the capital city to our relay station is a mud stream right now and lower parts of the Island are flooded. Schools and businesses are closed.

First reports mention a lot of damage. We lost the roofs from two small buildings including the high voltage area. So this forced us to close down the operation this morning completely because of the massive rain showers. Four antennas and two satellite dishes are damaged and need to be repaired. Fortunately the transmitter building was not damaged and luckily none of our team was injured. Also our office in Antananarivo in Ivandry had some damage and we lost our wireless link from the office to the station. Communication with the station is difficult.

Tomorrow at daylight we can exactly assess the damage and start repairing. We expect to be on air with the most important services at 1300 UTC. We’ve been in contact with all clients. IBB, DWL and Vatican will try to cover from their own sites.

(Source: Rocus de Joode, RNW Programme Distribution)

Andy Sennitt adds: Tomorrow we hope to publish some photos. This evening I am working on our main website till 2200 UTC so I have no time to prepare them.

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Bulgaria drops online piracy treaty after protest
February 14th, 2012 – 13:19 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Bulgaria will not ratify an international anti-piracy agreement after a mass protest over fears it will curb freedom to download movies and music for free and encourage Internet surveillance, Economy Minister Traicho Traikov said on today. More than 4,000 people marched in the capital Sofia last Saturday calling on parliament not to ratify the act. Similar rallies drew thousands of protesters across eastern Europe, as well as in Germany, France and Ireland.

“I will table a proposal to the Council of Ministers to stop the procedure of Bulgaria’s signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA),” Mr Traikov told reporters. The decision means Bulgaria will not take any action concerning ACTA before European Union member states come up with a unified position.

ACTA aims to cut trademark theft and tackle other online piracy but the accord has raised concerns, especially in eastern Europe, over online censorship and increased surveillance. Some protesters have compared it to the surveillance used by former Communist regimes. Many Bulgarians also fear the free download of movies and music, a common practice in the bloc’s poorest state, might lead to imprisonment if the treaty is ratified. “Bulgarian society is not ready to accept mechanisms which raise suspicions of violation of the freedom of expression and freedom in Internet,” Mr Traikov said.

Negotiations over ACTA have been taking place for several years. Some European countries have signed ACTA but it has not yet been ratified in many countries.

(Source: Reuters)

Related story:

Europeans protest controversial Internet pact

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EU radio spectrum policy programme at ‘risk’
February 14th, 2012 – 12:18 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Members have warned that the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme’s (RSPP) balanced approach in spectrum management might be put at risk at this year’s World Radio Conference (WRC-12) which is currently taking place in Geneva. The RSPP, that will be approved this week by the European Parliament, is Europe’s five-year policy programme to strategically plan and harmonise the use of spectrum in order to ensure the functioning of the internal market.

Although not in the original WRC-12 agenda, but after pressure from the African and Arab regional administrations, delegations at the World Radio Conference are currently looking to allocate the 700MHz band (694-790 MHz) to mobile services.  Such a decision would cause considerable problems in Europe, where the 700MHz band is heavily used for terrestrial broadcasting with, in many cases, long-term licensing arrangements in place.

It would cause considerable disruption, additional expense and loss of services for millions of viewers across Europe. Broadcasters also consider this band as being crucial to the future development of innovative new terrestrial services.

The RSPP instead refers to existing spectrum legislation, the EU Telecom Package, and urges future spectrum policies to be in line with its core message: spectrum is a scarce public good which must be managed with ‘special attention’, striking a balance between economic, cultural and social values in the public interest.

The EBU also supports the idea of a European Spectrum Inventory as proposed by the RSPP. The inventory should identify spectrum bands where efficient use of spectrum could be improved, re-allocated and/or shared. The inventory would also look at possible future spectrum needs of all services. Any mobile allocation in the 700 MHz band may preclude the outcome of the spectrum inventory.

(Source: EBU)

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Interference Problems Loom (Critical Distance Weblog)

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South Koreans want increase of TV licence fee
February 14th, 2012 – 11:51 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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More than six out of ten South Koreans believe the National Assembly should swiftly pass a pending bill on raising the television licence fee. Public broadcaster KBS commissioned Media Research to conduct a survey on one thousand Korean adults nationwide in January. Sixty-four percent said they agree the Assembly must act responsibly and quickly decide on the licence fee hike.

Regarding the one thousand won increase, 67 percent said the amount is adequate or too small, while 32 percent considered it high. Over 65 percent said the TV licence fee in Korea collected by KBS is low compared to other nations.

The survey results have a 95 percent reliability rate with a margin of error of plus minus three-point-one percentage points.

(Source: Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union)

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India: Two high power DRM transmitters almost ready
February 14th, 2012 – 11:45 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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The 18th Annual Broadcast Engineering Society of India (BES) international conference and exhibition has concluded in New Delhi. All India Radio’s (AIR) current digitalization programme was discussed by speakers during the conference and by visitors at the exhibition.

According to AIR’s Additional Director General Yogendra Pal, two 1000 KW mediumwave transmitters at Rajkot and Kolkata are likely to be operational by March 2012, and the rest of the 72 DRM transmitters would be commissioned between June 2012 to March 2013.

The ongoing roll-out by AIR spurred the interest of receiver manufacturers who were present at the event with their products. DRM’s Alexander Zink and Ludo Maes made presentations about DRM technology and receivers respectively, which enhanced a very interactive session on Success of Digital Radio broadcasting. DRM member companies Nautel, RFmondial, Digidia, Fraunhofer, Harris and Thomson attended the BES conference this year.

(Source: DRM Consortium)

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International TV Network launches on FreeviewHD in UK
February 14th, 2012 – 11:02 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Vision 247 yesterday announced the launch of the Vision TV Network, delivering live streamed international broadcasts via compliant FreeViewHD connected devices. The service enables broadcasters and video content owners to broadcast their channels over the internet, to all FreeviewHD enabled devices in the UK.

Vision247’s own channel, Vision TV Network, aggregates premium channels from national broadcasters around the world into simple to access and view TV packages. Audiences can now watch a wide variety of international programming across distinct channels through FreeviewHD including news, entertainment and music, sports, business and culture in native languages.

Located on Channel 110, Vision TV Network launches with a network of local language channel packages including Polska Plus, TeleFrance, Hellenic and TeleTurk for the Polish, French, Greek and Turkish speaking communities living in the UK. With many more channels set to follow, Vision247 is able to extend the reach for any international broadcaster wishing to reach expatriate communities in the UK.

Through this service, broadcasters can use the FreeviewHD electronic programme guide to promote their channels and use Vision247’s studio production and internet broadcast playout services to deliver compelling new channels for up to 5.5 million households in the UK currently with access to FreeviewHD.

John Mills, CEO of Vision IPTV, said: “For the first time we can provide live broadcasts over the internet and onto FreeviewHD televisions and set top boxes in British living rooms. This is an opportunity to add value to the FreeviewHD proposition, not only extending the choice of what to watch, but also the way viewers watch TV.”

Digital interactivity enables viewers to vote live with a click of a button. By tracking programme or channel selection, Vision247 can deliver contextual advertising or associated retail offers to viewers with the option to make use of a transactional gateway to buy as they watch. This digital interactivity also provides existing FreeviewHD channels the chance to create an interactive channel to add value and viewer services to existing broadcasts.

“This service extends the scope of FreeviewHD, offering users more channels to choose from and broadcasters the opportunity to take advantage of FreeviewHD as a more engaged and economically viable route to a wider audience,” said Mr Mills.

Vision247’s platform supports the latest compliant FreeviewHD enabled television sets and set top boxes on the market, ensuring broadcasters can deliver compelling new TV services to wider audiences in the UK. Legacy devices, non-compliant or FreeviewHD devices not connected to the internet will receive a call to action message displayed on screen advising users on what is required to view the new internet delivered channels.

Visit Vision 247 for more information.

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Merger of RFI and France 24 has been completed
February 14th, 2012 – 10:47 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Extraordinary general meetings of Radio France International (RFI), its Arabic subsidiary Monte Carlo Doualiya and l’Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France (AEF) have endorsed the merger of the radio station with the international news channel France 24, the AEF announced on Monday. In a statement, the AEF said that this “allows the creation of an official French broadcasting group of international dimensions”, after more than two years of conflict and a procedural battle conducted by the RFI unions against the merger.

The General Assembly of the AEF, the holding company, in fact consists of one person – its CEO Alain de Pouzilhac, who represents the sole shareholder, the State. “With this merger a new page opens, the constitution of a major international audiovisual group that is powerful and competitive”, reads the statement of the AEF co-signed by RFI, France 24 and Monte Carlo Doualiya.

The principle of creating the AEF was decided by President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009, but the process was punctuated by repeated strikes at RFI, as some of the employees were opposed to a merger with France 24 and the relocation of the radio station.

A redundancy plan as part of the merger was opened in early January, and some 102 applications for voluntary reundancy had been received by early February. The plan calls for a total of 126 job cuts at RFI, France 24 and Monte Carlo Doualiya.

In a letter to Prime Minister Francois Fillon, RFI trade unions had denounced the “second round of redundancies” launched by the management, with “126 further positions eliminated in addition to the 206 that were already in the 2009 Plan.”

(Source: AFP French via Google Translate)

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India won’t censor social media: minister
February 14th, 2012 – 10:15 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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India does not intend to censor online social networks such as Facebook, a minister said today, but he demanded that they obey the same rules governing the press and other media. “I want to say once and for all, without any obfuscation, no government in India will ever censor social media,” Telecoms Minister Kapil Sibal said at an IT summit in Mumbai. “I never wanted to censor social media and no government wants to do so. But like the print and electronic media, they have to obey the laws of the country,” Mr Sibal told the gathering.

Mr Sibal held a number of meetings with leading Internet companies late last year in which he asked about the possibility of pre-screening content posted online by users. He reportedly showed executives examples of obscene images found on the Internet that risked offending Muslims or defaming politicians, including the boss of the ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi.Since then, 19 Internet firms including Google, Yahoo! and Facebook have been targeted in criminal and civil cases lodged in lower New Delhi courts, holding them responsible for content posted by users of their platforms.

The Indian government has given its sanction for the firms to be tried for serious crimes such as fomenting religious hatred and spreading social discord, offences that could land company directors in prison. Google and Facebook said earlier this month that they had removed the allegedly offensive content used as evidence in the court cases. The groups have appealed to the Delhi High Court asking for the cases against them to be quashed on the basis that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of their clients.

The comments of a judge hearing the case raised further fears that freedom of expression online could be restricted. “You must have a stringent check. Otherwise, like in China, we may pass orders banning all such websites,” the judge said during a hearing in January.

(Source: AFP)

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BBG publishes 2013 budget request
February 13th, 2012 – 19:05 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today released its FY 2013 budget request, which contains a set of strategic measures to advance its core mission and meet the challenges of the changing global media environment within current spending constraints.

“In these times of fiscal austerity, the BBG faces tough choices,” Board members said in a message to agency employees.  “And we are not alone:  Every branch and each element of the federal government has had to take a hard look at itself to achieve efficiencies without sacrificing its essential work on behalf of our country.”

Noting the extraordinary coverage in the past year of the Arab Spring, conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ferment in Iran and Russia, the struggle over Tibet and other developments in China, the humanitarian disaster in East Africa, and human rights in Cuba and around the world, the Board affirmed, “US international broadcasting will continue to serve people the world over who lack access to accurate, credible news and who need lifeline information.  Our record audience of 187 million people in 2011 attests to the importance and success of your work. “

For FY 2013 the BBG has requested more than $720 million for US international broadcasting, a decrease of 4.2 percent from FY 2012.  This request supports US foreign policy priorities and is grounded in the five-year strategy adopted by the Board in October 2011. The proposals in it include retooling to reach strategically important audiences from Cuba to China and build out the agency’s digital infrastructure.

The request contains $9 million in increases that would:

create weekly television programs and related new media efforts for Egypt
add satellite TV broadcasts to Central Asia
elevate and expand social media
emphasize innovation across media platforms, and
revamp content and delivery to be more competitive.

It also contains $11.6 million in censorship-fighting Internet circumvention funding to continue the deployment of emerging technologies and partnerships with cutting-edge experts, developers and in-country networks.

The FY 2013 budget request includes programme, transmission and staffing reductions at the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the International Broadcasting Bureau, in part through efforts to restructure operations and end duplication. While four broadcast languages are proposed for elimination, the budget request preserves broad-based service in diverse vernacular languages to meet the needs of BBG audiences worldwide. The request also cuts more than $21 million in administrative and technical support costs throughout the agency and grantee organizations.

Board members acknowledged that some of the proposed changes will create anxiety, if enacted, and present very difficult circumstances for the men and women involved, but they affirmed, “We will do everything possible to limit the impact on our employees through a combination of agency buyouts, early-out authority and reducing positions via attrition.”

The BBG FY 2013 budget request is available for download (PDF 5.9Mb)

(Source: Broadcasting Board of Governors)

Andy Sennitt adds: Taking a quick look at this very detailed document, I note the following points concerning MW/SW:

Taking all transmission and language service reductions into  account, the budget request proposes to discontinue the use of shortwave and mediumwave except for Cuba, China, North Korea, Burma, Iran, Tibet, Uyghur, FATA (Afghan-Pakistan border region), Pakistan, Afghanistan, Belarusian, Russian to the Caucasus, Russian, Turkmen, Khmer, and Africa.

The Poro, Philippines tansmitting station would close and discontinue 10 positions. This one megawatt station [on 1170 kHz] currently provides only five hours per day of mediumwave transmission to audiences in Southeast Asia, and the potential requirements for this station will be reduced in FY 2013. The Agency plans to maintain and develop FM radio, television, satellite, Internet, mobile services, and other platforms that are more effective for serving target audiences currently served by Poro.

Major cuts in the VOA Newsroom

My attention has also been drawn to a plan to ‘Consolidate and Reorganize Central News and English Divisions’ which, if implemented, would save $5.660 million:

“As part of this budget request, VOA’s Central News will accelerate its transition from a large scale producer of English-language content, much of it based on wire services, to a much leaner newsroom, producing original content, and a short menu of top stories. Central News would also act as a clearinghouse for original content produced by VOA language service journalists.

“VOA Central News will be at the heart of a global newsroom for all US international broadcasting entities. Under this budget, VOA will continue successful efforts to produce content for web and other  digital  platforms (including audio and  video) for targeted English-speaking audiences. Radio functions and corresponding staff would be consolidated. Learning English would absorb Special English functions, and  take on a broader strategy of producing effective American English teaching products for a global audience. Seventy-one positions will no longer be required under this proposal.”

My source in Washington comments that the plan “contains some of the most devastating cuts to VOA ’s Central News operation in decades, impacting English language reporters, along with multimedia staff.”

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Information Ministry reshuffles South Sudan TV, radio execs
February 13th, 2012 – 16:33 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has reorganized the South Sudan Television and Radio (SSTV/Radio) following the Public Service policy that civil servants be reformed for better performances.

The internal transfers and circular from the Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Atem Yaak Atem said that the reorganization followed widespread meetings and consultations involving the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Barnaba Marial Benjamin, senior officials of the Ministry, Managers and staff of the SSTV/Radio.

The reshuffle affected the Directors of both SSTV and Radio but according to the official document from the ministry the reformation of the two institutions would be done fully to improve the services and programming. A directorate of English Language Service of SSTV shall be created as a separate department from the Arabic Language Service. Meanwhile a Directorate of drama shall be created to cater for the social fabric on social and moral values.

SSTV is expected to work 24 hours. The ministry would advertise the vacant position when it completes reorganization.

(Source: The Citizen, Juba)

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Nostalgia: Wolfman Jack on government radio in Iran!
February 13th, 2012 – 14:56 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Ehard Goddijn has drawn to my attention to this video in the AFRTS Archive featuring airchecks of the closedown announcement of AFRTS Iran and its replacement, the English-language station NIRT International Radio, operated by the Iranian Government in 1976. The latter features, amongst others, the legendary Wolfman Jack. The station operated on mediumwave 1555 kHz.

(Source: Ehard Goddijn)

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China limits overseas TV series imports
February 13th, 2012 – 13:44 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Foreign TV series imported into China must last for less than 50 episodes and may not be shown between 7 and 10 pm, China’s TV watchdog said today. The broadcasting time for an imported TV series on a given channel may not surpass one-third of the total amount of time that channel dedicates to broadcasting TV series, according to a circular released by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

In order to enhance the quality of imported TV shows and expand sources for high-definition (HD) TV programmes, the HD versions of overseas TV series will receive priority consideration during imports, the circular said. TV channels may not air unauthorized overseas series in disguised forms, such as through introductions on domestic programmes, reads the circular.

Programnes that are specifically designed to introduce foreign TV series may not show more than 3 minutes of a given series, the circular said. SARFT will make efforts to avoid situations in which domestic channels lean too heavily on programming from one particular country or region, the circular said. It also urged all provincial TV administrators to intensify supervision over all TV channels under their jurisdiction and to increase penalties for content providers who violate regulations.

(Source: Xinhua via CRI)

 

 

QF Radio to launch new English frequency
February 13th, 2012 – 12:18 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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Qatar Foundation (QF) Radio will launch a new all-English broadcast on 91.7 FM, with the current frequency 93.7 FM switching to 100% Arabic. Currently the station carries a mix of Arabic and English programming on the same frequency. QF Radio also plans to shift to new HQ behind the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art. This building will house new studios equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

(Source: The Peninsula)

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Loosen up copyright law, says Dutch government
February 13th, 2012 – 11:01 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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The YouTube generation has gained an ally in the worldwide “copyright wars.” The Dutch government wants to change copyright law so new media users can continue to do “creative remixes” of protected content. The Hague will no longer wait for the European Commission to find a compromise.

Read the article on the RNW website

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720 Perth meets 720 Chicago for World Radio Day
February 13th, 2012 – 10:44 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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To mark World Radio Day, 720 ABC Breakfast crossed to 720 Chicago to talk all things radio. The news of the day for World Radio Day was similar around the world as many talk radio stations covered the death of singer Whitney Houston. “It really has dominated the television news, strange because there’s certainly a lot going on in Greece and various parts of the world but the biggest story here in the states right now is Whitney Houston’s death,” Chicago’s Late Night host Bill Leff told 720 ABC’s Eoin Cameron.

Despite being thousands of kilometres away, 720 WGN Chicago’s Bill Leff says the challenges their radio station faces is global. “The trick here is to get the audience to evolve with the station and for the station to evolve with the audience,” Mr Leff said. “There are constantly new technologies and younger people – I have two daughters who are 15 and to them, they get everything on a Smartphone or on the internet. So we’re constantly having to reinvent ourselves a bit to appeal to younger and younger listeners.”

Zimbabwe: Govt intensifies efforts to expand transmission
February 13th, 2012 – 10:16 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.
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The Zimbabwe Government has intensified efforts to expand radio and television transmission to reach most parts of the country, a Cabinet Minister has said. In his speech to mark today’s World Radio Day, Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu said Radio Zimbabwe and Power FM coverage of the country was now 80 percent, while television transmission had increased from 45 to 75 percent. He said three television transmitters were already installed in Beitbridge, Plumtree and Victoria Falls.

Minister Shamu said construction of towers was underway at St Alberts in Mount Darwin and in Mudzi. He said work on 10 more sites is expected to start this year if treasury released the US$5.1 million allocated to his ministry. “As the nation joins the rest of the world in marking the World Radio Day, it is important to acknowledge the role being played by the country’s signal carrier, Transmedia, in rehabilitating and expanding the national radio transmission network, albeit with very limited resources,” said Minister Shamu.

“Radio Zimbabwe and Power FM coverage of the country is now 80 percent after work was completed on all the 24 Frequency Modulation sites while National FM and SFM [sic] coverage has reached 60 percent. Through Transmedia, Government has been implementing a television digitalisation programme and working to expand television transmission and reception.”

Minister Shamu said radio played a critical role in unifying people from diverse backgrounds. He urged radio broadcasting to strive on building a social fabric hinged on the country’s revolutionary past. Minister Shamu said the broadcasting sector was continuing to grow with the licensing of new players in the industry. “We are pleased that this sector continues to expand with the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in November 2011 licensing AB Communications and Talk Radio as free to air independent radio stations,” he said. “The BAZ has also invited applications for 14 local commercial radio stations as moves intensify to diversify the radio broadcasting sector.”

(Source: The Herald – Zimbabwe Government newspaper

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