AER special bulletin – 6th edition – Radios and COVID19 – 21 April 2020


UBA asks for a tax incentive on investments in Belgian media
The Belgian media sector reported a loss of almost 40% in advertising investments in March 2020. A recent study conducted by WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) in the last week of March 2020, also confirmed this dramatic trend: 81% of advertisers have postponed their planned campaigns due to the corona crisis and 57% have already cut their media spend. Advertising revenue is the main source of funding for information and content, and such a drop is threatening the provision of news and the plurality of media. The Union of Belgian Advertisers (UBA – Unie van Belgische Adverteerders), in collaboration with Belgian media, called the Federal government to set up a system of tax credit or investment deduction for advertising investments, to motivate advertisers to continue to invest in Belgian media.


Loss in advertising revenues for Croatian commercial radio
HRF, the Croatian Radio Forum Association reported a loss in advertising revenues for commercial radios of 35% in March and 50% in April; May’s data are not yet available.

Information for broadcasters relating to program obligations
Understanding that in these exceptional circumstances the production and reruns of audiovisual and radio content will be significantly hindered and even impeded, and that certain legal program’s quotas will be difficult to meet, the Agency for Electronic Media informed radio broadcasters that some of the legal obligations for radio, like the percentage of own production or reruns, will not be taken into account in their program analysis until August 30, 2020 – Articles 37 and 38 of the Electronic Media Act. This does not apply to news programs. The Agency for Electronic Media called on the media sector to continue professional, high quality and reliable reporting of news on the corona virus pandemic, as well as natural disasters, by providing up-to-date, accurate and verified information to citizens. The Agency declared it will closely monitor the situation, the impact of the corona virus pandemic on the media industry and adjust its guidelines with the aim to find the best ways to support the entire industry in these times of crisis.


French commercial radios get together to call the State and Regulator for help
Competing commercial radios – RTL, Europe 1, RMC, NRG Group, SIRTI and Nova – co-signed two letters at the beginning of April to request for immediate and strong support. The letter aimed at the French Culture Ministry asked for the creation of tax credit for advertising communications that would run until December 31st, 2020. Radio also calls for the Audiovisual Regulator CSA to report the roll-out of DAB+ initially scheduled for Q4 2020, and an 18 months moratorium on the application of music quotas obligations. All radio sale houses agree to say that their advertising revenues decreased substantially in March and should decrease of 80% in April.

Government drafts support for the audiovisual and press sectors
Minister for Culture Franck Riester told the Senate on April 16th its proposals for support measures to the media sector.
– No green light for a tax credit measure yet but the Government is studying the proposal;
– The creation of a comprehensive support plan for the press to support struggling actors, especially by supporting the distribution throughout the territory. The provision of financial aid will be expedited;
– On the audiovisual reform, further discussions on the timetable with Parliament are required. With this regard, the implementation of the new neighboring rights introduced by article 17 of the DSM Directive through press/platform negotiations, could be made final.

SIRTI study shows drastic impact of confinement measures on local radios
SIRTI outlined the impact of the corona virus on independent local radios, and their efforts to maintain their essential activity. Local advertising revenues have dropped of 36% for commercial radio in May (32% for national) and are expected to drop further in April: 78% for local and 75% for national revenues.


Securing broadcasting – German Länder consider journalists to be part of the infrastructures relevant for the system (“systemrelevant”)
The German federal system leaves major parts of the execution of crisis management to the Länder (regions), while the federal state gives health recommendation and is coordinating. VAUNET has asked for uniform and comprehensive measures for broadcasters’ employees such as journalists, editors and technical staff. VAUNET has addressed relevant decision makers to consider them as part of the infrastructure relevant for the system (“systemrelevanten Infrastruktur”). The purpose is to enable broadcasters to fulfil their function as critical infrastructure (“kritisches Infrastrukture”), exempting their employees from the restrictions imposed to contain the corona virus.
Most of the Länder have now included journalists and media representatives as relevant for the system. The details vary in each Länder. However, it allows them to benefit from support for childcare in specific situations. If Germany had provided stricter lockdown measures, journalists and media representatives would have benefited from further exemptions besides childcare. VAUNET has drafted forms in case of potential further lockdown measures (currently not yet planned).

No sector specific measures to compensate financial loss
German radio and TV are facing an important drop in advertising. Besides, the production of content (films, TV shows, live broadcasts of music and sports events/sport reporting, but also of journalistic content) is in some cases severely restricted or even impossible. For example, it is currently not possible for radios to stage and broadcast live music events in concert arenas. When possible, radios have to face additional productions costs (additional health measures, costs of higher streaming usage). Producers are benefiting from specific measures from film funding bodies but there are no sector-specific measures for broadcasters. They have to apply for the measures applicable to the entire economy (immediate loans, short-time work allowances for salaried employees or subsidies for the self-employed).


Radio stations will receive up to €95,000 under Covid-19 scheme
Independent commercial radio stations can apply for up to €95,000 in special funds to help them raise “public awareness and understanding of Covid-19” within the €2.5 million funding scheme launched by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, on the request of Minister for Communications Richard Bruton. Licensed commercial radio stations can apply for sums ranging from €45,000 to €95,000 per station under the round, which is paid for out of the existing Sound & Vision scheme financed by a portion of licence fee receipts. The funding is available to cover costs “directly related” to the aim of enhancing public awareness and understanding of the health emergency and the closing date for applications is April 29th, with funding decisions “announced as soon as practicable”. The maximum award of €95,000 will be available to local speech and information radio stations, with the upper limit for national speech and information stations set at €85,000.

Italians continue listening to radio
CRTV released the latest findings of the study “Listening to Radio in times of COVID-19” by GFK – Media measurement for Tavolo Editori Radio (TER) the agency responsible for radio audience measurement in Italy. Despite the changed radio listening habits resulting from the health emergency, i.e. 67% of the population using the car less and 30% no longer commuting to work, the impact on radio listening is limited. In fact, the study reveals new behaviors: the 81% of listeners who were listening to radio before lockdown are still doing so, to which a 2,4% of new listeners needs to be added. Usage time has shifted: before lockdown, a 74% was listening to radio in the car and 48% at home, whereas during lockdown, respectively 34% and 71%. Overall, the significant drop in listening in the car is compensated by an increase in listening via different devices: not only via FM, but on DAB+, TV, smartphone and computer. The use of tablets and smart speakers has also increased. Important to mention is the use of apps and aggregators: reach has increased of 24% and time spent of 61%.


Over 20 NOK million for local broadcasting
The Norwegian Media Authority allocated 20.4 million NOK (over 1.7 million €)  to 89 local broadcasters under the grant for local radio and TV. “This year, we will bring the first aid payment to 75% of the [full] support scheme to remedy the difficult situation faced by the local media”, said Mari Velsand, Director of the Media Authority.


Staying Connected During the COVID-19 Crisis
Radiocentre’s latest research – Staying Connected During the COVID-19 Crisis – reported that 38% of commercial radio listeners are tuning in for an extra hour and 45 minutes each day since lockdown started, as they spend more time at home. These listeners are now tuning in for an average of 26 hours every week, compared the average time spent listening of around 14 hours a week prior to the health crisis. The research explores the reasons behind the increase in listening and how radio is keeping people connected and help them cope while isolated. 90% percent of respondents agreed that commercial radio kept them in touch with the outside world, an 89% that it kept them informed, and a further 84% said that radio keeps them company. Confidence in radio as a source of news was also a recurring reason for tuning in, with ‘it delivers trusted news’ cited by 68% and ‘I trust the news on radio more than other sources’ by 51%. Siobhan Kenny, CEO at Radiocentre, said: “With so many of us confined to our homes, either working or self-isolating, we are seeing shifts in media consumption across the UK. In these strangest of times, we are all finding our own ways to cope, and I am grateful that radio is proving such a consistent source of comfort and trusted news to so many.”

Radiocentre urges Government to support commercial radio sector
Following the announcement of a governmental three-month deal to support the newspaper industry, Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre, urged the Government to provide commercial radio with additional sector specific support recognising its essential role to provide public service information across the country throughout the Covid-19 Crisis.

The Audio Content Fund doubles Coronavirus Support round
The Audio Content Fund, a scheme designed to provide funding to support the creation of original radio and audio production in the UK, has doubled the budget of its Coronavirus Support funding round to £400,000. 11 projects have been approved so far and £134,000 already distributed.

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