Roma­nia: first licences for com­mu­ni­ty radios

Tech­no­log­i­cal changes, high con­nec­tiv­i­ty, and par­tic­i­pa­tion all fits in a buck­et

For the first time in Roma­nia, two com­mu­ni­ty radio sta­tion licens­es have been issued in the frame­work of the Euro­pean project Grass­root Wave­lengths. The new high-tech FM sta­tions will broad­cast in, engage with, and serve two remote vil­lages of Roma­nia.

The Grass­root Wave­lengths con­sor­tium inno­vates both the tech­nolo­gies and the com­mu­ni­ty mod­els for small com­mu­ni­ty radio sta­tions to be high­ly con­nect­ed, and eas­i­ly start­ed and main­tained. The project will cre­ate two com­mu­ni­ty pro­to­type sta­tions each in Por­tu­gal, Ire­land, and Roma­nia, with the aim of build­ing region­al decen­tral­ized net­works, con­nect­ed to Euro­pean and inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ism and infor­ma­tion.
The licens­es for Radio Civic Vâr­voru de Jos (Dolj) and Radio Civic Sfân­tu Ghe­o­rghe (Tul­cea) were grant­ed by the Roman­ian Nation­al Coun­cil of Audio­vi­su­al on June 7th 2018.

Vâr­voru de Jos (Dolj) is an agri­cul­tur­al vil­lage of around 3000 inhab­i­tants. Sfan­tu Ghe­o­rghe (Tul­cea) is a fish­er­men vil­lage in the Unesco pro­tect­ed Bios­phere Reserve of the Danube Delta, with a pop­u­la­tion of about 1000 vil­lagers. The small sta­tions will trans­mit sig­nal a dis­tance of 10km.
The sta­tions will be pow­ered by the RootIO tech­ni­cal plat­form, which pro­vides all the con­nec­tiv­i­ty and func­tions of a large sta­tion for 1/​100th of the cost. The sta­tion is run off a smart­phone, with­out the need of a stu­dio. The audi­ence lis­tens on reg­u­lar FM radios, but can inter­act with the sta­tion by call­ing, or through the Web. Sta­tions have excep­tion­al­ly low oper­at­ing expens­es, mak­ing them ide­al for rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, and have very low pow­er
con­sump­tion, able to be run for days on a bat­tery in case of pow­er out­ages or emer­gen­cies.

The high con­nec­tiv­i­ty of the sta­tions means they can receive any audio con­tent from the inter­net, such as news; pod­casts; or record­ings from nation­al or inter­na­tion­al sources, and broad­cast them through tra­di­tion­al FM. The whole sys­tem is small enough to fit inside a sin­gle plas­tic paint buck­et. Like many small com­mu­ni­ty sta­tions, it will be run most­ly through vol­un­teerism and com­mu­ni­ty effort.

FM radio is over a hun­dred years old, but it is still a vital and impor­tant form of media, espe­cial­ly for those on the wrong side of the “dig­i­tal divide.” It can be lis­tened to when work­ing or dri­ving, it is free to receive, and requires no lit­er­a­cy. In an age of com­plex social media pol­i­tics, radio still offers anonymi­ty to its users. For these rea­sons, com­mu­ni­ty radio is see­ing a surge of growth around the world, as com­mu­ni­ties find it to be a per­fect low-cost
and imme­di­ate form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, delib­er­a­tion, and enter­tain­ment.

The Coun­cil of Europe and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment have stressed the fun­da­men­tal role of com­mu­ni­ty media in rein­forc­ing social cohe­sion and as a key ele­ment to fos­ter civ­il par­tic­i­pa­tion in pub­lic dis­course. The com­mu­ni­ty sta­tions point to a new direc­tion for Roman­ian media, one by which rur­al cit­i­zens can move infor­ma­tion into, between, and out of their com­mu­ni­ties.
Final­ly, the con­sor­tium hopes to use the results of the project to advo­cate for adjust­ing nation­al poli­cies and laws so that the com­mu­ni­ty radio’s social role would be bet­ter acknowl­edged by author­i­ties, and more pro­gres­sive reg­u­la­tions adopt­ed.

Grass­root Wave­lengths is a Euro­pean Hori­zon 2020 project (Grant Agree­ment #780890),
part of the pro­gram on Col­lec­tive Aware­ness (CAPS). Its con­sor­tium includes:
• Active­Watch (RO)
• Madeira-ITI (PT)
• Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Cork (IR)
• Roman­ian Cen­ter for Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism (RO)
• RootIO (PT)
• Cere­Proc (UK)
• Ade­nor­ma (PT)
• Bere Island (IR)
• MedAlert (RO)
The project will be launch­ing sta­tions in Ire­land and Por­tu­gal, in addi­tion to Roma­nia.

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