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)
AMARC (BE)
• 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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