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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