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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