Bulgaria’s public radio broadcaster has been banned from playing millions of contemporary songs because of a row over copyright payments.
Since 1 January, state-funded Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) has been filling its airwaves with classical pieces, jazz and traditional folk music instead, the Novinite news agency reports. It’s locked in a dispute with the non-profit Musicautor organisation, which manages the rights to work by both local and international artists – 14 million pieces of music in total.
Even the traditional version of the national anthem is off-limits. Listeners tuning in on New Year’s Eve instead heard the BNR symphony orchestra and choir’s take on the tune, Balkan Insight reports, adding that the copyright row means only music made before 1945 can be played. BNR itself says it cannot play “95% of today’s modern music repertoire”.
Musicautor wants BNR to pay more in royalties – triple the amount it pays at the moment – to bring it more into line with national radio in other EU countries. But radio director Aleksander Velev says that’s impossible unless it gets more funding or drops a regional broadcast, which would “tarnish the radio’s public mission”.[…]
(Source: Radio Bulgaria via David Iurescia, LW4DAF)
The Council for Electronic Media elected Alexander Velev as the new Director General of the Bulgarian National Radio. Velev was elected out of 12 candidates for the position. Alexander Velev has already been at the head of the Radio in the period 1998-2001. During the hearing at the CEM he suggested that mass media experts from outside the radio should be invited to join the Programme Council of BNR, sociologists among others. He also suggested the creation of a joint newsroom for all BNR programmes, regional radio stations included. Alexander Velev opposed the idea for the merging of the Bulgarian National Radio with the Bulgarian National Television with the argument that it would result in turning the BNR into a media of lesser importance and not into a media equal to the BNT.
Just in case you missed it, below I have a full recording of Radio Bulgaria’s final transmission in French. This was recorded on 7,400 kHz, Jan 31, 2012 at 21:00 UTC.
Typically, I have to move to 5,900 kHz after 22:00 UTC due to neighboring Radio Marti on 7,405 kHz (which you hear come in at the end of this recording). Yesterday, after moving to 5,900, I heard one Radio Bulgaria interval signal and then dead air in place of their normally scheduled English service. I believe the recording below was their last transmission on shortwave.
Still want to listen to Radio Bulgaria? No problem–they now stream online, everyday, on their website.
This morning at 00:00 (Universal Time), I recorded the Radio Bulgaria originating from their Plovdiv, Bulgaria transmitter, 5,420 miles from my home. I started my recording on 5,900 kHz at 00:00, then moved to and stayed on 7,400 kHz after Radio Havana Cuba started transmitting nearby at 00:30 UTC and bled into their frequency (a very common occurrence with RHC).
The first hour is (00:00 – 00:59 UTC) Radio Bulgaria’s English service, the second hour (1:00 – 2:00 UTC), their Bulgarian Service and third hour, (2:00 – 3:00 UTC) French service.
In this recording, you’ll hear multiple announcements regarding the closure of their shortwave service as of Feb 1, 2012. They did mention they will continue services over the internet.
This was recorded with a Zoom H1 on an Alinco DX-R8T–antenna was a vertical delta loop.
Yesterday, a message from Radio Bulgaria floated around the shortwave community that indicated the broadcaster may stop all shortwave broadcasts soon. Upon hearing this, my heart sunk.
Radio Bulgaria is no BBC World Service or Voice of America, nor is it the go-to station for the latest in international news. However, what this unique little station does, and does remarkably well, is provide their listeners with news that is relevant to their part of the world. Like shortwave broadcasters of old, Radio Bulgaria draws listeners in, interacts with them, tells them about life in their ever-changing country. Radio Bulgaria was once a mouthpiece for its government; after the Berlin wall fell, it became a true community-based station with both domestic and international listeners. In short, Radio Bulgaria is a traditional shortwave station with accompanying warmth and charm.
Alas, my heart sunk a bit further this morning upon reading another, more substantiating, message; this time, from Ivo Ivanov, Radio Bulgaria’s frequency manager (via Mike on Cumbre DX):
BULGARIA / Dear listeners and friends of the short waves and Radio Bulgaria, / With a huge regret to inform you very bad news. After more than 75 years in the world broadcasting from January 31, 2012 at 2200 UT, Radio Bulgaria cease broadcasting on short and medium waves. The solution is that Radio Bulgaria is not necessary now its short waves and medium waves listeners. The reason –– no money for broadcast on short and medium waves. And who listens to short waves today? Already has internet. Maintaining the short waves was “Mission Impossible”! Hope dies last. As a frequency manager in the last 19 years my main task was to provide best quality signal of Radio Bulgaria in worldwide coverage. There will be no short waves, there will be no frequency manager. For all people who work in Radio Bulgaria that bad news is shock and horror Beginning of the end. But expect your moral support. Please send e-mail to:
Albanian section: <albanian @ bnr.bg>
Bulgarian section: <bulgarian @ bnr.bg>
English section: <english @ bnr.bg>
French section: <french @ bnr.bg>
German section: <german @ bnr.bg>
Greek section: <greek @ bnr.bg>
Russian section: <russian @ bnr.bg>
Serbian section: <serbian @ bnr.bg>
Spanish section: <spanish @ bnr.bg>
Turkish section: <turkish @ bnr.bg>
and from January 14, 2012:
Thank you and goodbye,
P.S. SW txs Kostinbrod & Padarsko will be destroyed in the next few months.
Heartbreaking. It sounds as though the decision was swift, with little regard for those good station operators and others who work at Radio Bulgaria, nor for those who listen to its broadcasts.
Is this a sign of the times?
Weak Economy + Strong Internet = Shortwave Closures
This is, sadly, a prime example of what is happening to many international broadcasters. It’s that combination of shortwave radio listenership being on the decline (in parts of the world connected to the internet; my apologies to our kind readers who are the exception) while our weak global economy forces belt-tightening in governments and other organizations which support international broadcasters. Shortwave programs, which can be costly, often find themselves “justifiably” lopped off. After all, it’s much more difficult to gather listener numbers than to track internet users and outlets over the internet. But most heartbreaking, those who actually listen to and rely upon shortwave are the least able to protest these closures. These listeners tend to be people who have no internet, and often live in remote, impoverished parts of the world.
Imagine you live in central Africa, for example, and tune into your radio every day for your world news. Then one day, you attempt to tune in a favorite station program, but find only static…Have you made an error? You tune again, but the station is nowhere to be found. Then the next week, another favorite is absent…and another…
Here, in North America, I have very little ground to stand upon when complaining about shortwave closures. I have excellent internet access and some local radio, internet and TV outlets to turn to for news, music and more. When I stand up for shortwave broadcasters and protest closures, it’s for those I just mentioned, those without a voice.
Here in the US, I can’t help but draw an unlikely analogy. I grew up in a small blue-collar town that manufactured furniture–lots of it. My father worked for a furniture factory his entire life. Indeed, almost everyone I knew had someone in their immediate family who built furniture. Something strange happened in the 1990s, though; suddenly, it became cheap, very, very cheap, to manufacture furniture abroad. As our local manufacturers started competing with others whose prices were supported by cheap foreign labor, locals felt the pull to move much of their manufacturing abroad too.
We put all of our eggs in the least expensive, most convenient basket. Today, in our little hometown, there are massive factories that have been sitting dormant for nearly a decade. They have no equipment inside, they have no skilled labor to build things. But that’s not the worst of it: now, we couldn’t manufacture something if we needed to. We’ve exported our entire infrastructure. Family and friends are without jobs, and this is the reason. The same could be said of many, many other industries throughout the world.
Let me be clear: I’m no opponent of international trade–just like I’m certainly no opponent of the internet–but if we invest everything in the internet, we may very well lose our ability and means––our infrastructure––to broadcast over shortwave, should we need to do so in the future. Already, there are many examples in which we need to do so.
I urge you to contact Radio Bulgaria via email (above) and sign the online petition at Save Radio Bulgaria. Whether or not we can stop this closure, I am uncertain, but we can make our voices heard.