Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tuning in to Spanish radio

Spanish radio has adapted well to the coming of the Internet. Unlike television or newspapers the medium has more or less held it's own. It's true that listener numbers have dropped a little recently, after several years of growth, but audiences are still healthy with programmes available on demand across a wide range of platforms and in several formats alongside traditional live broadcasts. 

The first commercial radio station, KDKA Pittsburgh, opened in 1920. The BBC, originally the private British Broadcasting Company not the public Corporation, opened two years later. In Spain the first station, Radio Barcelona, identified by its international call-sign of EAJ1, began transmitting in 1924. By the late 1930s that station had merged with other broadcasters to form SER, the Sociedad Española de Radiodifusion, which has always been Spain's most listened to station. The second concession, EAJ2, went to Radio España Madrid which later became Onda Cero Madrid. Its direct descendant Onda Cero is now the second most heard of the four big Spanish radio networks. Radio Nacional (RNE) and COPE complete the quartet.

Whilst SER and Onda Cero were always commercial ventures the other two broadcasters have quite different roots. Shortly after being elected supreme commander of the rebellious forces in the Spanish Civil War General Franco established Radio Nacional de España in Salamanca using a transmitter gifted by Nazi Germany. Franco believed that the propaganda potential of radio was immense. Throughout his life he maintained strict control of radio broadcasters within Spain and insisted that all radio news be processed through Radio Nacional. Indeed, with time, most broadcasters were merged with the state broadcaster. An exception was COPE (Cadena de Ondas Populares Españolas), trusted by the regime because of its links to the Catholic Church.

After Franco's death and the re-establishment of democracy in Spain the airwaves were liberalised and frequencies allocated to both public and private broadcasters. Nowadays there is every size and shape of broadcaster from the local stations run by town halls through regional providers and smaller nationwide commercial stations to the big national networks. There is even space for foreign language stations like Talk Radio Europe or Hallo Costa Hollanda.

The big four current players reflect this history. Prisa Radio runs the generalist station Cadena SER, the top forty pop network 40 Principales and the all Spanish language contemporary music station Cadena Dial. Atresmedia operates Onda Cero as its generalist station and Europa FM as its main contemporary music service. Radio Popular, owned by the Spanish Episcopal Conference, the Jesuits and other Catholic organisations, broadcasts Cadena COPE and the music station Cadena 100. Unsurprisingly COPE has a reputation for being a tad conservative. The last of the four big players, and the one with least market share, is the state broadcaster Radio Nacional de España. RNE broadcasts talk on Radio Nacional, music and arts on Radio 3, classical music on Radio Clasica and news on Radio 5. RNE also broadcasts to 80 million people worldwide through Radio Exterior.

Listener wise the clear leader in Spain is Cadena SER. Using November 2014 figures their talk radio station has nearly four and a half million listeners (4.44m.) Onda Cero has a tad over half that number (2.37m) whilst COPE comes in at a bit under two million (1.9m.) Radio Nacional attracts just 1.25m listeners. In fact more people listen to any one of the top four music channels – 40 Principales (3.18m), Cadena Dial (2.18m) Europa FM (1.94m) and Cadena 100 (1.68m) than listen to the state broadcaster's flagship station. Meanwhile Radio 3, the RNE music programme, has only 426 thousand listeners just half the number of the small national music broadcaster Kiss FM.

So now, the next time you're hunting for stations on the car radio, you'll know.

No comments:

Post a Comment