SR Director General Peter Örn

International Relays to Disappear in Stockholm

Listeners to Radio Sweden and SR International in Stockholm will probably see some major changes next year, including the disappearance of relays of BBC World Service and National Public Radio.

Swedish Radio’s management has announced the changes in channel structure resulting from months of studies into the future of public service radio in this country. The result is a restructuring of channels in Stockholm, with no changes in the rest of the country.

Most domestic press coverage has concerned the allocation of the two transmitters carrying the local outlet Radio Stockholm, which is part of the national P4 local radio network. The P4 network, which is Sweden’s most popular radio channel, offers windows for local stations, a number of national programs, including extensive sports commentaries and coverage.

Currently the transmitter on 93.8 MHz carries the national P4 program, with local Radio Stockholm cut-outs. The other transmitter, on 103.3 MHz, called P5, is a Radio Stockholm pop station, aimed at a younger audience.

Under the proposal, the programming on 93.8 MHz would switch to the more powerful transmitter on 103.3 MHz. There is to be new programming on 93.8 MHz aimed at a “international and multi-cultural large city audience”. It’s unclear what this means, but it seems that some of the current world music programming on the digital (DAB and web) radio station SR Sverige may be deployed.

There are also major changes proposed for the classical music channel P2 and Radio Sweden’s local P6 transmitter in Stockholm on 89.6 MHz. P2 nationally is mostly classical music, but also carries programming in immigrant languages and from Swedish Educational Broadcasting. Many years ago, then Swedish Radio Director General Ove Joanson moved this programming off the P2 transmitter in Stockholm, creating a 24 hour classical channel. The immigrant language programs switched to share 89.6 with Radio Sweden (followed a few years later by the two departments merging in organization as well), and educational radio programming moved to the local P4 transmitter.

Now the current Director General, Peter Örn, is breaking up the 24 hour classical station. P2’s audience figures are miniscule, and there had been rumors the channel would be switched to the Internet-only, which resulted in loud protests from Sweden’s cultural elite.

Instead, P2 in Stockholm will once again carry the national programming, with immigrant languages and educational radio. But when the channel is not carrying classical music, there is to be classical music on 89.6 MHz, so Stockholmers will in theory have 24 hours access to classical music radio.

There will be other major changes on 89.6. It will carry reruns of the immigrant language programs already broadcast on P2. Radio Sweden programming, already cut back severely at the beginning of the year, will be limited to single relays of our programs in English, German, and Russian in the evenings. Radio Sweden’s programs in Swedish will no longer be heard on FM.

The current situation, where staff cannot hear the day’s broadcast when it first goes out, will continue. (A proposal to make this programming available over the Internet so we can listen to ourselves live has been rejected by the Nya medier department.)

Moreover, the remaining relays of the BBC World Service, National Public Radio, Radio Canada International, and other international stations, recently shrunk to 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM, will disappear completely. Instead, during the night 89.6 MHz will simulcast with P2. 

This would not seem to save funding or resources (beyond wear and tear on a satellite receiver), and means the same programming will be on two channels, one powerful (P2) and one (P6) with a much smaller coverage area, totally within the other transmitter’s coverage area. One argument for removing the international relays may be the easy access to such programming today over the Internet, a situation which did not exist when the P6 channel was created.

The FM transmitter was originally put on the air on 89.6 MHz so that Radio Sweden personnel could hear our own programming, with service to the international community in Stockholm as a secondary bonus. From initially having control over the frequency 24 hours a day, under the proposal Radio Sweden programs would apparently be reduced to 90 minutes a day.

The proposal has to be approved by the Swedish Radio Board, which means the current chairman of the board, Ove Joanson, will be forced to take a position on dismantling the P2 all classical music channel he created when he was Director General.

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