Like most of other radio listeners in Europe, the Italians listen almost exclusively to hi-fi (stereo) programs aired on the FM band, rather than Medium Wave (AM) or Shortwave. There are obvious advantages in receiving FM vs. Mediumwave or Shortwave in terms of audio fidelity. Mediumwave broadcasts - manly RAI's, the national state controlled radio network -,
however, had a revival lately due to heavy mutual interference of the thousands of FM signals on the Italian peninsula. Today together with the newly introduced Radio Data System (RDS) on FM, Mediumwave/AM is the only option to remain tuned to the same station when distances above 10-15 miles are traveled by car. Mediumwave, although lacking in fidelity, provides a much wider coverage than FM due to the lack of co-channel interference, and it is often used for example to tune into the news service offered by RAI.
It must be noted that Italy has been pioneering private FM broadcasting since as early as 1975, when, in addition to the already established three national state owned RAI channels (also on AM/Medium Wave) a number of small and aggressive FM stations went on the air. Today thousands of FM stations and a few private national networks operate legally in the country. But very often reception conditions are quite critical, especially in large towns.
Even today, in fact, driving around the greater Milano nearly one-hundred different stations can be found on a standard receiver. Very often stations operate on the same channel from locations just a few miles apart; more often the separation is just 50 kHz (or less). This situation has been sometimes depicted as a "frequency jungle" by several foreign observers who compare this very competitive market to the cleaner situation in other countries. Clearly, for most stations coverage is a problem especially in a large urban areas. But the situation should be solved only when a frequency allocation plan and the elimination of a large number of stations. After years since a law first attempted to regulate private broadcasting (1990) no frequency allocation plan has been approved yet.
Although legally established, all private FM and TV stations in Italy still lack frequency and power coordination from the Italian PTT Ministry. The first Broadcasting Act which was approved in August, 1990, after many aborted attempts to rule the Italian frequency spectrum, set a term of two years (expiring in August 1992) for the PTT Ministry to publish frequency allocation plans for both TV and radio stations in the country, and assign formal licenses to only some of the existing operations. To this date, however, we are still in the same situation as of 1990, as far as frequency occupancy and interference, especially in larger towns. The only for of "coordination" and elimination of interferences has been put in place by larger networks who started buying off frequencies from the smaller broadcasters, thus attempting to clear their own frequencies by killing de-facto the smaller stations which were the spirit of the so called free radio scene that broke the Italian State monopoly in the 70's. Today, only a few small stations survive, especially in rural areas, and recent proposals to rule once again the market by the Italian Government seem to favor the largest network vs. the smallest, but nevertheless, important smaller stations.
As for radio, the 1990 Broadcasting Act identifies two types of license: commercial and non-commercial or community radio (very similar to the US concept of public radio), both licenses were granted on a local or national coverage basis. All applications for a license had to be filled by October 20, 1990. After that date, the law states that no new station can be built, nor other application accepted and, more importantly, no technical parameter of every station (e.g. antenna, frequency, transmitter power, etc.) can be changed. Only just recently (April 1998) a provision has been added by decree to slightly modify the technical characteristics of a transmitter, if, for example, another transmitter belonging to the same station is shut down in the same area.
In the Milano city area alone, commercial radio stations are outnumbering non-commercial/community operations by more than a factor of 30. NEXUS-IBA got a formal license to operate IRRS-Globe Radio Milano on FM 88.85 MHz as a local community broadcaster in 1995, and an authorization to operate an international Shortwave station also from Milano, Italy.
Milano is a very cosmopolitan city in Northern Italy. Its weekly specialized exhibitions at the local Fair attract many foreign visitors every year. Here live quite a large number of English speaking foreign residents (20,000+) as well as many Italians who speak this language fluently. All that together with the interest of several international broadcasting organizations, consular representatives in Milan, newspapers, listeners and friends helped us to create and maintain IRRS-Globe Radio Milan since 1979. IRRS-Globe Radio Milan is a unique and the first English speaking station in Italy.
Back in 1979, the fact that most of the Italian radio listeners in large towns do not listen at all to international Shortwave, or Long Wave broadcasts, gave us the idea of starting a local English speaking FM station in Milano. No DBS (radio or TV) satellites were yet available, and newspaper and magazines were almost all international media available in town at the time. The station started with very simple equipment, a lot of enthusiasm, and with just only a few Watts all the Milano city area was covered.
Today IRRS-Globe Radio Milan exists to provide NEXUS-IBA members and broadcasters a facility in what the National Geographic magazine defined as "Both a factory and a showcase for Italian products, a hub for the comings and goings of trade in Italy and much of western Europe, but also a city of fine food and subtle elegance and cultural wealth". In the early beginnings when IRRS-Globe Radio Milan experienced little or no interference from other stations, there were listeners who tuned into our broadcasts from as far as 30-50 km away. Now, even with professional equipment and higher power, the heavy competition from commercial stations have undoubtedly reduced the station's coverage to just about one third of the entire city area. A situation very common to other small stations in Milano, which did not improve when licenses were assigned in 1990.
Since its beginning, IRRS-Globe Radio Milan has been airing the best selection of English programming available on Shortwave. Over the years, programs from the BBC World Service, BBC English by Radio, Deutsche Welle, Radio Nederland, Radio Sweden, Swiss Radio International, HCJB, VOA, Radio Beijing, Family Radio, Radio Earth, UNESCO and United Nations Radio, as well as many other individuals and broadcasting organizations has been aired to our (your) listeners in Milano, often preceding what is now being offered as VOA Europe or BBC World Service via satellite in many other European towns.
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revised and last edited on Monday, June 18, 2007