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Radio in Spain

Radio in Spain

National Spanish Radio Stations. Radio is a very important element in Spanish culture. One of the most famous radio programs is the Carrusel Deportivo.

The end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th, witnessed what was likely the greatest number of technological advances in the history of humankind, which included the development of radio broadcasting.

On May 14, 1897, Guglielmo Marconi carried out the first wireless, telegraphic transmission (perhaps unaware that he was creating what would become one of the most popular inventions of the 20th century, and probably the 21st). Marconi’s transmission was made possible by Heinrich Hertz’s discovery of electromagnetic waves and by the work of Nikola Tesla. In 1907, Alexander Lee de Fores invented a valve that could modulate radio waves, which in turn produced high power waves.

In 1899, Marconi telegraphically connected Great Britain and France. Two years later, radio waves crossed the Atlantic for the first time.

In 1920, the first commercial radio station was created: KDKA, in Pittsburgh, U.S.A. The station continues to broadcast its programming today.

In 1904, the Spanish government decided to monopolize and take state control of radio broadcasting. During the dictatorship of Primo Rivera, the first private EAJs (radio stations) emerged after a new law passed on June 14, 1924 allowed them. Radio Barcelona (EAJ-1) was thus born, which over time would go on to unite a group of stations. Toward the end of the Civil War, this group ended up forming la Sociedad Española de Radiodifusión (SER), the Spanish Broadcasting Society. The current station Onda Cero, Madrid was the second consession (EAJ-2). During the civil conflict, the Franquistas created Radio Nacional de España (RNE), or National Spanish Radio, in Salamanca in 1937. During Franco’s regime, RNE was structured into national, regional and local stations.

La Red de Emisoras del Movimiento (the network of radio stations for the movement) and the COPE began to operate during Franco’s dictatorship also. These imposed strict censorship by forcing all stations wishing to air news to pass programming through the country’s official station (RNE).

In the 1970s, the station most Spaniards listened to was cadena SER, which offered programs featuring interviews, radio-theater, and recordings of novels.

When democracy arrived, radio broadcasting in Spain was reorganized. Medium frequency stations were distributed among the public channels (RNE and RCE) and private channels. In 1978, a plan was devised for F.M. frequencies. During these years, many free stations appeared on the radio like in the rest of Europe. Finally, in 1989, a technical plan was created which permitted the creation of local stations.

The radio has had an enormous impact on the history of Spain. The February 23, 1981 military coup attempt is popularly known as “the night of the transistors”, since radio was the only means of communication that managed to remain out of the control of conspirators and maintain citizens informed on what was happening during the now historic event.

Today, there are three major private groups in Spanish radio broadcasting: the group Prisa, which includes SER, 40 Principales, Sinfo Radio, Cadena Dial, M80, Radiolé and Máxima FM. Radio Popular includes COPE, Cadena 100. Finally, Uniprex joins the stations Onda Cero, Onda Cero Música and Europa FM. These are joined by the public corporation RTVE (Radio Televisión Española, or Spanish Radio and Television), which includes RNE (Radio Nacional de España, or Spanish National Radio, with the general channel Radio 1) and a series of theme-based stations (Radio 5 All News, Radio Classical, Radio 3 music, Radio 4 –in Catalan- and Radio Outside of Spain), which do not compete commercially with private stations.

In the last few years, ranking data of radio stations in Spain places the station SER at the top of the list, followed Onda Cero and COPE. This is a growing market although it has been affected by the economic crisis.

It is rather remarkable that general radio captures 50% of radio listening and theme-based radio picks up 46% (of this, 93% is musical themed radio and 7% informative themed radio). An example of this is SER’s dominance among general radio stations, followed by RNE 1, Onda Cero and COPE. Among theme based stations, nearly 25% of the market tunes in to SER’s musical channel Cadana 40.

Technological progress however always moves forward and the internet is the new medium listeners use to follow their favorite stations’ programming. (According to 2011 statistics, 60% of Spanish homes have ADSL access, 70% of these have a laptop and 90% have a “smart” phone which can receive the internet, which currently reaches 27 million users in Spain).

RadioCable.com is a curious example of the phenomenon. The station, which airs exclusively over the internet, began broadcasting on May 14, 1997, on the day of the 100 year anniversary of the first wireless, telegraphic transmission.

All stations, public and private, local and national, general and theme-based, now offer a wide range of listening options on the internet that even lets listeners organize customized programming.