BFR challenges the regulator’s decision for berlin frequency

The German Federal Association of Free Radios (BFR) has expressed their disappointment at the decision of the Media Council of the Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg granting broadcasting licenses for non-commercial radio operations on the 88.4 MHz VHF frequencies in Berlin and 90.7 MHz in Potsdam in a way that the members of BFR feel gives preference to the Berlin broadcasters at the expense of the independent radio groups in Brandenburg, contrary to their responsibility for two federal states.

Currently the states Berlin and Brandenburg are negotiating their legal framework for electronic media. BFR and the free radios of Berlin and Brandenburg are campaigning for defining funding of the third sector in the framework. That would enable the media authority MABB to at least partially fund the free radios in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Below is the letter sent by BFR president, Mark Westhusen, to the Media Council.

Dear members of the Media Council of the Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg,

We were astonished to learn of your decision to grant broadcasting licenses for non-commercial radio operations on the 88.4 MHz VHF frequencies in Berlin and 90.7 MHz in Potsdam.

With your decision, you are giving preference to the Berlin broadcasters at the expense of the independent radio groups in Brandenburg, contrary to your responsibility for two federal states. An award of broadcasting licenses that affects the reception of broadcasting in both federal states should take broadcasters from both federal states into account accordingly.

Furthermore, it is incomprehensible to us why Freie Radios Berlin Brandenburg GbR should have less broadcasting time at its disposal with your decision than the radio groups of the GbR were granted together in the last licensing period. The transmission times of the RAW Studio and the inclusion radio for the visually impaired, Ohrfunk are arbitrarily deleted with the decision. For the editorial offices concerned, this means an abrupt end after years of programming work. Freie Radios Berlin Brandenburg GbR is geared with its programme to the listeners in both federal states and above all guarantees a much more versatile programme, as your evaluations also show. It is also much more integrative and participative and has been characterised since the beginning of FM operation by a real openness to access, even if this has so far lagged far behind its own aspirations due to the low financial resources from purely personal contributions.

From our perspective, however, the most serious aspect is that your decision, without further explanation, is directed against the specifications of your own frequency tendering procedure, which, in accordance with the Interstate Media Treaty, was directed at a single provider for the entire frequency in the future. This objective was also pursued in the time-consuming settlement procedure. In this context, the representatives of frrapó and FRB drew up drafts for an umbrella association which were neither approved nor constructively countered or amended by the delegation of the 88vier network. The attempted compromises between the independent radio groups from Berlin and Brandenburg and the exclusive consortium of Cashmere Radio and reboot.fm were not taken into account. The positioning accompanying your decision, for example, ignores the consensus already reached with regard to the recognition of the BFR Charter by the applicants. 

The status query for the radio groups currently broadcasting on the NCL frequencies, which was jointly prepared in the moderated discussion rounds, is also disregarded in the decision. At 88vier Radio Netzwerk Berlin, we do not see any decisive diversity contribution that could not be guaranteed by the GbR. The survey raises considerable doubts about the allegedly increased broadcasting needs of reboot.fm and its partners. The studios radiomobil and Savvy Funk turned out to be inactive according to research by mediator Stefan Tenner. Studios such as the refugee radio “WeAreBornFree” and the training radio BLN.FM, which were named by Steffen Meyer-Tippach as examples in the RadioEins media magazine of 20 October 2018, are already broadcasting on horizontal tracks throughout the week, which could be seamlessly continued. The only other player in the 88vier network besides reboot.fm, Cashmere Radio, could easily be integrated into the programme scheme through joint agreements.

Unfortunately, it should not go unmentioned that your decision also revealed that the Free Radios of Berlin and Brandenburg were unwilling to unite and negotiate with the actors of reboot.fm. Although this willingness to negotiate was met with ignorance there for many years, reboot.fm is clearly favoured with this decision. From our perspective, reboot.fm was never interested in reaching an agreement, because a proportional allocation of broadcasting time based on the number of participants in the radio groups would result in significantly less broadcasting time for reboot.fm.

We hereby call upon the members of the Media Council of the Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg to withdraw this unfortunate and unjust decision and to look for ways to restore the trust on the part of Freie Radios Berlin Brandenburg GbR, which had been destroyed by your decision.