By Stelios Orphanides
The Cyprus Radiotelevision Authority (CRTA), a body that regulates the television and radio frequencies and issues related licences, said that it is looking into a probable violation of terms by four local radio stations broadcasting content other than the one originally approved.
The four radio stations, the Limassol-based Radio Melody, Top F.M. Stereo in Nicosia, Radio Magic in Larnaca and Yialousa 71 based in Paphos, “have joined and are operating under a common name,” said Neophytos Epaminondas, director at the CRTA in a telephone interview on Wednesday. The name of the broadcaster which emerged is Russian Radio.
Epaminondas said that the four private broadcasters are operating based on a licence granted by the authority linked to certain persons and the licence is not transferable in any way.
“What we are investigating now is a possible double offense,” he said. “They first changed the content and all four are all broadcasting the very same content”.
Epaninondas added that the while it is possible for one radio station to transmit specific content of another radio station, provided the CRTA approves a related request, getting four radio stations broadcasting the same content Cyprus-wide runs against the character of local radio stations.
Radio stations broadcasting island-wide, he continued, have different content which is “of general interest” whereas local radio broadcasters run mainly music programme.
He added that changing the “music played from rock to jazz or the language of the content are not considered violations”.
The CRTA director also said that the investigation underway is not directed against the operators of Russian Radio, which appears to be operating as a division of Kiprinform.com, a Limassol-based group operating in various other areas including tourism and real estate.
Kiprinform was not immediately available for comment.
Epaminondas said that Cypriot or European Union citizens may own up to 25 per cent of the shares of island-wide operating radio broadcasters and up to 40 per cent of local radio stations.
In a subsequent radio interview, a spokesperson of Melody Radio said that the broadcaster did not sell its licence to the current operators and instead entered an agreement to “rent the frequency”.
He added that he days ago, he sent a letter to Kiprinform notifying them about his intention to cancel the agreement effective October 1, citing unpaid bills.
A spokesperson of Larnaca’s Radio Magic said that the broadcaster already informed the CRTA about the agreement and “they told us it is ok, pending final approval,” an allegation Epaminondas flatly rejected.
The telephone number of Paphos’ Yialousa 71 was disconnected while nobody answered the phone at the Nicosia Top F.M. Stereo.
The director of the Nicosia-based CRTA said that as the body operates in the framework of “administrative law,” the supervised broadcasters have been asked to submit their position. He added that monitoring the content of all four broadcasters is made difficult by the fact that the supervising body can follow only the content of one of them directly from its headquarters with a radio receiver.
In case the CRTA rules that any the broadcaster violated the terms of its licence, it could then issue a warning or a recommendation, impose a fine, temporarily suspend the operation or revoke the licence, depending on the severity of the violation, the CRTA director said.
Russian Radio is unrelated to the Limassol-based Russian Wave, which operates under a CRTA licence as a local broadcaster.
Limassol is home to a large Russian community with its own schools, churches, newspapers, shops and cultural life.