|Radio and Television in Lithuania
Anicentas Stelingis, acting director, Department of Enterprise Coordination and Service Quality, Department of Connections, Ministry of Communications
Dr. Mindaugas Žilinskas, director, Department of Electromagnetic Compatibility in Information Technologies, State Radio Frequency Service, Lithuania, Batic IT Review 1 '2000
The main activities and prospects of radio and television in Lithuania are represented in this article.
The establishment of radio and television in Lithuania
The first radio broadcast in the Lithuanian language aired on June 12, 1926. A 3.5 kW radio station had been established in the Zaliakalnis District of the city of Kaunas, with a transmitter that had a range of 1961 meters (153 kHz). The transmission antenna was set up on two metal masts, each 150 meters high.
The first television broadcast in Lithuania aired on April 30, 1957, from a TV and radio station in Vilnius. The transmitter had a capacity of 15 kW, with two ultra short-wave radio transmitters at 4 kW each, and an antenna 180 meters high.
In 1990, Lithuania had seven high-capacity and 13 low-capacity TV and radio stations. These were connected by a radio relay line of more than 1,000 kilometers in length. There were three television programs and four radio programs, and between 80% and 90% of Lithuania’s residents could receive these programs with acceptable quality. The channels of Lithuanian TV and two radio programs were broadcast through some of the networks, while the remainder were used for the radio and television programs of the Soviet Union. When Lithuania regained its independence, it refused to air the Soviet programs any more, and the channels were privatized. Companies were permitted to establish private television and radio operations for the first time in 50 years.
The first private radio station was called M-1, and it went on air in 1990 on an ultra short-wave frequency in Vilnius that belonged to Lithuania’s Radio and Television Broadcasting Center. The first private television studio, Tele-3, was established in 1992 and went on air in 1993 on the third network of the TV and Radio Center – one which had previously been used to broadcast Russian television.
The closed joint stock company Baltijos Televizija (Baltic Television) was established in 1993. Initially it rented a transmitter from the Radio and TV Broadcasting Center, but today it uses not only that transmitter, but also 24 transmitters of its own.
The joint stock company Laisvas Nepriklausomas Kanalas (Free Independent Channel, or LNK) was established in 1995, and it broadcasts through a second network of transmitters owned by the Radio and TV Center. More than 96% of Lithuania’s residents can receive the programs of this channel.
In addition to the four nationwide networks, there are also 17 local stations in 15 towns. The total number of television transmitters in Lithuania is 90.
Changes in television and radio
Since the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, radio broadcasting networks have been set up on the basis of Western European Standards. Stations in the FM range of 88-108 MHz were opened in place of ultra short-wave radio stations that had been operating at a frequency of 66-47 MHz.
At the beginning of 2000, there were 105 transmitters working in the FM range, while only 23 transmitters remained in the old ultra short-wave system. Lithuanian State Radio stopped broadcasting on the ultra short-wave range some time ago, and today it is exclusively at FM station.
Lithuanian State Radio airs three different programs, and also rebroadcasts two radio stations from Western Europe, as well as one American program. Private broadcasters, however, dominate the market in Lithuania. There are 22 private radio broadcasters, which run seven nationwide networks, as well as 22 local and regional stations. Even this number of stations does not satisfy all demand, but the development of new stations is being hindered by TV broadcasters who work on the 4th and 5th TV channels in Vilnius, Cesvaine, Kaliningrad and Braslave. Television operations take up 12 MHz of the spectrum that is usually allotted to radio.
A high demand for FM stations all over the world has encouraged specialists to look for additional broadcasting ranges and new technologies. New digital technologies would represent a quality leap in the development of radio operations, and a new T-DABo digital transmitter is to go on line in Vilnius this year. It will work on channel 12A, at a range of 230 MHz. When the transmitter is hooked up and all necessary control measurements have been taken, it will be possible to coordinate the nationwide T-DABo network with Ukraine’s communications administration. The network is already coordinated with other countries.
Seven countries sign a cooperation agreement
It is clear that one network, even one with six television programs, is not sufficient if there is a large number of broadcasters.
Other countries which are Lithuania’s neighbors have faced the same problem, and in January 1999 representatives from the communications administrations of seven countries met in Lithuania to plan for an additional T-DABo network of 6-12 TV channels. Each country was given one channel at a conference in Wiesbaden in 1995. At the Lithuanian meeting it was decided to focus on Channels 61-69, because most of the countries in Eastern Europe were not given channels in this range at an international conference on range distribution which took place in Stockholm in 1961. Other countries later joined the initiative. Two meetings concerning the new plan have already taken place, and communications authorities from 13 countries, with Sweden in the North and Turkey in the South, are taking part in the plan.
Digital television is developing faster than digital radio. Constant broadcasting is already the norm in a few countries in Western Europe, and in Lithuania it is planned on Channel 50 in Vilnius. Three nationwide networks on Channels 21-60 are synchronized, and it is expected that one network on Channels 61-69 will be added. A certain transit period is intended, and the broadcasting of analogue and digital signals will continue in parallel.
New TV technologies
Today the TV marketplace is dealing with microwave technologies, as well – the MVDS system, which operates at a range of 2.5 GHz. This system has been analogue, with just 23 programs, but it is expected that in the near future it will turn digital and be able to broadcast as many as 100 programs. This rather popular form of television is in place in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda, and it has recently been given the green light to expand to 50% of Lithuania’s territory, but it will be shifted to another range after 2008, when new IMT 2000 mobile communications technologies arrive.
Satellites can also be used for television broadcasting, of course, but that would not be realistic for Lithuania unless there was close cooperation with our neighboring countries.
Radio and television activities
Radio and television stations in Lithuania (except for state radio and television) are licensed by the Committee on Radio and Television, which is subordinated to Parliament, it issues fixed-term licenses on a competitive basis. Broadcasting as an industry is regulated by the law on public information, which was adopted in 1996.
A few problems have arisen as a result of the rapid establishment of television and radio stations in Lithuania, and a new strategic plan for TV and radio broadcasts and the distribution of radio frequencies is being developed. There are serious questions, too, about the work of Lithuanian state radio and television, as well as private radio and television stations. Relatively few television and especially radio programs are targeted specifically at the Lithuanian audience, and foreign-made movies are a key staple in the programming of television stations. The rebroadcast of foreign programs through land-based stations is an issue that remains up in the air, too.
Because Lithuania has no laws to regulate advertising, broadcasters – especially on cable television – even place advertisements in rebroadcast programs.
In terms of the distribution of cable TV networks, cities and other populated areas have been divided up among operators, and there is no competition. This has much to do with the fact that subscription fees in Lithuania are sizeable.
There is a need for a law on television and radio broadcasting, one that would regulate not only licensing activities, but also broadcasting, the re-broadcasting of programs and the placement of advertising.
Share with your friends: