08/16/2013

Bye bye World Radio Switzerland

On 31 August World Radio Switzerland will cease to exist when it is privatised by the Swiss broadcasting authority.


The privatisation has resulted in a single bid for World Radio Switzerland, by the Geneva-based Anglo Media Group (AMG), which currently runs the internet radio station Radio Frontier. At the same time, the Swiss regulator OFCOM has eliminated the FM frequency that was used.

Given all of the listeners, especially around Geneva, it is difficult to understand the reasoning behind this decision. The withdrawal of the FM frequency means that the replacement, Radio Frontier, will not be available in all standard FM radios, almost certainly including virtually all car radios.You will have to have a digital radio (DAB+), cable or a satellite receiver.

When in my car, I often alternate between WRS and Swiss radio. On Saturday around lunch time, when I am often in the car, there is a retransmission by WRS of an american radio programme called "wait wait don't tell me", which I prefer to the Swiss radio offering at that time. Most if this programme is somewhat inane, but they do pick up interesting tidbits, including howlers that have been heard on radio around the world.

One of these, a week ago, referred to an email sent to passengers on an evening flight to London Gatwick on 28 July 2013, to warn them that because of bad weather their flight had been cancelled and replaced by one leaving at 11 am on 29 July 2099. They were apparently assured that although compensation was unlikely, they were entitled to accomodation, food and phone calls in the intervening 8 decades. One newspaper calculated that if they managed to live long enough, that would cost about 6 million pounds sterling per passenger!

Those of you who remember the weather here on 28 July (evening thunderstorms) will not be surprised to learn that this was actually the easyJet flight EZS8481, due to leave Geneva at 7h10 pm. However, the problem was not entirely due to the weather, because a flight later the same evening, operated by easyJet UK, left as usual. The real problem was that the spare easyJet Switzerland aircraft had been sent elsewhere for the day. As such, I suspect that compensation could have been claimed! Accomodation until 2099 though ... !

The airline apologised for the “significant inconvenience” that a wait until the eve of the 22nd century might cause, and expressed the hope that passengers “will give us another chance in the future”.

The airline blamed bad weather at Geneva airport for the postponement. A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “Because the delay is weather-related, it is unlikely compensation will be due, but that does not affect your rights to accommodation, food and phone calls.”

If any passengers were fortunate enough to live until the summer of 2099, easyJet would be responsible for providing them with three meals and two international phone calls every day, plus a hotel room every night.

A newspaper report also carried an official "blame the problem on computers" excuse

A spokesman for easyJet said last night: “This was a systems error which only affected one flight."

Also, in a subsequent message,

Later, passengers were told that the original cancellation was, in fact, caused by a technical issue with the aircraft.

Given that all easyJet Switzerland aircraft flew all day, this is hard to believe. However, doubtless everyone was at panic stations that Sunday.

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