Athens International Radio
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|Branding||AIR FM 104.4|
|First air date||2004|
|Format||News & Entertainment|
|Language(s)||Greek, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Albanian, Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Tagalog, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Urdu|
|Callsign meaning||AIR FM 104.4|
|Owner||Municipality of Athens|
|Sister stations||Athena 98.4 FM|
Athens International Radio (AIR 104.4 FM) was an Athens radio station aiming at a non-Greek speaking listenership. It broadcast on 104.4 FM in 16 languages (not simultaneously), including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Albanian, Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Tagalog, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Urdu.
The station produced more than 15 hours of locally produced programmes daily, consisting of news, music, traffic, weather, chat, comment and entertainment tips.
On September 16, 2010, an Athens public prosecutor confiscated AIR's transmitters on Mount Hymettus on the grounds that the radio was operating without a valid license. This led to AIR ceasing its broadcasts on the FM band, leaving it only with its 7/24 web livestream which ceased in 2015.
The Greek National Broadcasting Council reviewed the station's status on September 21, 2010 and issued a non-binding recommendation to the Telecommunications watchdog about AIR's future.
Athens International Radio was a project of Athena 98.4 FM, a broadcasting company wholly owned by the Municipality of Athens.
Foreign journalists Paul Anastasi and Lou Economopoulos created Athens International Radio (AIR 104.4 FM) in 2003 and in 2004 when Athens hosted the Olympic Games it began broadcasting. The story of Athens International Radio goes back to 1988 when Anastasi, an Anglo-Cypriot journalist who at that time was the Athens correspondent of the New York Times and the London Daily Telegraph, set up an AM radio station called Olympic Action, it was the first English-language radio station ever in Greece.
The BBC granted the owners of Olympic Action, Free Press Group, the authority to receive BBC World Service radio programs, via satellite as of January 1, 1989. In 2003, Anastasi asked Economopoulos, to join the International Media Department of the Athens Municipality of which he was the director under Mayor Dora Bakoyanni and which was mainly set up for the Athens 2004 Olympics. One of the projects which Anastasi had planned for Athens was to create a radio station serving the foreign community and guests of the Greek capital. Due to his experience in radio programming, Anastasi asked Economopoulos to come up with a proposal for the radio station.
First on Economopoulos' mind was to come up with a name for the station. He came up with Athens International Radio, with the initials AIR.
A program guide was set up which included the best from the BBC World Service, programs from Radio France Internationale (RFI), Radio France Internationale Music and local programming from the International Media Department, including a morning magazine program which called Good Morning Athens which was to be live with news, features, traffic reports, weather reports, interviews, cultural events listing, financial news, Olympics news, City of Athens news, tourism news, etc. which would last 2.5 hours. On Saturday, March 6, 2004, Bakoyanni held a reception for the international media and diplomatic representatives at Zappeion Congress Hall in Athens to present the projects of the International Media Department of the City of Athens, Mayor's Cabinet, headed by Anastasi.
"We are here today to assume you that I, as Mayor of Athens, along with our International Media Department, have plans to make Athens as user-friendly as possible for the thousands of visiting foreign journalists and their associates, for the hundreds of thousands of permanent foreign residents in Athens, and for the millions of tourists," Bakoyanni said.
"For the first time in the history of any city hosting Olympic Games, this week we launched a 24-hour international radio station on 104.4 FM, featuring news and entertainment from the world-renowned BBC World Service. It broadcasts mainly in English, but will also contain programs and valuable news and useful advice in French and German, as well as news in brief in six more languages. The Athens International Radio station, which we have launched in cooperation with the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, will become a valuable companion for foreigners and English-speaking Greeks in Athens and the surrounding regions, and especially for the foreign press," she added.
Bakoyanni also mentioned the launching of a weekly magazine and guide, a news agency for tourism and culture news, the setting up of an International Press Club and a website to explain all the different activities of the International Media Department.
As for the radio station, Bakoyanni turned over the responsibility to starting it to the municipal radio station Athina 98.4 FM and its director Giannis Politis and the new director of AIR 104.4 FM Thanos Economopoulos. After the departure of Thanos Economopoulos, Politis assigned Ersie Vatou and Panos Polyzoidis as directors of AIR 104.4 FM with Vana Theoharatou as the station's secretary.
The first AIR 104.4 FM staff consisted of Alexia Amvrazi, Nickie Achimastos, Vanessa Alexakis, Tom Alexopoulos, Lou Economopoulos, Dimitris Dodis, Kalliopi Gonidaki, Lida Filippaki, Theodoris Zefkilis, Dionysis Iliadis, Teo Ioannou, Kerry Jacobs, Antonis Karayiannakis, Elena Karanatsi, Christos Karanatsis, Maria Katopodi, Vasiliki Kotzia, Vana Koutroulou, Ioulia Kostopoulou, Nickie Lymberaki, Elinda Lampropoulou, Takis Loukakis, Nick Malkoutzis, Tassos Mavris, Glyka Maglivera, Maria Nikolaidou, Eleftheria Pantziou, Barney Spender, Elen Skopi, Robert Stadler, Ioanna Stavropoulos, Lambrini Thoma, Magda Trichon, Thymis Tsiliopoulos, Apostolos Vaksevanelis, Constantine Venizelos, Alexandra Voudouri and Stavros Zorbas.
Others added to the staff later were Nasim Alatras, Iason Athanasiadis, Panagis Galiatsatos, Maria Kangelidou, Theoni Papas, George Petropoulos, Antonis Pothitos, Danny Vergou and Georgia Voulieri. In 2009 the AIR 104.4 FM English staff consisted of Athena Korlira (Editor in Chief, Financial Editor), Helen Skopis (Presenter/co-editor Good Evening Athens), Barney Spender (Presenter/co-editor Good Evening Athens), Elinda Labropoulou (Journalist/co-presenter Good Evening Athens), Thymis Tsiliopoulos (Presenter/editor Good Morning Athens), Katerina Batzaki (Journalist/Presenter Good Morning Athens), Vaso Sklirou (Journalist/producer Good Morning Athens), Eleftheria Pantziou (Tourism editor, City of Athens editor), Lefteris Yalouros (Journalist/Good Morning Athens), Alexandra Voudouri (Diplomatic correspondent), Jina Moscholiou (Journalist/Good Morning Athens), Maria Katopodi (Music producer), Antonis Karayiannakis (Journalist), Panos Polyzoidis (Journalist), Christos Karanatsis (Journalist), Riva Lavva (Journalist), Alexia Amvrazi (Journalist), Asimina Tzatha (Journalist), Kostis Nikiforakis (Music producer), Jo Borchelle (Music producer), Dimitris Triantafyllidis (Journalist), Konstantinos Nasiri (Journalist), Glyka Maglivera (Journalist), Elena Karanatsi (Journalist) and Lou Economopoulos (Journalist); the Russian staff consisted of Elena Contratova (Journalist) and Alexandros Souprounov (Music producer); the Spanish staff consisted of Elia Ramirez (Journalist); the French staff consisted of Magda Trishon (Journalist), Nefeli Tzannetakou (Journalist) and Natasa Digoni (Journalist); the Polish staff consisted of Beata Panagiotopoulou (Journalist); the Bulgarian staff consisted of Valeria Spyrova (Journalist); the German staff consisted of Elisa Hubel (Journalist); the Romanian staff consisted of Veronica Tontor (Journalist); the Albanian staff consisted of Barda Manche (Journalist); the Filipino staff consisted of Veronica Corpuz (Journalist); the Italian staff consisted of Tassos Mavris (Journalist); the Arabic staff consisted of Christina Pavlakis (Journalist); and in charge of the AIR 104.4 FM portal, Niki Lymperaki (Journalist). The problems for AIR 104.4 FM began on September 16, 2010, when an Athens prosecutor confiscated the station's transmitters on Mount Hymettus on the grounds that AIR 104.4 FM was operating without a valid license. This led to the station ceasing its broadcasts on the FM band, leaving it only with its 24-hour web livestream for a few years.
The National Radio Television Council reviewed the station's status on September 21, 2010 and refused to issue a temporary license for AIR 104.4 FM.
AIR 104.4 FM issued the following statement on September 17, 2010:
"The public prosecutor's office proceeded yesterday with the unacceptable action of shutting down the transmission equipment of Athens International Radio 104.4 FM, the foreign language radio program of Municipal station Athina 98.4 FM. This comes shortly before the National Radio Television Council is due to opine on the station's status next Tuesday, September 21, 2010.
AIR-FM provides news and entertainment to the immigrants and all foreigners living and working in Athens, as well as the city's visitors, while at the same time it serves as a cohesive reference point for the capital's foreign communities.
AIR-FM is considered a unique global radio innovation as it has been broadcasting news and entertainment programs in 16 languages since 2004. It also broadcasts, as media partners, programs from the world's largest news networks (BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale, Deutsche Welle, China Radio International).
Furthermore, AIR-FM is the exclusive broadcasting vehicle in Greece for China Radio International, and has been forced to close its transmission on the FM frequency as Athens prepares to welcome the Prime Minister of China, Wen Jiabao.
Foreign embassies ande news agencies have already been informed and we request that all relevant ministers, Giannis Ragousis (Minister of Interior, Decentralization and Electronic Government), Dimitris Reppas (Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks) and Giorgos Petalotis (Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister & Government Spokesperson), as well as all municipal representativbes state their position on the underlying motives behind the abrupt closure of a station that provides a public service for citizens without commercial objectives.
AIR-FM will continue its 24-hour broadcasting normally over the internet."
On September 20, 2010, the International Press Office of the City of Athens issued the following statement:
"Athens City Council examined the matter of the confiscation of a transmitter belonging to Athens International Radio (AIR) 104.4 FM, the foreign language program of Athina Municipal Radio 98.4 FM, during its September 20, 2010 meeting and passed a unanimous resolution stating that it:
- considers the method via which the public prosecutor chose to implement the law to be selective and, for the most part, unjustifiable, considering that AIR 104.4 FM provides a community service as well as the arbitrariness that presently reigns in terms of utilization of radio frequencies, which are public property.
- condemns the delay in the matter of issuing a license to AIR and calls for the immediate enforcement of a regulatory provision, as foreseen by the 'Roussopoulos law,' in order for the matter to be settled.
- authorizes Athina Municipal Radio 98.4 FM (DERA) to undertake all possible legal measures in order to revoke the confiscation of municipal property.
- will be represented by Athina Municipal Radio chairman Athanasios Kafezas and legal counsel Themis Sofos at tomorrow's meeting of the National Radio and Television Council, which will opine on the matter of AIR's license.
- supports the public right to qualitatively inform citizens on a non-profit basis.
- recognizes AIR's contribution to promoting the city and the integration of its migrants.
- and demands the immediate resumption of AIR 104.4 FM operations."
The employees of AIR 104.4 FM held a protest rally on October 27, 2010 outside the Dorian Inn Hotel in downtown Athens where a meeting of candidates for the municipality of Athens for the elections took place.