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The BBC's Frances Kennedy:
"Vatican Radio said it was astonished at the threat"
 real 28k

Monday, 9 April, 2001, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Vatican radio bows to pressure
Pope John Paul II
The station broadcasts the pope's speeches in some 40 languages
The Vatican, in an effort to stop Italy from cutting off electricity to its radio station following a row over electromagnetic radiation, says it will cut some of its transmissions after Easter.

The surprise decision was announced a day before Italy's Environment Minister Willer Bordon was due to hold a news conference to announce measures against the station.

The minister has accused Vatican Radio of exceeding Italian laws on radiation and of being a health hazard.

Last month, Mr Bordon threatened to cut off all electricity to the radio's transmission centre on Rome's outskirts.

Antennas are seen on the roof of a Vatican building next to St. Peters Basilica
The antennas violate Italian law

Residents have claimed that the radio's forest of large antennae have resulted in a higher incidence of leukaemia in the area.

Vatican Radio, which broadcasts the Pope's speeches and events to the world in some 40 languages, announced its decision on Monday hours after the latest tests ordered by the environment ministry confirmed that the transmissions violated Italian standards.

Shut down after Easter

The statement said the broadcaster would shut down its medium wave transmissions on the 1530 kHz band for seven hours a day beginning on 16 April, the day after Easter.

That waveband is currently used for 14 hours a day and so the shutdown would affect some 50% of broadcasts on that frequency, which is primarily used for broadcasts in Europe.

A Vatican Radio spokesman said broadcasts on short wave, which is beamed to other continents, and FM, which is used for Italy, would continue as normal.

The statement said it was "presumed" that the AM antennae, whose broadcasts are sent in horizontal waves, were the reason why the broadcaster exceeded Italian limits.

Minimising risk

The statement confirmed Vatican Radio's willingness to seek a long-term solution on transmission levels that would "minimise the risk to the population".

Like Vatican City itself, the transmission centre is on extraterritorial land and considered part of the sovereign Vatican state.

Last month, Mr Bordon said the National Agency for the Protection of the Environment had registered three times the legal limit for electromagnetic radiation during one evening broadcast.

Since Vatican Radio was set up 44 years ago, Italy has introduced the European Union's toughest limits on such radiation, dubbed "electrosmog" by the Italian media.

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