Norway Is Shutting Down Its FM Radio From January 2017

20 April 2015 | 4:09 pm | Staff Writer

The European country will be the first in the world to switch to a digital-only national broadcasting standard

Norway will become the first country in the world to transition to an exclusively digital national broadcasting standard when it turns off its FM radio bands in January 2017.

The Norwegian government issued a mandate in 2011 to make the switch an imminent reality as the costs of maintaining FM operations began to exceed the return in terms of its dwindling audience, as digital radio now far outpaces FM stations in sheer number of channels (22 to five) as well as holding the majority of the country's audience share (56%, according to Gizmodo).

"The cost of transmitting national radio channels through the FM network is eight times higher than with the DAB network, and P4, Radio Norge and NRK are currently spending large sums on parallel distribution," a statement released by the Norwegian Ministry Of Culture said of the decision.

"The digitalisation of Norway's radio channels will realise savings of more than NOK200 million (about $35 million) a year, releasing funds for investment in radio content."

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of digital radio (DAB) being available in Norway, with its successor, DAB+ coming along almost 10 years ago, in 2007. Among the benefits being touted behind the switch to digital-only broadcasting are that it "will open the door to a far greater range of radio channels", allow listeners access to "more diverse and pluralistic radio content", and "greatly improve the emergency preparedness system", the Norwegian Minister Of Culture, Thorhild Widvey, said.

In an interview with The Music Network, Commercial Radio Australia chief executive Joan Warner backed Norway's plans to embrace a fully digital network, congratulating the country on its "significant announcement", calling DAB+ tech "a major part of the future of radio".

"Norway has capitalised on its smaller population and land size since its 1995 launch to reach a tipping point in broadcast technology," Warner told The Music Network. "Australia's adoption of DAB+ broadcast technology in 2009 also continues to grow, with 3.2 million people in the five metro capitals now listening to digital radio."

Although there are no such total overhauls in the pipeline for Aussie radio, Warner did indicate that regional Australia would certainly be receiving priority treatment for the implementation of expanded DAB+ infrastructure.

"We look forward to working with the federal government to plan the rollout of DAB+ digital radio to regional Australia," Warner said.

The chief executive of the Community Broadcasting Association Of Australia, Jon Bisset, elaborated to The Music Network: "While an analog switch-off is a way off in Australia, the take-up of digital radio is very strong. Community sector research shows that, where digital radio is available, it accounts for 19% of all radio listening. The broader radio industry is averaging 21%."

"Now, the CBAA, along with other radio sectors, is keen to see digital radio extend beyond the metropolitan areas … the government here is expected to announce an industry committee, with key involvement of the community, commercial and national broadcasters, to plan the next stage rollout of digital radio," Bisset said.

For more information about Norway's switch-off, read the Ministry Of Culture's official statement. The process commences on 11 January 2017 and is expected to be completed by 13 December that year.