Norway to become first country to end FM radio

Significant majority oppose the move to a digital network amid concerns about safety

Worker Ino Andre Nilsen shows off an adapter for Norway’s digital radio network that can be plugged into a car, in an electronics shop in Oslo. Photograph: Alister Doyle/Reuters

Worker Ino Andre Nilsen shows off an adapter for Norway’s digital radio network that can be plugged into a car, in an electronics shop in Oslo. Photograph: Alister Doyle/Reuters

 

Norway is set to become the first nation to start switching off its FM radio network next week, in a risky and unpopular leap to digital technology that will be closely watched by other countries considering whether to follow suit.

Critics say the government is rushing the move and that many people may miss emergency warnings, which have until now been broadcast via the radio, as a result.

They have also expressed concern over the 2 million cars on Norway’s roads that are not equipped with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) receivers.

Sixty-six per cent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with just 17 per cent in favour and the rest undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month.

Nevertheless, parliament gave the final go-ahead for the move last month, swayed by the fact that digital networks can carry more radio channels.

Switzerland plans a similar shift from 2020, and Britain and Denmark are among those also considering such a switch.

A smooth transition to DAB, which is already beamed across Norway, could encourage these countries to also move ahead.

The shutdown of the FM (Frequency Modulation) network, introduced in the 1950s, will begin in the northern city of Bodoe on January 11th.

By the end of the year, all national FM broadcasts will be closed in favour of DAB, which backers say will carry less hiss and clearer sound for listeners in the large nation cut by fjords and mountains.

“We’re the first country to switch off FM, but there are several countries going in the same direction,” said Ole Joergen Torvmark, head of Digital Radio Norway, which is owned by national broadcasters NRK and P4.

‘We’re not ready’

One member of the ruling coalition was scathing of the plan, however, echoing concerns expressed by thousands of Norwegians in surveys and elsewhere.

“We are simply not ready for this yet,” Ib Thomsen, an MP from the Progress Party, a partner in the Conservative-led government, told Reuters.

“There are 2 million cars on Norwegian roads that don’t have DAB receivers, and millions of radios in Norwegian homes will stop working when the FM network is switched off. So there is definitely a safety concern,” he said.

Norway’s new digital radio network will allow eight times more radio stations than FM, for the same cost.

The current system of parallel FM and digital networks, each of which cost about 250 million crowns (about €28 million), has been accused of sapping investment in other areas.

Reuters