What happens in Norway with the radio digitalisation?

nlr_logoFew days ago, the Norwegian Government published a press release about setting a date for the imminent switch-off of Norway’s FM radio stations in 2017. The Minister of Culture, Thornild Widvey, said:

“Whereas the FM system only had space for five national channels, DAB already offers 22, and there is capacity for almost 20 more. In addition, more than half the population already has access to local radio on DAB, and there is considerable potential for further local channels”.

But today, the Norsk Lokalradioforbund, the association for local radio in Norway, has spred other press release offering different data and opinions:

 

No FM Switch-Off in Norway

FM retained for local radio outside four metropolitan areas. Only community stations will continue in metropolitan areas. DAB radio is far away from a success in the Nordic countries.

Norwegian Minister of Culture has announced that as the terms now have been met i.e. 50 % are “listening digitally” there will be a proposal an FM switch-off 2017. (“Digital listening” includes radio via DVB-T and Internet). However, a few days ago the Government Statistical Bureau reported that listening to DAB radio is 19 % on a daily basis.

This proposal is up for decision in Stortinget (the parliament) later this spring. Still there is a majority for the proposal but opposition is growing. The government coalition partner the Progress Party has been against switching off FM since the first proposal for DAB came up in Stortinget 2011 and now the Green Party is against the switch off.

200 local commercial radio and community radio stations outside the four largest cities can continue on FM. This sector is also being unregulated. The stations are all five year prolonged licenses at no fee. Licensing is a simple registration with the media authority. Requirements on local news and local content will be removed as well as limits on income.

This successful step towards introduction of the DAB system in Norway has been made because of lobbying by the DAB promoting company Digitalradio Norge AS and not by consumer demands on a free market. The plans have been meet by forceful opposition by the local radio sector as this transition plan is regarded as an obstacle to small-scale radio business 2017 leaving all FM investments consider lost.

This is a sensitive issue as most profiting on the transition are the two foreign-owned radio companies – MTG and SBS – while local radio is Norwegian owned and operated. 23 local stations on FM in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger with suburbs areas will be forced to broadcast only on DAB+ from 2017.

Neighboring countries as Finland has opted out of DAB already 2009 and in Sweden a proposed DAB transition has been widely criticized by the opinion and in a consultation by qualified institutions. A National Audit report April 14 recommend Sweden to retain FM. In Denmark the government has put a proposed FM switch-off on hold. FM radio will be the dominant system for terrestrial broadcasting for decades to come in the Nordic countries and probably in most countries Europe.

The decision by the government for a fast track to a transition ignores the fact that millions of foreign motorists visiting Norway annually as tourist or in professional business. This means that most visitors will not be able to listen to national channels as the public radio for emergency alerts, traffic information, etc. as well as local channels in Oslo and three other cities.

FM and online listening will be global standards for radio for decades to come. This will be mainly on mobile devices as smartphones in all countries. “We don’t envisage that the 20 year old DAB system will be a technology implemented for such devices”, says Svein Larsen President of Norwegian Local Radio Association.

For more information:

Contact Mr. Svein Larsen at +47 930 43 400 or svein@lokalradio.no