Digital radio broadcasting in Norway
A year after the introduction of DAB, it now covers almost the country’s entire population
M. Michael Brady
A year ago this newspaper reported the start of a plan to scrap countrywide FM radio broadcasting in Norway and replace it with Digital Audio Broadcasting, a standard for broadcasting digital radio services used in countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific (“Out with the old, in with the new: Digital radio takes over for FM in Norway,” Feb. 10, 2017: www.norwegianamerican.com/research/out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new-digital-radio-takes-over-for-fm-in-norway). The plan was implemented according to schedule, so the public Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) now broadcasts only digitally.
Even so, FM radio broadcasting hasn’t disappeared completely. Local commercial radio stations may continue to send FM until 2022, and at this writing, two countrywide radio programs, P4 Radio Hele Norge and Radio Norge, distribute programs on both DAB and FM. According to Mediatilsynet (The Norwegian Media Authority), public broadcaster NRK now covers 99.7 percent of the population with DAB, and commercial radio broadcasters cover 92.8 percent with DAB.
The switch from FM to DAB can be costly, particularly in a car in which the FM radio is part of an entertainment system. With today’s smart mobile telephones, there are ways to cut the cost of switching by avoiding it. A smart phone with a data subscription can be connected to a FM radio via a cable or Bluetooth to receive streaming radio. Users must pay for the data traffic used. But with the decreasing cost of mobile data traffic, such a setup may be used for many years before its cost equals that of a new DAB radio.
Another drawback of DAB is that it is a digital technology that employs audio coding. So just as the music reproduction quality of a digital CD cannot match that of an undamaged high-quality analog LP, the sound experience of DAB is inadequate compared to that of FM. Research to overcome that drawback is now on the agenda, not least in the UK where much of the DAB technology was developed in the early 1990s, and in Norway, where the first regular DAB program broadcast was made on June 1, 1995. Audiophiles await the results.