Norway bids FM goodbye

The country’s phaseout of FM radio has begun

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

Norway will no longer broadcast on VHF frequencies by the end of this year, with Nordland County first out this week.

This northern Norway area has DAB-only from January 11, with the remaining five regions’ FM transmissions falling silent as 2017 plays on.

The Scandinavian country currently has 25 national radio channels on DAB, with the first one launched in 1995. Just five countrywide ones broadcast via FM, according to Digitalradio Norway.

This organization represents all of the Norway’s broadcasters, with NRK, Bauer Media, and the MTG Group behind it.

“FM technology was introduced in the 1950s and is very limited in relation to current needs,” said Ole Jørgen Torvmark, CEO of Digitalradio Norway in a statement to website radio.no.

Lack of capacity is one of the main challenges, according to him. “There is no room for more national FM channels in a country like Norway, where the challenging terrain and sparse population place great demands on the broadcasting networks,” he continued.

FM (frequency modulation) was invented by American electrical engineer and inventor Edwin Howard Armstrong (1890-1954), who patented FM radio in 1933.

Some three years later, it was demonstrated to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) for the first time.

The FM broadcast band, which falls within the VHF (Very High Frequency) part of the radio spectrum, spans from 87.5 to 108.0 MHz (Megahertz). It differs between different parts of the world.

Torvmark explained that the decision to switch off the analog network, eventually backed by politicians, was made because “the FM network is old and parts of the network would need huge investments to ensure continued operation. So it is better to invest in new technology that gives far more opportunities. DAB provides the capacity we need to generate more content for listeners.”

Digitalradio Norway also says that 54 percent of digital listeners listen to the radio on DAB, and 19 percent listen online.

Norway has capacity for broadcasting approximately 40 channels on DAB. The DAB networks already have the same population coverage as the FM ones.

At the same time, a poll published by Dagbladet shows that not everyone thinks that DAB is fab. 66 percent of Norwegians are against switching off FM and 17 percent are in favor, with the remainder undecided.

The decision to move away from FM has met criticism, as many are concerned that the government is moving too quickly. There have been fears that emergency alerts, which have been broadcast via FM radio until now, may be missed.

Critics draw particular attention to the fact that two million cars in Norway do not have DAB receivers. While digital adaptors for an FM car radio can be purchased, a good one can cost in the region of NOK 1,500 (about USD 180).

Norway is not the only country terminating its relationship with FM. Switzerland is planning a similar move, set to happen sometime between 2020 and 2024. Denmark, Sweden, and South Korea are also considering the switch to DAB.

The UK has indicated that it will be joining too, but that switch is unlikely to happen until at least 2020.

Corrections

Staff
The Norwegian American

It was recently brought to our attention that this article about Norway’s switch to DAB contained a few inaccuracies or omissions. The following will attempt to briefly correct some of the most striking.

First sentence: “Norway will no longer broadcast on VHF frequencies by the end of this year…”
Wrong. Norway will continue to broadcast in the Very High Frequency (VHF) band, 30-300 MHz, particularly in Maritime VHF Radio, as on International Distress, Safety, and Calling channel 16. The misstatement likely arose because for many years, the BBC called FM Radio (the international term) “VHF Radio.”

The seventh and eighth paragraphs give background info on FM.
Odd to include historical note on FM, with no similar note on DAB.

DAB was developed by a team at the Institut für Rundfunktechnik (IRT) in Munich, starting in 1981, and the first demonstration was held at an international technical meeting in Geneva in 1985; information on its historical development is available in English on the IRT website at www.irt.de/en/home.

15th paragraph: “Switzerland is planning a similar move, set to happen sometime between 2020 and 2024. Denmark, Sweden, and South Korea are also considering the switch to DAB.”
Wrong. As stated March 23, 2016, in a Swedish governmental white paper (in English) entitled “The Facts Behind the DAB Radio Failure in Sweden,” online at public-service.net/docu/DABFactsSweden.pdf, Sweden no longer considers “a similar move.”

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Jan. 13, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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