When will FM be switched off?

The national FM networks will be switched off throughout 2017, region by region.

Av Ole Jørgen Torvmark

The switch-offs commence in the county of Nordland on January 11, 2017 and are completed on December 12, 2017 in the counties of Troms and Finnmark. There are 19 counties in Norway, divided into six switch-off regions, see below for the detailed plan.

NRK, The P4 Group and SBS Radio will all switch off their FM networks simultaneously in two of the six regions. Public service broadcaster NRK will switch off several weeks before the private ones in the remaining four regions.

Five governmental demands

The digitization of radio was decided by Parliament (Stortinget) in May, 2011. To switch off FM is the final step in a long process and the time of the switch-off was decided based on the fulfillment of five demands, set down by Parliament (see bottom). They were designed to give the public, the affected industries and broadcasters a clear and predictable timeframe for such a major switchover.

Local radio not affected

The switch-off only applies to national radio stations and certain regional ones, ultra-local radio stations do not have to comply. Most local radio stations are allowed to keep transmitting on their FM networks.

The national radio stations will keep simulcasting via FM and DAB until switchover. Digitization of radio would not be possible without the switch-off of the national radio networks.

Why?

Radio is, besides the printed press, the only media that has yet to be fully digitized. There are limited bandwidth resources for FM, something that excludes new radio stations from entering broadcasted radio. FM also lacks the possibility for a number of additional services. Digitization will furthermore secure a more effective use of frequencies and greatly reduce the number of transmitters. A transition to DAB digital radio ensures a better and more radio across the entire country. Now everyone gets everything on offer, and rural parts of Norway is no longer discriminated against.

The five demands

  1. NRKs DAB coverage must be at least 99.5%, the same as number one station NRK P1 currently has via FM.
  2. Commercial radio must have over 90% DAB coverage.
  3. There must be extra digital value.
  4. Technically satisfactory and inexpensive solutions for car radio must exist and half of the municipalities and all counties must have an offer of retrofitting adapters
  5. At least 50% of daily listeners must listen digitally.