The fact that the FM network will be phased out does not mean radio silence in Norway. When the digital network takes over there will be more channels on offer. Norwegians are getting more than five times as many channels. Even in remote places far north of the Arctic Circle, you can listen to big city channels from Oslo, the nation’s capital.
“Radio needs modernisation and renewal. FM technology was introduced in the 1950s and is very limited in relation to current needs. One of the main challenges is the lack of capacity. 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. DAB provides the capacity we need to generate more content for listeners,” says Ole Jørgen Torvmark, CEO of Digitalradio Norway.
“But why do you have to switch off the analogue network?”
“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,” says Torvmark.
The last time new Norwegian channels were launched on FM was in 2004 and 1993. 20 channels have been launched on DAB during the same period; the first channel was launched in 1995.
On the 11th of January FM is switched off
Norway will become the first country in the world to switch off the FM networks. Phasing out begins in the county of Nordland, one of the most northerly in the country. Switching off will be done gradually; the last region on FM will become silent in December 2017.
“A lot of work has been done during the preparations to ensure a good replacement is in place. The DAB network has been thoroughly measured and adjusted, and a great deal of information has been made available to listeners,” says Torvmark.
Norway is a country where digital technology has really been adopted. Currently there are DAB radios in 7 out of 10 homes, and a majority of the radio listeners are digital.
“Is the radio industry worried about losing listeners?”
“Support for radio is strong. Many people are listening to digital radio because there are more channels available. Those who are not digital must be given enough time to make the change. This is why we are taking a year to complete the switch off,” says Torvmark, who adds:
“We are prepared for a lower number of listeners during the year of the switch off, but expect an even growth afterwards. If we had chosen to stay with FM we would probably have faced a steadily dwindling number of listeners. DAB provides the opportunity to keep the listeners. We are now able to produce content that means the medium of radio continues to be relevant.”
The expansion of the DAB network
Radio will only be broadcast on DAB when the FM network becomes silent. Norway has built two new DAB networks which are ready to take over from FM.
“Why not just use the internet”?
“Most listeners listen via DAB, and a small number listen to radio via the internet. We need a solid transmitter network that can tolerate major stresses and many simultaneous listeners. The internet does not have the necessary capacity, but is of course an excellent alternative.”
The FM networks will be switched off on the 11th of January 2017 at 11:11. The switch-off will be commemorated in Bodø.