Norway says “Goodbye, FM”

Norway will switch off its national FM networks in 2017, according to the Ministry of Culture announcement.  In the place of analog FM will be DAB.  The aim is to have the migration to DAB completed by December of 2017.  According to the article, approximately 54 percent of households and 20 percent of automobiles have DAB radios.  What is left unsaid is the 46 percent of households and 80 percent of automobiles that do not have DAB capable receivers.

I am sure that in the ensuing year and a half to two years, those numbers will change somewhat.  It still seems to me that there will be many people who will likely not have a DAB radio in their car before the analog switch off.

Judging by the comments on the Slash dot story, many are not happy with this decision.  Perhaps the most telling comment is this:

This is just Norway going off on its own crusade urged on by commercial interests of 10+ new channels, fuck whether it makes sense to throw out millions of radios… I expect this to lead to a massive interest in building out 3G/4G coverage as ex-FMers give DAB the middle finger.

Yup, that sounds about right.

I don’t know much about radio in Norway, but it if is anything like radio here, good programming trumps technical do-dads and and fancy gimmickry.

15 thoughts on “Norway says “Goodbye, FM””

  1. Why not do what we did here for TV, converters for cars (remember FM converters?) and swap a old radio for a new one. I agree that there really is no point in doing this but if it is going to be forced, the government should help out.

  2. “Norway First Country to Introduce DAB Radio By Coercion”

    “Millions of motorists in radio shadow. FM retained for local radio. Political struggle expected. Norwegian Minister of Culture says that as the terms now have been met i.e. 50 % are “listening digitally” there will be an FM switch-off 2017. But local commercial radio and community radio outside the five largest cities can continue on FM. However, opposition to this proposal is expected in Stortinget (the parliament) later this Spring. This successful step towards introduction of the DAB system in Norway has been made because of heavy lobbying not by market driven demands.”

  3. People will not pay for radio as long as there is free radio. A new digital radio is a one time investment, internet service is a never ending investment. The listeners will buy DAB radios in Norway just like we bought converters and TV’s when TV was switched to digital. I am in Florida and when thunderstorms come in the summertime it doesn’t matter how good a content you have on your AM they will not tolerate the noise. That’s why listeners prefer FM, it takes content and good sound, it’s not all about content.

  4. George, I think there are a few holes in your theories:

    People will not pay for radio as long as there is free radio

    Sirius XM has had a rocky road to be sure, but they still have an estimated 25 to 26 million subscribers at $7-17 per month.

    Pandora has 175 million registered users in the US, with 115 million accessing the application for during the last week for an average of 25 minutes per day.

    Spotify has over 10 million paid subscribers as of March of 2014.

    Clearly, many people will pay for radio if they do not find what they want of free radio. I suspect that rather than go through the expense of replacing an in dash car radio in a five year old vehicle, most will opt to use mobile data to access some type of streaming service.

    Regarding digital converters for TV; I never bought one. Most people I know do not have one, I simply stopped watching TV of any kind, over the air or cable. If I want to watch something, there is Hulu, Netflix, or youtube.

    No argument regarding AM, the noise is intolerable in most places.

  5. I have four sons between 20-30 years old who happily paid the money to replace their in-dash car radios.
    Not to pick up “radio”, but to get a slot for a flash drive to bring their own music.
    Not a one is interested in radio, terrestrial or satellite, free or not.
    Much like Paul’s TV commentary, there are simply too many other choices that put the consumer in complete control of what’s listened to or viewed.

  6. Bob,Radio simply doesen’t have the appeal here that most of us grew up with in the US so,forget about mass pirates.
    Mass new media is the thing now!Build your own play-list on line and provide it for free or with a paywall(so I’ve heard).
    Multicultural audiences already have a strong presence on state radio(NRK) and they have it nation wide.
    In Sweden,that’s built Swedish Radio’s ethical statement of operations.
    I know,It sounds boring but,it’s just a fact in the Nordic region.
    We have a handful of commercial stations in Sweden and Norway but the national networks are king and are surprisingly highly repected by most all demographics reaching 99% of the population as part of their charter.
    As mentioned earlier,when a technical decision is finalized by the government,you can almost hear the rollout whistling through the trees.
    Finally,Sweden silenced the AM band over 20 years ago with the exeption of a station or 2 which the Sami population in the north must have faught hard to keep.The AM band is open for extreamly easy DX from the UK and a few others 24 hours a day.
    Yes,of course i’m shedding a tear as I write this.I would have missed what I never had!

  7. The problem is replacing radios in modern cars. Have fun with that. Most vehicles made in the last 10 years now have “smart” electronics on board, many are so integrated into the vehicles other systems, if the radio goes “missing”, the vehicle won’t even start! The aftermarket radio market is dying, thanks to automakers who have stepped up to the plate and are putting NAV/ENT in even entry level vehicles, at least here in the USA.

    Not sure how old the vehicle fleet is in Norway, but in the USA this kind of thing is a decade or so off from happening. That is, until the automakers quit putting AM/FM tuners in the dash. Don’t think that won’t happen? If the tradeoff is dumping AM/FM for 4G LTE on board, you know how it’s gonna go down.

    Consumers WANT the “next generation” of radio, and it’s all about CONTENT, something that the corporate radio industry has yet to realize and put into practice in the last 20 years. HD Radio, DAB, LPFM or any technology is all for nothing. Listeners want content, and the Internet is where it’s at. This isn’t going to change.

  8. By the way,the radio chip quietly left most European smart phones over the last 8 years with little fanfare.Streaming is the order of the day for morning listeners on foot in Sweden as the streats and often long distance trains and busses are connected.
    European car manufacturers are quite agile these days offering mostly FM/USB/4G and Streaming options(when available) at cost or community based “park bench” WIFI.
    The motorist info comes from a British friend who frequently travels around Europe and works in the broadcast industry.

    Europe is fragmented in how it consumes it’s data.Larger countries like Germany,France,Spain have healthier independant broadcast legacies and a population more apt to protest in favor of legacy analogue being maintained for a longer time.
    Others such as Norwway have just a few heavily regulated “commercials” and they will be conviently bundled and moved along to DAB as a condition of maintaining their licences.They have always been transmitted by the nationally owned transmitter network anyway.
    There are of course community stations scattered about on the FM band,will be interesting to see how they are handled.

  9. The solution for all tecnologies of broadcastin is the introduction of receveir SDR software defined radio compatible with all radio emission (AM, FM, DRM, DRM30, DAB, DAB+) in european market. This radio receive all band of broadcast (LW, MW, SW and VHF). The translation of digital tecnology will create means problematics. Sorry for my poor english language.

  10. I feel like I’m moderating a bit here, my apologies to Paul for this but transformation is a topic among my friends this week. Transformation tends to mean different things in the various parts and demographics around the world ,the one major factor driving it is the age and technical interests of the people affects and their previous experiences which have been very short. Simply put ,I get off on tall towers, transmission lines and pushing my collection of antennas to receive or transmit beyond expectations. Young people today get off on creating lines of code that fix, transform and recreate in the same way, only the skills differ. Getting back on track, young people are not as interested I traditional broadcasting ,We’ve given them more options and they have taken the ball and are making new goals in a game they now own. In America, a majority of young people jumped the AM band for good when the hate speech took over, myself included.FM became way too loaded with commercial content and” satellator” clone effect which helped spurred the next mass exodus.
    In conclusion ,as history goes, we put the tools/situations in their hands, they largely get to chose the way forward. Let’s hope we’ve done our individual best to equip them!

  11. Carlo, we are not grammar snobs here, don’t worry, we get your point. I agree that an SDR would be really cool in the car, but there are some issues with that. Things like driver distractions, and in some states, the ability to listen to police frequencies in an automobile is illegal. You are correct, however, SDRs are really inexpensive and could easily be worked into a car radio.

    Ellot, don’t apologize, it is a good comment. I would take it one further and say that what we are witnessing is destructive innovation.

  12. Thanks Paul,And you really need to patent the term “destructive innovation”.
    Its what happens most every time I update software on my smartphone,PC,TV,complex program It took weeks to configure and understand.
    All criticall settings Blown Away and settings moved to entirely new ,often difficult to find cryptic pages!
    It shows how developers are often very out of touch with users and even more often these days,the core product itself!

  13. “No FM Switch-Off in Norway”

    “No success yet for DAB radio in the Nordic countries. The Norwegian Minister of Culture says that the FM switch-off goal of 50% ‘Digital listening’ has been reached. However, this figure includes listenership of DVB-T and Internet radio. Last week, the Government Statistical Bureau reported that listening to DAB radio is presently limited to 19% on a daily basis, says the Norwegian Local Radio Association in a press-release. This FM switch-off proposal is up for decision in Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, later this spring. While there is still a majority in favor of the proposal, 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. Now, the Green Party, is also aligning against the switch-off.”


  14. DAB coverage in Norway’s remote areas is most likely poor to non existent. And none of these DAB sets will even remotely be as sensitive as most older FM sets. HD FM would a more practical method than DAB and be backwards compatible. And I see IBOC on FM as the only practical way to the future and bridge the gap.

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