Norway becomes first country to start switching off FM radio
Norway opened a chapter in telecommunications history on Wednesday, becoming the first country to cease FM radio broadcasting. The switch, to digital broadcasting, is intended to save money, but critics are worried about the effect on drivers and listeners of small radio stations.
The move to “radio digitization” was decided by Parliament in 2011, and a timetable was announced in 2015. At 11:11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11 — a time chosen because it was easy to remember, according to the national broadcaster, NRK — nationwide radio channels began stopping FM broadcasts, switching to a system known as digital audio broadcasting that proponents say offers a wider range of broadcasting options and greater sound quality.
The change is occurring county by county, starting with Nordland, in the north of Norway. Oslo, the capital, will turn off FM broadcasting in September, and the process will be completed nationwide by Dec. 13.
Norway’s Culture Ministry estimated that it would save 180 million kroner a year, or about $25 million.
Critics have said there are over two million cars on the roads which do not have DAB radios, which could be potentially dangerous during the winter months when Norwegians rely on radio updates about adverse weather.
Marko Ala-Fossi, an adjunct professor at the School of Communication, Media and Theater at the University of Tampere in Finland, added a cautionary note.
“Norway is now conducting a massive experiment with the future of radio on a national scale with no guarantee of success,” he said. “You can lose older listeners without any prospect of recruiting younger listeners.”