UPDATED: 12/19 at 3:30pm CET
Ha Det, Norge.
Eleven months after the first FM signals in Norway signed off the air forever, part of an effort approved by the Norwegian government to shift all radio listeners to DAB-delivered digital radio stations, the final stations bringing listeners programming between 88 and 108 MHz have said their goodbyes and have faded to silence.
The last stations to sign off permanently did so Wednesday (12/13), with FM signals in the far north of Norway and in the Svalbard archipelago going silent. As a result, Norway is the first country in the world to shut down national broadcasts of its FM stations. That said, the band is not completely devoid of signals.
That’s because the transition concerns national radio channels operated by NRK, Norway’s government-run radio station operator, and large regional radio stations—including the commercial channels.
Yet, while 95% of radio listening has come off FM and moved over onto DAB, a small array of local stations continue to broadcast on the FM dial. A trio of DAB frequencies now harbor the bulk of the audio choices available in Oslo, the largest metropolis in Norway.
These stations have a very small audience share compared to the stations that have moved to DAB. On the FM dial are four stations: Radio Riks Olso 101.1, Radio Latin-Amerika 105.8, Radio Nova/RadiOrakel 99.3, and religious Radio Inter FM 107.7.
Norway’s MW (or AM) signals are already gone, as is the case in numerous countries across Europe.
For stations that have migrated, the chore is now to let listeners know of the move. As RBR+TVBR reported in January, the silence of the majority of the nation’s FM stations in favor of DAB signals has been largely unpopular. But, politicians are holding to legislation that mandated the transition to digital radio in 2017, conducted in stages across the year.
On Jan. 6, wide-ranging rock station “Rox 90.1” was, in a somewhat humorous move, playing the Everclear song “AM Radio.”
Today, the station is now “Radio Rox,” housed with 13 other stations on DAB band 232.496.
The Oslo-based station is one of a handful in the Norwegian city that are not directly controlled by NRK, and the Norwegian government.
In Trondheim, just one FM signal remains on the air.
In Bergen, a student-run radio station and a religious broadcaster have the FM band to themselves.
Tromso, birthplace of pop singer Lene Marlin and in the far north of the nation, was the last city to make the transition.
For those concerned about whether or not such a move could happen in the U.S., rest assured it won’t. The shift from analog to digital broadcasting in the U.S. was done with an in-band, on-channel system, as opposed to a DAB development that sees Norway’s radio stations all sandwiched between 222 MHz and 239 MHz.
Thus, access to DAB remains a key issue in Norway.
Some 2 million vehicles in Norway do not have DAB receivers, Thomson Reuters reports. TNS Gallup data from 2015 puts the amount of Norwegians with DAB-less car audio receivers at 20%. Ole Joergen Torvmark, head of Digital Radio Norway, told Thompson Reuters that the average cost of a DAB-enabled car radio is $176, or 1475 Krone.
An opinion poll published in Norwegian daily Dagbladet in December 2016 showed that some 65% of Norwegians opposed the end of FM broadcasts. That did not have any bearing on parliament’s decision to move ahead.
The Norwegian government also determined that the end of analog broadcasts on the FM band amounts to a cost savings of $23.47 million U.S., “releasing funds for investment in radio content.”
Now, the challenge for NRK and the other broadcasters on DAB is ensuring all Norwegians can access this content.