Norway tunes out of FM radio

In a world first, Norway will switch off all FM radio transmissions in favour of DAB technology, prompting widespread criticism

  • By Callum Glennen | Friday, January 6th, 2017

DAB radio benefits from better signal quality and its ability to broadcast supplementary information

Norway is set to become the first country to switch off its FM radio network in favour of the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standard. The move is designed to modernise the network and save money, but has proved to be unpopular with the public.

On January 11, the city of Bodoe will switch off its FM network, with the rest of the country following suit by the end of 2017. As reported by Reuters, 66 percent of Norwegians oppose the decision, with only 17 percent in support of the move.

66 percent of Norwegians oppose the decision, with only 17 percent in support of the move

DAB offers a number of advantages over the ageing technology, including better signal quality and the ability to broadcast supplementary information to a radio with a display, such as song titles or news headlines. DAB is also a cheaper signal to broadcast and makes more efficient use of the radio spectrum, allowing more channels to fill the airwaves.

Despite these benefits, it has taken DAB a long time to become a viable alternative to FM, with early broadcasts suffering from coverage problems and increased competition from internet radio and podcasts limiting its popularity.

However, the biggest criticism levelled at Norway’s decision is the number of radios that would cease working once the changeover is made, most notably those embedded in cars. Without access to radio, many drivers will be unable to receive emergency broadcasts, raising the issue of safety. While conversion kits for cars exist, they cost approximately 1,500 kroner ($174.70).

Speaking to Reuters, Progress Party MP Ib Thomsen said the country is not yet ready for the switchover: “There are two million cars on Norwegian roads that don’t have DAB receivers, and millions of radios in Norwegian homes will stop working when the FM net is switched off. So there is definitely a safety concern.”

Other countries looking to make a similar move will be keeping a close eye on Norway’s progress as it pioneers the transition.