Many Norwegian cars are not equipped with digital radio receivers

Norway first in the world switching off FM radio

Image credit: Zoidy

Norway is set to become the first country in the world to switch off analogue radio, a move that is being criticised by experts and citizens alike.

The Scandinavian country will start disabling its FM (Frequency Modulation) stations next week in the northern city of Bodoe. By the end of 2017, the network, which has been serving the nation since the 1950s, will be a thing of the past. All radio channels will be moved to the digital audio broadcasting (DAB) network, which enables squeezing more programmes into a specific spectrum than analogue technology and provides better quality reception in most circumstances.

In Norway specifically, eight times more stations can be crammed into the spectrum via digital technology than is possible with FM at the same cost. Each network costs about 250 million Norwegian crowns (£23m) to operate. Switching off FM would therefore enable the government to make significant savings.

However, the move, which received the final green light from the Norwegian Parliament last month, is largely unpopular in the nation of five million. Experts worry that many motorists won’t be able to receive traffic alerts and emergency information as approximately two million cars used in the country do not carry DAB receivers.

A decent quality digital adapter for FM car radios costs about 1,500 Norwegian crowns (£140).

“We are simply not ready for this yet,” Ib Thomsen, an MP from the Progress Party, a partner in the Conservative-led government, told Reuters.

“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 network is switched off. So there is definitely a safety concern,” he said.

In a survey by Norway’s tabloid newspaper Dagbladet, 66 per cent of the respondents said they disagreed with the move while only 17 per cent were in support of the decision.

Norway, which had been the first country in the world to start broadcasting radio over DAB in June 1995, first announced plans to switch off the FM network in 2015. Other countries including Switzerland, the UK and Denmark are considering the switch as well.

“We’re the first country to switch off FM but there are several countries going in the same direction,” Ole Joergen Torvmark, head of Digital Radio Norway, which is owned by national broadcasters NRK and P4, told Reuters.

While Switzerland has already announced plans to switch off FM in 2020, the UK and Denmark haven’t decided about the timeline yet. The UK plans to make further plans once digital listening reaches 50 per cent, which might happen by the end of 2017.

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