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Monday, April 27, 2015

What Does The Norwegian FM Shutdown Mean For The U.S.?


Last week, the Norwegian Ministry of Culture announced its plans to shut down the FM radio band in its country in 2017, choosing to instead only use the better-quality DAB+ digital broadcasts. The proposal is up for a vote soon. There is now growing opposition to the Norway FM shutdown, but even if it takes place, there are major differences between the situation there and the state of radio in America.

While it appears the 2017 FM shutdown will be approved in the Norwegian parliament Stortinget later this spring, two political parties in Norway, the Progress Party and the Green Party are said to be aligning against it. It appears that the Ministry of Culture's goal of 50 percent digital listening has not yet been achieved and that number is actually closer to 19 percent in Norway. The 50 percent number was gained by combining other forms of audio entertainment, including Internet streaming.

The FM band in Norway is operated by the government. The band has only five radio stations in four cities -- all of which are government owned. The shutting down of the FM band will save Norway an estimated $26 million per year. 200 lower-powered local commercial radio and community radio stations outside of Norway's four largest cities may still be able to continue broadcasting on FM for at least five years beyond the shutoff.

Radio is not ending in Norway by any stretch of the imagination. Only how radio is delivered to listeners there is evolving slightly.

When the Norway FM announcement made headlines, many quickly heralded it as the beginning of the end for radio as we know it. That is far from the case, however. This is especially true in the U.S.

The NAB points out that among the key differences between Norwegian radio and American radio are...

- Norway, like much of Europe, began using the all-digital DAB broadcast spectrum in the last decade, switching over to the even better DAB+ a few years later. The U.S. uses a different digital in-band, on-channel (IBOC, or HDRadio) spectrum, as well as traditional AM and FM transmissions.

- Norway's broadcast system is primarily government-run, while the U.S. system of broadcasting is primarily privately-run by commercial companies.

- All of Norway has a population of only a little over 5 million people, compared to over 320 million people in the U.S.

Additionally, the U.S. radio industry continues to migrate toward all-digital broadcasting, but stations and companies may do so on a strictly voluntary basis. There are currently 2,300 FM radio stations in the U.S. that are operating in the digital HDRadio format -- or about 21 percent of all American FM radio stations.

Five radio stations in four cities in Norway may not be heard on analog FM radios starting in as soon as two years from now. Many thousands of American radio stations will continue to be heard on analog and HD Radios for many years to come, with no shutoff date in sight or even being considered.

(4/24/2015 9:51:36 PM)
"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."

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