Wednesday 13 April 2016

EFTA Might Force Norway to Close DAB Radio

Chaos will be a threat to the scheduled FM closure 2017
There is now a great risk that the EFTA will force the government to dismantle parts of the DAB network which is already bulit. The European Surveillance Authority (ESA) has asked two government ministries to explain of the policy. Certain parts of the radio industry have complained that it has been unreasonably treated by this policy. - It is not unusual that the ESA and the EFTA Court can dismiss a decision by Stortinget (the parliament), says lawyer Per Bjørgan to the daily Dagens Næaringsliv.

Bjørgan, now a private sector employee, was until 2014 head of ESA's competition and state aid unit and led, among other things a comprehensive review of how the state public radio NRK have utilised license funds. This led, among other things that the public-service company had to shelve plans for an online travel portal .

The ESA is now examining how NRK's license funding used for DAB expansion after 2012 constitutes illegal state aid. If Norway would have to halt the DAB+ introduction a renewed tender must be advertised, which can have the effect that the planned FM switch-off in 2017 must be cancelled or postponed. The authorities often choose to postpone decisions when issues of this nature comes up, says Bjørgan.

Bjørgan points out that complaints relating to possible unlawful state aid can be passed on directly to the EFTA Court, even if the ESA does not consider the case to be sufficiently serious. Deputy Director at NRK Øyvind Vasaasen says to Dagens Næringsliv that he considers a ESA complaint as a serious issue, but that the plan to close  the FM network still is in order.

In 2017 the FM band will still be open for local and community radio outside Oslo and some other metropolitian areas.

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