Monday 30 May 2016

Hot Topic in Norwegian Parliament: Stop The FM Switch-Off

Minister of Culture not telling the truth about rejection of DAB plan in Sweden
Even as the planned closure of the national FM service approaches in 2017, the government is facing continued pushback from members of Stortinget (the Parliament). The Progress Party’s Ib Thomsen recently wrote a letter to the minister of culture Linda Hofstad Helleland, asking who would be responsible for unintended consequences after the national FM service disappears. The party is seriously concerned about radio if DAB plans are completed next year. Now there are also opposition in other parties along a mounting media and public opinion against the switch-off.

The Progress Party, now in the coalition government together with Høyre (conservatives), was the only one that 2011voted against closing FM. 
- Just over 20 percent of the vehicle population in Norway has DAB radio. Thomsen says this is a critical point. There is also a risk that tourists and especially professional drivers from abroad will not be able to listen to radio in Norway or receive emergency messages.

- Digitization should be coordinated with the other Nordic countries. Sweden, for example, has no plans to turn off FM. 

- DAB is dependent on the GPS system and that weakens preparedness of DAB significantly.  In war and crises, it is a fact that GPS signals can be turned off for military purposes. This has happened several times already — GPS signals have “fallen out” over northern Europe.

Thomsen’s position is that the shutdown of the FM service in Norway will not be consistent with good public safety and would not be in consumers' best interest.

The Center party’s Janne Sjelmo Nordås has also sent written questions to the Minister of Culture on the FM shutdown, in which she said that the entire process should be postponed. In addition, now local chapters in various parties including Høyre have expressed strong concern regarding the pending shutdown. 

Mrs Helleland rejects Thomsen's concerns, she said there was no reason to postpone the impending change, while emphasizing that "several other European countries also have plans to shut off FM eventually, such as Denmark".  She also asserted that Sweden has not shelved its digital transition plans, and that in fact Sweden's plans depend on developments in Norway.

However, the lengthy reply from the minister of culture is incorrect in several parts. For example the Swedish digital transition plan was completely shelved by the government in June 2015 and this was confirmed by the parliament in February 2016. As confirmed today by the Ministry of Culture in Stockholm a digital radio plan is not on the table. 

The official Swedish position is that there is at present no active preparatory work regarding digital radio in the Ministry of Culture. Also, no decision has been taken that Sweden will follow Norway in digital terrestrial radio. The Ministry of Culture follows this question from a broad perspective.


EBU, WorldDAB and the Norwegian Minister of Culture are losing credibility in the DAB debate by misrepresenting i.a. the decision taken in Sweden regarding digital terrestrial radio, says Gunnar Bergvall, chairman of the Public Service Council in Sweden.

The only commitment made by the Swedish government when closing the case was to "follow international developments of digital radio".  And "follow" means "observe" not "copy" developments. And "digital radio" implies that other digital systems than just DAB as DRM, DVB-T2 and on-line including LTE Broadcast will be considered for a future solution.

The Norwegian DAB lobby (headed by state owned public broadcaster NRK and the promotion company Digitalradio Norge AS) has an inappropriate influence in the Ministry of Culture. The process to establish DAB+ in Norway has not been closely scrutinized as in neighbouring Sweden. This might explain the sharp policy differences between the two countries. Another factor might be that Sweden is well ahead of Norway regarding ICT developments including on-line radio.

Read the full text of the parliamentarian Q&A communication