Friday 9 December 2016

FM Switch-off for National Channels in Norway On Schedule

Dramatic stand-off in parliament. Labor saved Conservative government from a DAB defeat. But the transition plan is rejected by most Norwegians.
Amidst reports coming in from all parts of the country regarding insufficient DAB coverage and other technical problems Stortinget had to decide on two proposals for a postponement of the FM switch-off 2017 or a complete abandonment of the switch-off pan.   
It has been questioned if the DAB network can meet the the emergency alert requirements. DAB is not reaching out on all roads to the motorists and the coverage at sea will be halved when switching off FM. Today, only 23 % of the cars in Norway (not counting foreign vehicles) are equipped with DAB+

FRP - the Progressive Party - which is a part of the two-party coalition government voted for an abandonment while the Center Party voted for a postponement. This was against the 2011 and 2015 parliament decision to switch-off FM during 2017 for the national channels (public service and commercial networks).  But the prior Labor government was a driving force behind the original decision 2015 for a transition to DAB+ and the social-democrats in the chamber saved the Conservatives and its Minister of Culture.

The parliament decision was good news for the DAB lobby but it fueled a wide spread uncertainty among the Norwegians about the future broadcasting landscape.

Today's debate revolved more about allocating blame for any blunder and the problems that may arise through the election year 2017. The main responsibility is Labour and Conservatives, but the other parties cannot absolve themselves of responsibility here. 2017 will be an exciting year in this respect, says Svein Larsen President of Norwegian Local Radio Federation to Public Access.

The switch-off will now start Jan 11, 2017 in Nordland - one of the northernmost regions and roll on during that year.  Local radio will remain on FM for at least until 2021. In 2020 another government might be able to retain FM by consider new FM concessions for local commercial radio or community radio.

Norway is still the only country in the world switching-off FM for its national channels. This is quite a risky venture as a success for DAB seems to be far away - if ever coming. Since last spring a popular resistance against the digital transition has been arising.

Most newspaper articles and editorials are negative to an FM switch-off and polls show that people do not like the whole idea of DAB replacing FM. And they don’t like the idea to scrap more than 10 million FM receivers.

According to a poll the other day for the newspaper Aftenposten 55 % was against and only 20 % was for DAB. In social media there is a lot of heat against the politicians and the public broadcaster NRK. It is very rare to find any positive arguments or news about DAB in the newspapers or social media.

Also read
Emergency Authority: Easy to Hack Norwegian DAB Radio
DAB Transition Losers in Norway: Public Radio and Commercial Networks
Norwegians Reject Transition from FM to DAB