Tuesday 17 January 2017

Norway Is Not a Trendsetter for FM Radio

No DAB  for U.S. commercial radio. Will never turn off FM
The Norwegian parliament’s forced turn-off of many FM analog radio stations in favor of digital audio broadcasting (DAB) is causing not just static, but outright anger. Opinion polls indicate 66 percent of Norwegians oppose the shutdown, with only 17 percent in favor. The angst stems from the fact that the shutdown could leave tens of thousands of people without access to some of their favorite free and local radio stations. On the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) policy blog Christopher Ornelas, Chief Operating Officer, asks if it could happen in the United States.

He writes that The Great Oslo Radio Experiment has prompted a smattering of press reports suggesting that America may eventually follow suit.  No. No. A thousand times – No. In fact, for American radio, this development is much ado about nothing.

The reasons according to Ornelas are:

• Norway has 5 million radio listeners; there are 268 million listeners in the U.S. every week;
• Many of Norway’s radio stations are state-owned; in the U.S., commercial radio listening dominates the charts in most places.
• Norway is converting to digital radio using a completely different technology than we are in the U.S.

That last bullet point is especially important. Norway long ago adopted a digital radio transition plan completely at odds with the plan adopted in the U.S. Norway requires two separate swaths of spectrum for radio – one for its FM stations and another for its digital radio channels. It costs the government (and broadcasters) extra money to run both services to deliver the same content. Turning off analog FM is apparently seen by the Norwegian parliament as a cost-saving efficiency – even though actual radio listeners in Norway are quite unhappy about losing this service.

By contrast, the U.S. chose a different path to digital radio, writes Ornelas. Our system, “in-band, on channel digital” – better known now as HD Radio – uses identical spectrum and the same channels for both analog and digital services. Thus, there’s no cost-saving advantage to shutting down analog FM services in America. More than 2,300 radio stations in the U.S. have converted to HD Radio, which improves the radio listening experience and affords American radio stations a remarkable array of advanced capabilities.

Ornelas' bottom line: No way will America go Norway’s route and “turn off” FM radio. It’s just not going to happen, in my lifetime or yours.

Read the complete text on NAB Policy Blog

Facts:  The total number of radio stations in the US is approx. 20.000.  On FM there are 6.600 commercial, 4.000 public radio (NPR) or educational and 1.500 non-commercial community radio (LPFM). Adding to this on analog and digital mediumwave 4.700 radio stations - most commercial.

Also read
National Radio Network Switch-over from FM to DAB+ in Norway