Sunday 8 April 2018

No FM Radio Switch-Off in Denmark. Lack of Political Support

Analysis: DAB lobby pushing government officials
The Minister of Culture Mette Bock (Liberal Alliance) has presented a proposal to close FM by 2021 in order to promote digital radio (i.e. DAB). A closure of FM is an issue of survival for the DAB system and its stakeholders (mainly EBU and WorldDAB) who want more countries to follow Norway's example. DAB+ has a very slow growth in Denmark, with only about 15% listening on a weekly basis, while Teracom, the DAB network operator, finds it difficult to secure additional channels - besides those already on both DAB+ and FM - in its new multiplex.

The condition to turn off FM when "digital listening has reached 50%" is a kind of formula or concept once created by the DAB lobby and has been used as a standard expression in Denmark and Norway. In Britain, the term is now out of date since the BBC has declared that it no longer has any plans for an FM closure. However, the term is misleading because it is not just about DAB but also includes digital platforms as Internet, satellite and TV networks. In addition, it does not matter to for a listening situation if the signal is analog or digital. In most countries today the term ”digital radio” is synonymous with radio on the Internet.

Already in Folketinget, the parliament, two of the three biggest parties - Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and Social Democrats - have already rejected this proposal. And even the government party Ventre (Liberals) hesitates. The government will now negotiate with DF and perhaps also other parties in Folketinget for a new media agreement which covers Denmarks Radio and other public service activities 2019-2023. The FM switch-off proposal will be a detail of this multiparty agreenment.

The motorist organization FDM is negative because of the high costs of installing DAB receivers in cars (approx DKK 5.000). The media business organization Danske Medier finds that a closure is in violation of the conditions that led to the new local broadcasting on FM in 2017 with ten years licensing. Local radio stations have sought and received new broadcasting licenses on the clear assumption that the FM network will be operated until most listeners are digital and radio stations have invested based on this premise, says director of Danske Medier Marianne Bugge Zederkof.

Many are surprised by at the sudden proposal of the Minister of Culture to accelerate an FM switch-off.  There has been no pressure on the matter from any other political party in the parliament or not even in the minority government. Nor can the Minister of Culture report on any consumer or listener demand. It is only the DAB lobby that is pushing for this. The lobby is finding its ways via non-partisan chief government officials putting DAB on the agenda for the ministers of culture. This is how the lobby by circumventing a democratic political structure has established a top-level presence in Denmark as well as in Norway.

DAB+ is broadcast on a regular basis In the Baltic and Nordic area only in Denmark and Norway. Finland, Latvia and Sweden have rejected DAB. Norway is continuing with FM for local radio and DAB+ for national channels.

Read more (in Danish)
To millioner biler i Danmark bliver berørt, hvis FM-signal slukkes, siger FDM (TV2)
Regeringen vil lukke for FM-radio senest i 2021 (Danske Medier)

Also read
368 New FM Broadcast Licenses Issued in Denmark
Danish Report: DAB Radio Will Not Replace FM in The Near Future
BBC: No Switch-Off Plans for FM Radio