Sunday, 29 July 2018

The DAB Radio Project in Norway Is Derailing

Increasing political and business demands for a return to FM
For the first time daily listening to national radio is down under 50% in Norway. Last week down to 48,5% from 51,2% the week before according to Kantar TNS.  Although the Norwegians now have an increased number of on-air channels to choose from there is a widespread discontent with DAB replacing FM.  For several reasons DAB is far from becoming popular as projected by the public broadcaster NRK and other promoters.

There are frustration with the globally unique move trying to force the population to replace their FM receivers with DAB+. Most Norwegians are aware of this have not been done before in any other country. Also that most countries as neighbouring Finland and Sweden are not going to switch to DAB . Norwegians driving into Sweden for summer holidays in July also discover the sharp contrast in sound quality between the public broadcasting channels in Norway on DAB and in Sweden on FM.

The most common reported problems with DAB are:
- Failing geographical coverage especially countryside and at sea
- Frequent drop outs or distorted sound while driving a car or a boat
- Inferior sound quality (compared to FM and on-line radio) with no true stereo
- High battery consumption for portables.

 
The DAB promoters had plan this to be the summer of DAB but it did not go their way at all. According to polls there are no signs of acceptance by the listeners.  And resistance against the DAB project is increasing since the switch-off year 2017. Frequently articles and editorials negative to DAB are published in major and regional newspapers. Still, it is quite impossible to find any positive news about DAB anywhere. The only positive contributions are published by persons connected to the DAB lobby. They will tell you that there no problems with DAB. If there is a problem it is the listener’s fault (installation, antenna etc).

The pod radio series ”Hvem slutet lyset på FM” (Who switched off the light for FM?) has been published in 24 parts since March this year. Today, more than 31.000 downloads have been registred. There are several Facebook groups engaging the opposition to DAB radio. The group ”Nej til tvångsinføring av DAB” (No to compulsive DAB) has more than 9.000 members and is still moving.

Norwegians are discovering that the transition to DAB+ was a project initiated and operated by a limited group of persons working at the public broadcaster NRK, the two commercial foreign-owned broadcasters Bauer and MTG and an official at the Ministry of Culture. Fueled by EBU and the lobby organisation WorldDAB.

The project has not market been driven by listeners demand or by a clean political initiative. In polls 60% or more and not happy with the FM switch-off. The nation is increasingly coming to the conclusion that the DAB project is a tragic mistake.

The switch-off has been followed by a dramatic decrease in listenership. Listening numbers from 2018 suggests that the national channels combined has lost more than 15% of their listeners compared to 2016.

However, this number does not include local radio stations which are still broadcasting on FM. Many of them reports a doubling or tripling of their listening figures. Cross-border FM listening is not reported. Approx. 5% of Norwegians are estimated listening to Swedish FM radio which is reaching about half of the population.

PPM numbers from Kantar TNS shows that only 48,5% of the population listened to national channels daily in week 28. (local radio not included) .This is the worst listening figures ever recorded in Norway and, although a dip in summer is normal, this has led to loud voices demanding a reopening of FM. Neighbouring Finland and Sweden (with no DAB) have daily listening of 68-75%.

I have been on this trip from start, writes Arne-Inge Christophersen at the media bureau Hausmann. It is tragical to experience that radio is not the media channel it was. The only reason is the FM switch-off and the introduction of DAB - in the only country in Europe. In ad biz magazine Kampanje he writes that radio listenership is probably the lowest since 1945 and that radio is becoming less attractive for advertiser.  He ends his article with ”the cow is not dead, but the grass is withering”.

This week, Senterpartiet (Center Party), a leading liberal opposition party in the Parliament, made a clear statement: Reopen FM!  Media spokesperson MP Åslaug Sem-Jacobsen says: It is vital for both media diversity or the safety of our country that radio listening is increased to a very different level. To secure the future of radio we have to switch the national FM-band back on before even more listeners disappears.

Meanwhile there are reports that also MPs from other parties are reconsidering their support for the 2017 FM switch-off. One of the three parties in the coalition government - Frp, the Progress Party - also have an FM switch-back inscribed in its political program. With an increasingly vocal opinion against DAB and for FM radio it looks like radio will be in focus on the political scene when the Norwegians are returning from their holidays in August.

Also read
Political demands to reopen FM in Norway (Radionytt.no)
Trolig laveste lyttertall for radio i Norge etter krigen (Kampanje)

Laveste radiolytting siden 2. verdenskrig med DAB (Nettavisen)

The Nordic Expert Group technical evaluation report:
Crucial technical problems with the DAB system

Norwegian MP: DAB Radio in Norway Is a Tragedy
50 Percent of Norwegians Do Not Switch to DAB. Rather Stay on FM
Why DAB Radio in Norway, But Not in Sweden?