Friday 2 November 2018

Norwegian Government's War Against Local FM Radio in the Capital

Fines, fees and debt collection hit FM stations.
Waking memories from the War and 1943.

With only half of the car park DAB radio installed, many people continue to listen to FM on local radio. Also reception problems for DAB, listening to Radio Metro and other local stations on FM have significantly increased. This is a problem for the two major commercial actors and the government: There is a decision that there should be no commercial broadcasts in Oslo, says John-Eivind Velure, manager of spectrum at the National Communications Authority (Nkom). Nkom argues that radio entrepreneur Svein Larsen is operating illegal broadcasts in the Oslo area and has now announced sanctions.

Following co-ordinated closure of FM for nationwide broadcasting and commercial broadcasts in four major cities in 2017, no-one should be able to receive such stations in the FM band. But anyone who drives a car without DAB radio in Oslo knows that it is far from quiet in the air. For example, driving from Oslo to Gardermoen and we can listen to content on frequencies that are not allowed to broadcast, said Elisabeth Aarsæther, Nkom, at a crisis meeting at the Ministry of Culture earlier this fall.

Asker and Bærum Lokalradio reach half a million people in the Oslo area. They use antennas that are higher mounted in the mast and have a different direction than they should have, said Velure Nkom to the newspaper Dagens Næringsliv. We believe this has been done intentionally and there are serious violations of several parts of the regulatory framework.

Now, local radio stations are threatened with fines, charges, debt collection and ultimately revocation of permits. Nkom believes that the breach of the broadcasting license for Asker and Bærum Lokal radio is part of a coherent and total violation of the Electronic Communications Act. A sum of NOK 88,000 kr for Radio Rox to use a strong transmitter, which is not paid, has been forwarded to debt collection.

FM broadcasts received in Oslo have been a pain in the neck of Swedish-owned P4 and German Bauer Media, the two major commercial radio broadcasters in Norway. After national FM shutdown, they are DAB-only.

At the national level, P4 and Bauer control the market for radio advertising. But on the profitable market in the capital Larsen and his channels are still a business. P4 and Bauer argue that Larsen's FM broadcasts will delay the change of technology to DAB, and have called for action by the authorities.

Svein Larsen, CEO of Radio Metro and Radio Rox, writes in a letter to Medietilsynet and Nkom explaining why FM transmitter with permissible power reaches longer than before. This is because, among other things, when the national channels turned off their FM transmitter, the interference became completely different and the FM signals will have a better reach than before, Larsen writes.

Read more (in Norwegian)

Varsel om tvangsmulkt, gebyr og inkasso mot fm-stasjoner i Oslo, Asker og Bærum (Dagens Næringsliv)
Trues med heftige bøter (

Analysis & comments
Today Radio Metro and similar stations in Oslo are heard from broadcasters located outside the "forbidden" area. In addition, Oslo residents on FM can listen to non-commercial local radio stations and cross-border to Swedish radio stations such as public broadcaster SR P3 and P4 as well as Radio Prime in Bohuslän. In addition, Nkom are hunting pirate FM stations, which to and fro appears on the FM band.

The parliament decided that the national FM networks should be closed in 2017 for a complete switch-over to DAB+. However, local radio may be broadcast on FM at least until 2021. Exceptions were made;  not any commercial local radio on FM in the four largest cities; Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim.

The intention was to protect the two commercial actors Bauer and MTG from market competition from FM radio. The arrangement was questioned from the outset. When government agencies began to attend the commercial local radio that was also heard in Oslo, there were also angry reactions from listeners, such as organized a collection to help Radio Metro pay its fines. Reactions to the now even harder tone from the authorities are now rising. Many ask themselves why the government in this way distorts competition in the radio market and is backing-up two foreign media groups against Norwegian owned local interests.

Many have also been aware of Norway is so far the only country in the world tryin to force radio listeners from FM to DAB. Anger is raging in social media. In some cases this also triggers world war memories when the occupying power seized all radio receivers so that no-one could not listen to the BBC, Sweden, etc. The unpopular enforcement of DAB now poses a risk of reduced trust confidence, in government including its public broadcaster NRK, which has spearheaded the DAB project.

The P4 group (MTG/NENT) seems not to be fond of local competitors. The company has lately diligently watched the government, because of dramatically decreasing listening volume for commercial channels. Listen to national radio in Norway has fallen 18.5% in one year.

Read telecom authority Nkom letter to Radio Rox (in Norwegian)

Also read
Listeners Calling on the Parliament to Restore FM Radio in Norway
National Radio Network Switch-over from FM to DAB+ in Norway
European Authority Closes Complaint Case Concerning DAB in Norway
50 Percent of Norwegians Do Not Switch to DAB. Rather Stay on FM
Why DAB Radio in Norway, But Not in Sweden?