Friday 18 September 2015

Eurolegal Roadblock for the DAB+ Transition in Norway

Closure of FM in Norway may encounter a setback.
Norway is not member of the European Union, but an EEA member (European Economic Agreement) and needs to follow the articles and laws that EU/EEA requires.  The Norwegian Local Radio Association NLF has written a letter to the Ministry of Culture to get an answer to this basic question: Is the Norwegian FM switch-off decision legal with respect to our EEA agreement?  
A closure of the FM band is regarded as the decisive factor for a DAB+ success in Norway.

The reason that we are considering taking the matter before the ESA (EFTA Surveillance Authority) is that a closure of the FM band and forced transition to DAB technology involves a serious encroachment on members' freedom of enterprise and the ability to operate local radio. It would appear that the Ministry of Culture has not considered these issues adequately, says Svein Larsen, chairman of the NLF. 

In the letter via a law firm in Oslo NLF insists the ministry answer the following questions:
- Has the government taken the EEA article 11 (free circulation of goods) into consideration when it's not possible to use FM receivers or transmitters in Norway?
- Has the government taken the EEA article 31 (freedom of establishment within the EEA) into consideration when it's not possible to use FM frequencies?

Norway is the only country in the world that has decided to close the FM network with coercion. It is particularly unfortunate and, may be unlawful, said Per Morten Hoff, Secretary General of ICT Norway in Politically it is quite possible to let FM live on, at least for some years. One must postpone FM closure while the case is being tried by the ESA. 

In the letter to the government NLF also questions how the government owned public radio NRK has used license fee funding for its DAB project. This might not be in accordance with European rules against state support. Especially since this project also has been supportive for the digitalization of commercial radio in Norway via a NRK-MTG jointly owned lobbying company Digitalradio Norge.

NLF requests the culture ministry a listing of all the funds NRK has used for the DAB project since the first test transmissions in 1994.

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