Sunday 28 February 2016

Unscrupulous DAB Introduction Will Kill Local Radio in Norway

Sharply reduced state aid to local radio, community and minority radio.
The poor must give to the rich. A successful initiative by the DAB lobby.
Despite strong protests from the local radio community, the rules for state aid to local radio changed dramatically by a decision of the Ministry of Culture. Half of the aid that previously earmarked for program production and minority radio will now be earmarked for a transition to DAB radio. Also state support to the local radio federation has been reduced by two thirds.

The community radio which broadcasts minority programs have received an annual payment of NOK 40-50,000 for operation and investment for now NOK 20-25,000. This means that many immigrant and Sami local radio stationen in Norway will be closed, says Hans Dahle editor at Radio Latin America. It's clear that we, the minority radio is unwanted.

The Norwegian Local Radio Association (NLR) has earlier stated that the proposed changes would be dramatic for media sector already in a weak position. In worst cases, this will affect both media pluralism and freedom of expression. Also NLR will suffer by significantly reduced state support for its operation by the change. Operating support represents 60% of the union's total income. More than two thirds of the assistance are now disappearing overnight.

More facts and analysis

The Norwegian decision to take from the poor and give to the rich is unique in the radio field. Even with the aid for a DAB transition local radio can afford this especially the volunteer-run community radio - including minority radio. Instead, the measure promotes the interests of the major players - the public radio and the two commercial networks (i.e. the DAB lobby) which will be relieved from competition from local businesses and voluntary commitment. 

As a bonus the major players will also get rid of an annoying resistance to a switch from FM to DAB. A resistance that is now beginning to engage local politicians, who are quite late discovering what is happening. But unlike in for example Sweden the DAB lobby in Norway retains an iron-tight grip on the Ministry of Culture and the parliamentarians.

The Norwegian DAB decision means that all national as well as major local radio stations next year must leave the FM and go DAB+ only. The small-scale local radio stations and community radio may continue for another five years on FM. Then the FM band in Norway is set to become empty for Norwegian broadcasting, but a large part of the population can continue listening to FM broadcasts from neighboring Sweden. Norway has not presented any plans to use empty an FM band for other purposes after 2021.

There is strong and widespread opposition within the small scale broadcasting community - locally based commercial radio and community radio - in Europe to switch from FM to DAB. The most important reason is that locally owned and operates radio stations will not have the financial resources for this. Community radio also are at risk losing large parts of its audience as FM will be retained remains in most countries (except Norway) even where DAB has been expanded.

The two European organizations for community radio AMARC Europe and the Community Media Forum Europe have declared that FM should be retained. In case of digitization of terrestrial radio the preference is DRM+ in the FM band rather than DAB which is seen as too expensive and too complicated. Even AER - European organization for commercial radio - want to retain FM. AER has stated that the business model of commercial radio is based on the fact that FM is a simple and effective technique.

Also read (in English)

Also read (in Swedish)