Sunday 23 April 2017

FM Radio Retained in Norway - Also After 2022

No political decision to force local radio to go DAB.  Major losses for commercial networks after transition but local radio are winners
The authorities have now confirmed that there are no plans to close down the FM network 2022 according to the Norwegian Local Radio Federation. Only national channels will close their FM transmitter 2017, while most local radio stations have permits to broadcast on FM until 2022. It has been unclear if the local radio will continue on FM after that date. In a letter from the Ministry of Culture to the EFTA Surveillance Authority ESA, it is clear that there is no decision on what will happen to FM radio after 2022.

This is one of our major victories so far, says Svein Larsen, the federation chairman at the national local radio conference in Stavanger. He believes it is important for the federation to support those who want to continue on FM. He also introduced double-digit audience figures in Bodø since the national channels switched-off their FM transmitters. Especially Radio 3 Bodø has gained 62% more listeners, while commercial public channels P4 and Radio Norway have fallen dramatically.

Both Radio 3 Bodø, a member of the federation, and other local radio stations which can be listen to in Bodø have made good gains since public radio NRK,  and commercial networks P4 and Radio Norway, switched off their FM broadcastering in the Nordland county in early January. Local radio in Bodø has previously calculated with 40% more listeners when the major competitors would disappear. It went much better than that. Other local radio stations in Bodø including FM8000 have increased their weekly figures from 6.3% to 16.7%. That's an increase more than 165%.

National channels P4 and Radio Norway both have a sharp decline in Bodø per week during the first quarter of 2016. Both channels have lost between the third and half of their listeners in Bodø. NRK P1 has actually increased its support from 31.5 to 42.3%, whereas the youth channel NRK P3 has almost been wiped out from 33 to 10.7%.

Local radio in Nordland, which was the first county to close the FM channels, has increased by 80% this year. The NRK P1 has generally managed well, decreasing from 40% to 36%, which means a 10% decrease.  Also there is a 30 % decrease for the commercial national channels in Nordland.

This week, commercial P4 and Radio Norway close their FM transmitters in Møre-Romsdal and Trøndelag County. NRK closes its broadcastd in Telemark, Buskerud, Hedmark and Oppland. In December, all national channels in Norway have closed their FM transmitters, while local radio, both commercial and non-commercial (community radio) will continue on FM.

Prior to the 2011 parliament decision to switch to DAB +, one of the two private commercial networks demanded that in order to succeed in the DAB initiative, all local radio must be forced to abandon FM, even outside the metropolitan areas. However, the Stortinget rejected this request. Given the strong public opinion against the FM switch-off in Norway, there is a bleak outlook for such an solution.

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