Wednesday 10 October 2018

European Authority Closes Complaint Case Concerning DAB in Norway

Ministry of Culture submitted a completely misleading document to the EFTA Surveillance Authority. 
Norway's migration to DAB does not breach EEA rules was the conclusion of the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) in Brussels, which Oct.10 2018 closed a complaint case concerning the coordinated switchover to digital radio in Norway. However, the Norwegian Radio Listeners Association (NRLF) regrets this decision and is also critical to how the Ministry has informed and misled the Authority.

In a letter to ESA today NRLF says it is expected that the Ministry maintains an independent stance regarding DAB promoting interests. However, the Ministry has not presented a reply to questions by ESA with objectivity and sincerity. The text is misleading and contradictory in many parts according to NRLF.

Among several subjects NRLF argues that the mentioned general interest objectives, such as the freedom of expression and information, media pluralism, impartiality, cultural and linguistic diversity, social inclusion, consumer protection and the protection of minors are NOT pursued by the digitalization in Norway as claimed by the Ministry of Culture.

The process rather contradicts these objectives as it concentrates power of media ownership to three broadcasters; the state-owned NRK and two commercial media conglomerates Bauer and MTG (NENT). There are still few local radio stations on DAB in Norway.  Most of them are still on FM and also want to stay on FM beyond 2021.

The three DAB broadcasters are providing 30 channels. Except NRK P1 and P2 most content is music flow with no publicistic content (news, reports, debate etc) without any regional or local content or local/regional abutment. It is hard to see if this will benefit freedom of expression and information pluralism argues NRLF. 

Most non-profit community radio stations on FM today cater to cultural and linguistic minorities in Norway. Community radio stations are always run on a tight budget and surviving thanks to voluntary work. The local radio stations, which own their transmitters, are at great risk to disappear if being forced off FM because running a channel on a DAB multiplex, owned by another operator, will be too expensive. Also community radio is very much depending on its audience which probably will not be stay on if migrating to DAB.  

The authority has earlier received three other complaints regarding the DAB introduction in Norway and these cases are also closed. But amidst continued discontent and catastrophic listening losses for national radio a fifth complaint regarding the DAB introduction in Norway is reported to be on its way to ESA.

The Minister of Culture Trine S Grande will meet Åslaug Sem-Jacobsen MP who is critical to the FM switch-off in a debate in Stortinget (the parliament) October 25th. The first shaky year with on DAB only might not come to a happy end for the national broadcasters.

Download and read the full text of
The letter from the Ministry of Culture to ESA (September 21, 2018)
The letter from NRLF to ESA (October 10, 2018)

Also read
FM Switch-off in Norway Might Violate European Free Trade Rules
Listeners Calling on the Parliament to Restore FM Radio in Norway
Demands For a Review of the Political Decisions Regarding DAB in Norway