A desperate Government attempt to save the DAB radio project
In a consultation proposal, the Ministry of Culture proposes that local FM radio stations in Oslo and four other metro cities should not be allowed to continue broadcasting commercials. - The purpose of the license condition is to protect the Parliament's previous conditions that these radio stations must have a non-commercial operating base. During the current period, the Norwegian media authority has experienced that the permit condition has been circumvented through market adjustments in order to be able to include analogue broadcast blocks in the switch-off areas in advertising sales, the ministry writes and believes that a ban on advertising is better. - But what is the real story here?
The Parliament has previously decided that local radio may continue to broadcast on FM until 2027. The proposal is justified by the fact that local radio needs more time to be able to ”digitize”, i.e. transfer to DAB (Internet is not mentioned). However, a ban on commercial local radio was introduced on FM in the five metro cities to increase listener share on DAB for public broadcaster NRK, commercial P4gruppen (MTG/NENT) and Bauer Media when they switched off their FM transmitters in 2017. For local radio on FM outside the big cities, and on DAB, applies to completely different rules still unchanged.
The Ministry also wants the ban on co- and retransmission in the extinguishing areas is removed and replaced with a rule that the licensee must broadcast its own programs. - This means that the broadcasts must consist of content with independent editorial activities and a separate profile. Program collaboration or co-productions are not allowed. In special cases, an exemption can be granted from this ban if it can be documented that it is a matter of mutual cooperation on program exchange, the ministry writes.
NRL -the Norwegian Local Radio Association - has reacted harshly against the proposal and demands that the rules be eased instead of tightened. A continued strict attitude to local radio on FM can damage media diversity, says NLR in a General Assembly resolution.
Analysis and commentary
The Ministry is obscuring lots of true fact. Commercial local stations on FM threaten the national DAB initiative. DAB has so far not achieved any success for radio in the form of increased listening numbers. Instead, there are still many complaints about poor reception conditions mainly drop-outs and poor sound quality since the national FM network was shut down.
Many Norwegians are now also aware that DAB radio has not achieved any global success after three decades since market introducution . DAB radio has very few listeners in the world and only one (1) other country, Switzerland, is considering an FM switch-off. The rest of the world retains FM radio, probably for decades to come, alongside digital radio on the Internet.
In order for the DAB project to survive,it is postulated that all radio listeners must switch to a common terrestrial radio platform, even for local radio. The issue has become increasingly acute as it has been reported that the two national commercial radio companies are not profitable in Norway. Bauer and NENT are only broadcasting on DAB. And the local radio on FM is still popular with approximately 20% listening share. Adding to this there is also cross-border listening on FM primarily Danish and Swedish stations.
So far, the ministry has not demonstrated reasonable technical or economic reasons for the world-unique Norwegian decision that the FM band should be empty from.o.m. 2027. There are no other uses on this band rather than for audio broadcasting. Norway is also bound by international agreements that naturally affect neighboring countries, all of which continue to broadcast on FM. Thus, it is not difficult to understand that it is only a matter of saving the Bauer and NENT operations in Norway. These companies, unlike tax-financed NRK, are completely dependent on being able to sell a large audience to their advertisers. And then everyone has to listen to DAB, not FM.
The Ministry of Culture should put democracy and citizens' interests first and foremost. The Ministry cannot continue to be manipulated by commercial stakeholders and DAB lobbyists. And perhaps even come to the realization that NRK has not yet told the whole truth about the DAB system's shortcomings and fragile future. But do politicians dare to admit that they have been led astray? Do politicians understand the collusion behind the introduction of DAB?
The Memorable Official Quote
The United States was the first country to put a man on the moon. Now Norway becomes
the first country to shut down the FM network in order to only use DAB radio.
“That’s one small step for a country. And one giant leap for mankind".
(The Norwegian ambassador in Washington DC 2017)