Good news for local radio but not for the DAB lobby
Today the government led by the conservative Erna Solberg was replaced by a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Center Party (Sp). The new government declaration clarifies that the focus is on local radio being able to continue broadcasting on FM until 2031. MP Åslaug Sem-Jacobsen (Sp) has supported local radio in the desire for extension and is very pleased with today's statement: This is something I have worked a lot with, and therefore I am happy that we in SP have had an impact on the platform, she says. Even if this coalition government will not have a majority in the Stortinget, Sem-Jacobsen believes that the proposal will be adopted.
Local radio outside the big cities was allowed to continue as before when the national radio channels left FM 2017. In the metro cities, commercial local radio was banned on FM, but there are still a number of local radio stations on FM in these cities. It is important for our media diversity that local radio gets the best possible framework conditions and the opportunity to develop in the way they believe is best. Local radio, together with other local media, is very important to us in SP, says Sem-Jacobsen to lokalradio.no
Facts and analysis
Norway is still the only country in the world which have replaced FM with the digital system DAB for national radio. The only other country with plans to completely replace FM with DAB is Switzerland. In the rest of the world, FM is retained. There is widespread impression that DAB has not become the success that was promised 20 years ago. The investment in Norway is considered a failure.
International experience has shown that a transition to DAB entails additional costs for radio listeners, but it will be particularly costly for those who run local radio outside the big cities. It costs approximately 26,000 euro to invest in a small size DAB transmitter in Norway, which will be an impossibility for non-profit community radio stations. Despite a state subsidy of 5,000 euro, for example, Radio DSF now has a local radio station in Finnmark that broadcasts on both FM and DAB and has now ceased local DAB in Troms.
The two international organizations for local radio Community Media Forum Europe and AMARC Europe have previously emphasized in a letter to the European Commission the importance of community radio retaining FM. The organisations are not against future digitization but rather advocates a different technology than DAB, namely DRM.
In the other Nordic countries and the Baltics, FM radio is still the main platform for both national and local radio. People who no longer listen to FM have mainly switched to radio on the Internet with its bonus add-ons as pod and play (on demand) services.
In Denmark, DAB has been around for 20 years with about 20% of listening. Sweden has also had DAB since 1995, but no listener figures have ever been reported. Finland has renounced the possibility of using allocated frequency band for DAB and has instead legislated for mandatory FM radio in cars.
The question is whether Norwegian local radio listeners can now breathe a sigh of relief. Regardless of which Minister of Culture held the post, the agenda for FM and DAB has for more than fifteen years been controlled by some senior officials in the ministry and NRK. Here you can find an explanation why Norway differs from the rest of the world in terms of FM radio.
It should also be reminded here that the problem with the ban on advertising in local radio on FM in the big cities has yet to be solved. Before the general election this fall, there was a political majority against this ban.