Why This Country is the First in the World to Shut Down FM Radio

Vintage radios | © Igor Ovsyannykov / Unsplash
Vintage radios | © Igor Ovsyannykov / Unsplash
Photo of Danai Christopoulou
19 December 2017

The gramophone. The rotary dial telephone. The analogue camera. All great inventions of a past we have left behindand FM Radio, in Norway at least, is now one of them. The complete transition to digital radio, which started back in January, is now officially completed, but Norwegians are definitely in two minds about it. Tune in (can we even use this pun anymore?) for more information on this historic transition below.

The idea behind the switchover

Switching completely from FM to digital has many advantages: it allows for better sound quality, offers the possibility of having way more channels, and functions at “an eighth of the cost of FM radio”—at least according to the Norwegian authorities. After almost a year of transitioning, the country’s northernmost regions (as well as the Svalbard archipelago) switched to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) last week. Of course, the change so far involves only national radio channels—most local stations continue to broadcast on FM.

Isfjord Ration Station, Svalbard, one of the last places to go digital | © vargryder / Flickr

The argument for analog

We all know that person. The one who insists that “music sounds better on LPs” or sighs in front of pinhole cameras because “they don’t make them like that anymore.” And while being nostalgic about retro things is cute, it is not the case here: most Norwegians are vexed about the digital switchover for very practical reasons.

For one, there have been some technical incidents after the switch that have led people to believe that there is not enough DAB coverage across the country. There’s also the cost of having to buy a new receiver or adapter, usually priced between 1,000-2,000 NOK. This has led to a 10% drop of listeners throughout this year (for instance, now only 49% of motorists listen to DAB in their cars), with the public broadcaster NRK losing 21 % of their audience.

Vintage car radio | © Daniel von Appen / Unsplash

Historically speaking, after every big technological change like this, people have been hesitant at first—but ultimately adopt it and realize it’s an improvement. And Norway is just the beginning: countries like Switzerland, Britain, and Denmark will also be making the digital switchover in the years to come. We’ll remember you fondly, FM radio, but it’s time to go.

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