Nor-way! Scandinavian country becomes world’s first to axe FM radio entirely

Norway, the country hitherto known for its magnificent fjords and robust human rights record, has become the first country in the world to do away with FM radio for national channels. Inhabitants – shock, horror – are now being forced to choose between DAB (digital audio broadcasting) or no (national) radio at all, though local stations will continue to broadcast on FM.

Nor-way! Scandinavian country becomes world’s first to axe FM radio entirely

The country has opted out of the FM radio club, and some are none too happy about it. It’s not just popular opposition to the change, either; defiant radio stations such as Oslo’s Metro Group are persisting with their FM broadcasts, despite government orders to cease the practice. We’d say there’s trouble in paradise, but considering the “scooter to the ankle” that 2017’s been (as one Twitter user put it), this hardly amounts to turmoil.

The controversial move was accelerated when many of Norway’s most remote regions had their digital signals activated – including the Arctic Svalbard archipelago – freeing the government up to invoke a switch off of the traditional signal. The transition has not taken people unawares, being formally set into motion on 11 January this year.

Why the radical overhaul? Those in favour attest to the ostensible superiority of DAB radio, arguing that it receives better signal, is less noisy and offers a wider range of channels, as well as being an eighth of the cost of FM radio. What’s more, DAB doesn’t have the same MHz limitations in terms of the distance one radio station needs to be from another to reduce interference.

In reality, it’s not as clear cut as that. DAB transmits on a smaller range of frequencies, meaning FM radio actually sometimes come in clearer than its more modern counterpart. More importantly, many fear they’ll be left behind; many older cars, for example, aren’t technically equipped to support DAB radio. The absence of FM radio on those empty, icy Norwegian roads will no doubt be felt palpably by those traversing them. And with over half the cars in Norway estimated not to boast the new technology, the impact of the change will not be negligible.

Though the change has sparked controversy, it’s likely to inspire copycat moves in other countries, including the UK. Don’t despair just yet; many places in the country aren’t covered by DAB signal yet, meaning the plan won’t be rolled out for a while. In the meantime, boss of Roberts Radio Owen Watters has spearheaded the release of a portable DAB player, presciently cashing in on the move. I’m no fund manager, but I reckon now’s a good time to invest in DAB. Thanks to Norway, the floodgates have opened, with any number of countries lined up to bite the bullet next.

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