Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is The Norway Switch-Off The Beginning Of The End For FM Radio?

DAB Digital Radio image
Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that the country will be switching out its national FM radio stations in favor of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in 2017. This marks the first country to make the big switch from an analog communications service that was a staple of the last century to a more modern digital version.

Many give FM radio credit for pushing music to new heights in the late 60s and 70s thanks to experimental playlists that deviated significantly from the tight Top 40 oriented ones featured on the large AM radio stations of the time. The fact that FM also featured a much higher quality audio signal that was broadcast in stereo during a period when hi-fi systems were a staple of every dorm room helped change the face of the music business and the audience alike in the U.S. By 1978, FM radio listenership had eclipsed AM.

FM does have its limitations, one being that it’s range is limited compared to AM, but a major reason for Norway making the switch is the operating costs. The Culture Ministry estimates that it costs eight times less to currently offer 22 DAB channels than it does for five FM channels. That amounts to a savings of around $25 million per year.

Another thing in DAB’s favor in Norway is that 56% of people already listen to it, with about 20% having that ability in their cars. DAB has failed to make the same inroads in the U.S. however, with 90% of the population still listening to FM at least once a week, according to a Pew survey.

One fear among Norwegian broadcasters is that they’ll lose too much of their current audience when the switch is made. The hope is by setting a switch-off date several years in the future, it will give its citizens enough time to equip for the upcoming change. The problem is that this could be just the impetus to switch even further into the digital realm by bypassing DAB altogether and going to an Internet streaming service like Spotify instead. Read more on Forbes.

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