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Norway Sets 2017 Sunset for Analog FM

Spectrum efficiency, ‘better and broader’ radio foreseen

The Norwegian Culture Ministry has released a white paper, Digitalization of Radio Media, outlining plans for a primarily digital future for radio in the country.

According to the document, released Feb. 4, the national public and commercial radio services will end analog transmissions on FM in 2017; local radio will have the option to continue on FM.

“Digitization will ensure a more efficient utilization of frequency spectrum, and a transition to digital radio can provide a better and broader radio offering in the form of several radio channels and additional digital services,” according to the preface of the report.

The 2017 date does have some preconditions, however.

The ministry wants to see at least half of all daily radio listening to be via a digital platform — DAB/DAB+/DMB-T, Internet or digital television — and for “satisfactory and reasonable solutions for the car” to be available by 2015. If neither of these conditions are met by 2015, the shutoff date will shift to 2019.

Also, all of the national channels of public-service broadcaster NRK must have digital reach equivalent to that of the main national channel, P1, by Jan. 1, 2015. The national commercial broadcasters will have to digital coverage of at least 90 percent of the population by the same date.

The ministry also said that digital radio must offer greater value to listeners in terms of more channels, content, service and sound and reception quality.

Additional requirements may also be set as 2017 approaches.

In a press release announcing the white paper, Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stated, “The radio industry wants a liquidation [of FM], and the government now takes active steps to facilitate a transition to digital radio and to take care of listeners’ interests.”

Currently, about 80 percent of the Norwegian population is reached by DAB signals from NRK.

According to Gunnar Garfors, CEO of the Norwegian Mobile TV Corp. (NMTV) and president of the International DMB Advancement Group (IDAG), NRK will be able to provide more people with more radio channels from fewer transmitters by switching from FM to DAB, resulting in significant power savings.

A 2007 report on radio digitization noted the need for clear signals from the government if full digitization was to occur.