As It Happens

Digital killed the radio frequency — Norway plans to shut down FM

Norway will become the first country to abandon FM radio in 2017 when it switches completely to digital.
(Chaloner Woods/Getty Images)

Traditional radio in Norway will soon be dead. The country has announced it is shutting off FM transmission  — making Norway the first country to go fully digital.

The reason? To save money — funds that will instead be spent on expanding offerings on digital radio.

"We are saying goodbye to five national radio stations, but we gain the capacity for 40 stations," Ole Torvmark, the head of Digital Radio Norway, explained to As It Happens host Carol Off.

The shutdown begins in the northern city of Bodo on Jan. 11

Right now, only about half of Norwegians listen to radio digitally. But Torvmark is confident they will embrace the switch over the next two-and-a-half years. He expects that many people will now start shopping for digital receivers.

Torvmark doesn't think that the older generation will be angry about losing FM radio. Already, Norway's public broadcaster has created a digital station aimed at seniors. And it's been a huge success. It's the sixth-most popular station in Norway.

"That's because they could get their old music back and also a lot of their old radio hosts. We sold a lot of DAB radios because of that," he says.
An old radio station, now a telegraph museum, is seen in the mining town Ny-Alesund Svalbard in Norway. By the end of 2017, all national FM broadcasts will be closed in favour of digital. (Anna Filipova/Reuters)

DAB is the digital broadcasting system used in Norway. (It's not used in Canada.) Listeners can pull it in for free on their digital receivers. They can also listen to digital radio online or through digital TV.

Torvmark expects many countries will follow Norway's lead, especially those in Europe that already use DAB systems.

"Of course, when you leave something you have been living with for many decades it's a little bit sad," he said.

"But you see the new benefits you get. As with digital TV, people don't want to switch back when they have the better quality and the better choice."

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