The radio world has been watching Norway to see if its bold experiment to switch off Analog FM radio and replace it with DAB+ digital radio will be successful.
So far so good, according to Jørn Jensen (pictured) from Norway’s national broadcaster NRK.
Jensen was in Malaysia this week at the DBS2017 Digital Broadcasting Symposium, just weeks after the first FM transmitters in Norway were switched off.
The country plans a phased switch off of FM (there are no AM stations on air in Norway) throughout this year, with small regional areas switched off first and the major cities turned off by December.
“They thought we were mad, but we are proving them wrong,” Jensen told conference delegates.
The first region switched off went without a hitch, according to Jensen, due to significant promotion of the switch off, personal visits from radio staff to help people understand how their digital radios worked, and long term planning in the lead up to FM switch off and DAB+ switch on.
“From 1995 we built out coverage, then [manufacturers] made the receivers and they were all in the shops, then the plan for switch off began growing slowly.”
Enticing people to buy digital radios was a key to the long term planning, and Jensen explained that this was done by introducing new channels that targeted specific segments of the community. Older listeners, younger listeners and jazz music lovers were three audience segments who got new channels thanks to digital, and they quickly embraced their specialist new channels according to Jensen. Norway’s radio spectrum was full, so there was no opportunity to introduce any new channels on the analog spectrum, one of the prime reasons for moving to digital.
“We wanted to future proof our radio industry,” he said.
Once all analog services are switched off there will be significant operating expenditure savings for all the country’s radio companies as transmission power costs plummet.
In a conference session at DBS2017, Jensen outlines the steps in the digital radio switch over and, below, he talks about the oldies radio channel that has been the driving force in convincing older audiences to switch to digital radio.
But not everyone is as positive as Jensen… see the reader comments at the bottom of this report.
In Nordland county, were the first shut off has happened, these are the statistics, with current figures shown first and previous figures (before switch off) shown in brackets:
· Number of DAB radios total: 224,000 (previously 165,000)
· Number of DAB in car: 53.000 (previously 39.000)
· Total radio listening: 64% (previously 74%)
· Reach of total radio listening, DAB: 81% (previously 57%)
· Reach of total radio listening, Internet Radio: 28% (previously 28%)
· Reach of total radio listening digital television: 22% (previously 20%)
· Reach of total radio listening, accumulated digital: 86% (previously 75%)
· Reach of total radio listening, only via FM: 14% (previously 25%) *
* Listeners who either listen to local radio or receiving nationwide FM signals from neighbour regions.