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Steely Dan, the jazz-rockers who scored a hit in 1978 with their single “FM (No Static At All),” would not be pleased.
In what will likely be the opening move in a global transition to digital radio, Norway has announced it will shut down its FM band. Norway will start turning off FM radio on Jan. 11, 2017, and plans to stop transmission of the last FM signal to the country’s northernmost regions by Dec. 13 of that year.
The announcement, made by their Ministry of Culture, makes Norway the first country to do away entirely with FM radio. The move is intended to save money and allow a full transition to digital radio, which Norway argues will give listeners “access to more diverse and pluralistic radio content and enjoy better sound quality and new functionality.”
In its statement, the Norwegian government said the cost of transmitting national radio channels through the FM network is eight times higher than via the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) system, the standard digital radio technology used across Europe. By shutting off FM, Norway’s national radio channels will save more than $25 million a year, according to official figures “releasing funds for investment in radio content,” argued Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey.
“This is an important day for everyone who loves radio,” said Thor Gjermund Eriksen, head of public broadcasting network NRK, in a statement. “The minister’s decision allows us to concentrate our resources even more upon what is most important, namely to create high-quality and diverse radio content to our listeners.”
The DAB system in Norway already offers 22 national channels, compared to just five on the FM band, and has the capacity for 20 more. A recent survey by TNS Gallup found that 55 percent of Norwegian households have at least one DAB-equipped radio.
Norway has long been a digital radio pioneer. NRK launched the world’s first DAB channel on June 1, 1995. Other Scandinavian countries as well as the U.K. are thought to be considering an FM switch-off by 2022. The digital rollout in other European countries has been slower, with old FM radio still proving more popular in several territories.
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