The Norwegian government completed its transition to completely digital radio broadcasting on Wednesday, shutting down FM broadcasts even amid concerns from citizens.
Norway began phasing out the traditional FM radio channels in January, region by region, in favor of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) channels. In doing so, Norway became the first country to completely eliminate FM in favor of digital service. The year-long process was made as a cost cutting measure, as the government estimated that the switch would save an estimated 200 million Kroner ($24 million) annually, The Guardian reports.
A survey in Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet suggested that 66 percent of citizens were opposed to the transition when it began. Traditional radios, including those in cars, become useless with the move to digital, forcing Norwegians without DAB radios to buy adapters.
Dagbladet reported in 2015 that a move to digital channels would give more than 99 percent of the country coverage, but concerns of poor service emerged shortly before the switch began. Most of the concern came from citizens in mountainous areas and by the sea, posing a threat for those that might not be able to access public broadcasting.
Critics argue that the government rushed the transition to DAB, complaining about the high cost for citizens. Similar criticism arose in the United States in 2009 when Congress forced television broadcasters to drop analog signals in favor of digital television.
Ib Thomsen, a member of parliament from the Progress Party, told Reuters in January that the country simply wasn’t ready for the elimination of FM.
“There are 2 million cars on Norwegian roads that don’t have DAB receivers, and millions of radios in Norwegian homes will stop working when the FM net is switched off. So there is definitely a safety concern,” Thomsen told Reuters.
In addition to coverage concerns, the Norwegian Automobile Federation found that few adaptors have the popular FM feature Traffic Announcement (TA), communications adviser Nils Sødal told Dagbladet.
NRK, the government owned broadcasting channel, devised a channel called NRK Traffic to combat the problem, but many argue that the point of TA was to interrupt any channel with important announcements.