Several countries throughout Europe and Southeast Asia are in the process of switching from analog FM radio to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), which NBC describes as “free, over-the-air digital service that requires only a special receiver attachment on the listener’s end.” Now, as Ars Technica points out, after becoming the first country to adopt DAB technology in 1995, Norway will become the first country to phase out FM entirely. A post at Radio.no indicates that beginning in January 2017, FM broadcasts around the country will begin switching off by order of Norway’s Ministry of Culture. The reasons for the change include improved audio quality and more available channels; for instance, Norway’s national airwaves currently sustain five FM radio channels compared to 22 DAB channels. The news arrives with this statement from Thor Gjermund Eriksen, head of Norway’s publicly funded national broadcasting company, NRK:
This is an important day for everyone who loves radio. 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.
Although this change is a long time coming, it’s still going to require some major technological adjustments. A Gallup poll indicates that about 50 percent of Norwegian homes already listen to digital radio, though not necessarily via DAB, and only 20 percent of private cars in the country are equipped for DAB. Gallup estimates that 7.9 million radios will need to be updated or recycled.