Tuesday, 20 October 2009

NORWAY: Government commissions cost analysis of FM switch-off

In April 2009, NRK [state radio] chief Hans-Rore Bjerkaas had written to the Culture Minister asking if the government could persuade consumers to purchase DAB radios rather than analogue radios. He wrote: “In order to reduce consumer disappointment in the final stages of digital migration, a clear political signal must be given that, when choosing a radio, an FM/DAB radio should be selected rather than a pure FM radio.”

Culture Minister Trond Giske responded: “My responsibility lies with radio listeners. There are two reasons why I think we should progress more slowly than with the introduction of digital TV. It will be more costly for consumers to switch to DAB because most people have multiple radio receivers. In addition, there is no significant improvement in audio quality. When half the population has purchased a digital radio, we would be willing to discuss a specific date for switching off the FM network.” At present, 17% of the population in Norway has a DAB radio.

This month, the Culture Minister reiterated that the government will not consider switching off FM until half the population has purchased a DAB radio. Both NRK and P4 [commercial network owned by MTG] have told the minister that their existing FM networks are expensive to maintain and that they want to move to DAB as quickly as possible. NRK spends NRK120m per annum on FM radio transmission. Transmission provider Norkring [owned by Telenor] says it will need to make a major upgrade to the FM network in 2014 to keep it in service. So the government has tendered for an “independent and expert” assessment of the costs associated with switching off FM broadcasts in either 2014 or 2020. The analysis will be part of the White Paper on digital radio to be published by the government next year.

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