FM radio begins shutting down - in Norway

Jan. 23, 2017
by Mark Ollig

Norway began turning off its FM (Frequency Modulated) radio transmitters Jan. 11.

The conversion from FM radio to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will be completed by the end of this year.

DAB provides larger territorial reception coverage, much lower operating costs when compared to FM radio stations, and has reportedly superior listening quality.

Norway’s current FM spectrum only allows five national stations to be operating on the air, whereas DAB technology is currently being used in 22 national stations.

Digital audio signaling allows many more stations to be in operation, thus providing a greater variety of programs for listeners.

The invention of static-free FM radio reception using special components to modulate radio frequencies, is credited to Edwin H. Armstrong, an American who demonstrated the technology in the 1930s.

His long financial and emotionally draining FM radio US Patent battle with corporate giant RCA (Radio Corporation of America) ended very sadly for Armstrong in 1954.

The FCC reserved the 42 through 50 MHz radio band for FM broadcasting Jan. 1, 1941.

Today, the FM radio band extends from 88 to 108 MHz.

It seems some of the good folks in Norway are a little upset by the costs involved with their transition from FM radio to digital signaling.

For example, a car FM radio to DAB converter will cost 1,000 to 2,000 kroner, which is $144 to $288.

“It’s far too expensive. I’m going to wait till the price of adaptors comes down before getting one for my car,” said Eivind Sethov of Oslo, Norway, to the AFP news agency.

Converting from FM to DAB reminds me of when all US television broadcast stations were ordered to stop transmitting analog signals over-the-air, and switch to all-digital television signal broadcasting starting June 12, 2009.

Knowing this analog-to-digital TV conversion would happen three years earlier, yours truly wrote a column titled: “Good-bye to analog broadcast TV” Oct. 23, 2006.

For those already using digital reception-capable television sets, the transition would prove to be a smooth one; however, for the many folks using analog television sets, changes were needed.

This change consisted of installing a analog to digital converter box on their analog television set.

Many people were upset because they would need to buy a converter box, and figure out how to connect it to their television.

It seems every time there’s a change, some “box” needs to be purchased.

It was 2008. Some people had become “a bit infuriated” with having to fork out their hard-earned cash in order to buy the TV converter box.

They didn’t have many choices: either buy the converter box for their analog television, or buy a new digital-ready television. If they chose neither, come June 12, 2009, their analog television screen would just show “fuzzy snow.”

The thoughtful folks at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came up with an aptly named program called “Digital-to-Analog Converter-Box Program.”

A household was able to obtain special discount FCC coupons to be applied towards the purchase of TV digital-to-analog converter boxes.

The coupons were good for $40 off the cost of each converter box.

The FCC placed a two coupon limit per household, so if you had more than two analog televisions, you would end up paying full price for additional converter boxes.

The coupon program was subsidized through the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund.

This fund had a limit of $990,000,000 for the coupons – which I assume were quickly depleted.

Many folks were still upset; some stated using “rabbit-ears” or a roof-top antenna connected to their existing analog television “worked fine, why change it?”

Yours truly, on a cloudless day, could clearly receive local channels 2, 4, 5, 9, and 11 on his analog television (with expertly positioned rabbit-ears).

On a very good day, I could sometimes get channel 3 out of Duluth, and channel 12 out of Mankato.

Of course, many more over-the-air television channels are now freely available to us since the analog-to-digital conversion in 2009.

But I digress, back to Norway.

I learned other countries including; Britain, Switzerland, and Denmark are closely watching the FM radio to digital signaling conversion taking place in Norway, as they, too, may convert.

Will the US eventually enact laws for its citizens to convert their FM radios so they can receive DAB signaling?

Stay tuned.

Follow my non-FM broadcast messages on Twitter at @bitsandbytes

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