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Published on January 10th, 2017 | by The GC Team

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Norway begins digital radio switchover

This week marks a new era for radio as Norway becomes the first country to commence the switchover to digital radio.

The FM switch off takes place on Wednesday 11 January and will be noted by an international ceremony attended by senior radio and media policy figures including the Norwegian Secretary of State Bård Folke Fredriksen; Paul Keenan, CEO Bauer Media UK and the Nordics, and Graham Dixon, Head of Radio, European Broadcasting Union.

During the ceremony, at precisely 11.11am, a giant dial will be moved from FM to DAB to indicate the moment of the transition.

The Norwegian switch off is to be implemented across six regions,  starting in the arctic city of Bodø in Nordland and ending in the northern regions of Troms and Finnmark on 13 December 2017.  Norway’s radio industry, including public broadcaster NRK, commercial broadcasters P4 Group and Bauer Media’s SBS Radio, are said to have collaborated on a plan to ensure a smooth transition for listeners.

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, said: “Norway and the UK both have a common vision of a digital future for radio to allow it to compete effectively in a multiplatform and connected world.

“Norway has opted to accelerate the transition to digital radio through a co-ordinated digital radio switchover. We wish our Norwegian colleagues a successful and smooth transition and will be watching their progress with great interest as we move towards the threshold of 50% digital listening.”

DAB digital radio launched in Norway in 1995, just ahead of its UK launch, and FM switch off was announced in April 2015. Since then digital radio progress in Norway has accelerated; DAB coverage is now at 99.7% and 74% of the population have access to DAB digital radio. 78% of new cars in Norway now come with DAB as standard.

Including five new stations launching on the day of the switch, there are 30 national services broadcasting on DAB in Norway compared to just five national FM stations.

Paul Keenan, CEO Bauer Media UK and the Nordics, said:  “Bauer Media is seeing strong growth in all of its European radio businesses in the UK, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Slovakia.  The digital transition in Norway is a global first and creates an opportunity for us to further extend choice for listeners and grow both reach and revenues. As in the UK, digital has unleashed exciting new innovation and creativity into the Norwegian market.”

The Norwegian switchover will affect all national radio stations and commercial local radio stations broadcasting in larger cities. Community radio stations and smaller local stations will continue to broadcast on FM for a further five years after national switch off.

The UK Government’s criteria for reviewing the next steps for digital radio are that DAB coverage matches FM and digital listening is at 50%.

UK radio listening has grown to 45.5% and is projected to reach 50% by the end of 2017.

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