Norway will next week become the first nation to start switching off its FM radio network, in a risky and unpopular leap to digital technology that will be closely watched by other countries considering whether to follow suit.
Critics say the government is rushing the move and fear many people may miss emergency alerts that until now have been broadcast via FM radio. Of particular concern are the 2m cars on Norway’s roads that are not equipped with digital audio broadcasting (DAB) receivers, they say.
Sixty-six per cent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, 17% are in favour and the rest are undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month.
Nevertheless, parliament has given the final go-ahead for the move, swayed by the fact that digital networks can carry more channels. Switzerland plans a similar move from 2020, and Britain and Denmark are among those also considering such a switch. A smooth transition to DAB, which is already beamed across Norway, could encourage these countries to move ahead.
The shutdown of the FM (frequency modulation) network, introduced in the 1950s, will begin in the northern city of Bodø on 11 January. By the end of the year, all national FM broadcasts will cease.
“We’re the first country to switch off FM but there are several countries going in the same direction,” said Ole Jørgen Torvmark, head of Digital Radio Norway, set up by the national broadcasters NRK and P4 to help the transition.
Torvmark said cars were the biggest challenge: a good digital adaptor for an FM car radio cost 1,500 Norwegian kroner (£140), he said.
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