If the headline sounds shocking, it's likely because FM radio has been a technological staple for decades. We turn to it for news, weather reports, and of course entertainment while in the car or even at home. But this technological mainstay is about to see its era come to an end, at least in Norway, where the Minister of Culture in the country has announced that FM radio in Norway will be gone starting in 2017, to be replaced entirely by digital radio.
The move to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), as it's known, will reportedly give Norwegians access to a wider variety of content than ever before. Right now, DAB offers 22 national channels, as opposed to the five originally offered via FM. A study from TNS (News - Alert) Gallup suggests 56 percent of Norwegians turn to digital radio every day, suggesting that not only are Norwegians ready for a world without FM, but are embracing it actively.
Norway isn't alone with its plans to move to digital radio; several other European countries are working to bring in DAB operations, as are others in Southeast Asia. Norway, however, stands as the first country to actually put a date on a complete FM shutdown in the country, a move that some regard as having only been a matter of time. A Pew (News - Alert) study from back in 2012 says that 90 percent of Americans listed to FM radio, but more and more were making the jump to Internet only services like Spotify (News - Alert). That suggests, at least to some, that a more complete move is to follow, and FM radio is likely to be left behind.
I'm of two minds on this topic. On the one hand, digital has really opened up some opportunities as far as television goes, and most every network has at least two sub-affiliates, sometimes even more. The digital move has given rise to things like Antenna TV and Cozi TV, home to some of the greatest in old television around. But by like token, it's also reduced television to a feast-or-famine concept. In the old days of analog, a signal could be received that was strong, fuzzy, or almost nonexistent, yet still be displayed with varying levels of quality. With digital television, however, it's largely all-or-nothing. The channel comes in crisp, clear, and sharp as a razor or it doesn't come in at all. The situation is more pronounced the farther away from the transmitter one lives, and for rural dwellers this has been something of a problem. If radio ends up going similarly, what will happen to the country folk who now not only can't receive television, but also radio as well? In Norway this is different due to the comparatively smaller size of the country, but in a place like the United States, it could end up much the same way as it did with television.
Naturally, this is all speculation. Norway's plan to remove FM might well work for it, and the arrival of 2017 will make that fairly clear. But will such a plan work anywhere else? Maybe not, and only time will tell just how far this will all go.