Norway successfully adopted the Eureka 147 family of standards and has now set a date for FM switch off.
The reason digital radio has been such an outstanding success in Norway is not only due to the manner in which the broadcasters and government have worked together, but is also down to the fact that all radio industry stakeholders felt that radio was more than simply an outlet for entertainment and could see the immense opportunities offered by digital radio. It was also very clear that unless a move to digital was taken, radio would fall behind other forms of media entertainment.
The right technology choice
The Eureka 147 technology enabled the Norwegian government and broadcasters to bring their radio industry into the modern digital age and enabled them to provide the Norwegian public with greater on-air content especially on a national level. With 8 out 10 Norwegians listening to radio every day digital radio is a means of cementing a number of diverse cultural identities – and with FM bandwidth full to capacity, the adoption of DAB/DAB+ and DMB enabled newer multichannel programming opportunities. In addition to benefiting the consumer, the radio industry was able to see that the economic incentives to switch to digital made financial sense – the lower distribution costs offered by the technology in the long term reinforced the fact that the move to digital was the intelligent long term strategy.
After a series of successful trials the Parliament issued a white paper called ”Broadcasting and the Daily Press” (1997) in which it highlighted DAB as the optimum broadcasting standard of choice for Norway. The paper also highlighted that in essence the expansion of DAB networks would be financed by increasing rent paid by broadcasters to network operators. Close collaboration with the consumer electronics tradeTo oversee the smooth roll-out of digital radio a Digital Radio Working Group was established (1999-2000). This group initiated information campaigns on radio to inform listeners about the many advantages of digital radio and worked closely with consumer electronics trade and other relevant stakeholders.
FM switch off date
In 2005, the Minister for Culture established a task force composed of broadcasters, manufacturers and regulators who were to advise the government on the digital radio rollout. They concluded DAB should be the chosen technology, that a date should be fixed for FM switch off and that DAB licenses should be long-term. These findings informed the white paper ‘Broadcasting in a Digital Future’ released by the government, in which parameters were set, such as 50% of households must possess a digital receiver and that consumers should receive full national coverage and added value content before a switch off date could be set.
In 2007 DAB coverage reached 80% and consumers had access to real added value radio services through new content on-air. Work continued on raising the general promotion of digital radio technology, adding new services to air and providing a transparent pricing model for operating costs by establishing Digitalradio Norway as an operator of at least one of the muxes. This greatly benefited radio stations and demonstrated to the authorities a readiness to switch to digital.
Working with the media has continued to be an element of rolling-out digital radio with Digitalradio Norway (DRN) focusing heavily on PR activities. During the initial stage of launching and rolling-out digital radio in Norway a PR consultancy was used to combat negativity in the press which proved to be a good investment. In addition to a PR drive, DRN also focused on creating relationships with politicians which helped broadcasters’ efforts to secure a switchover plan in the form of the publication of a new white paper. However one issue still needed to be addressed from the previous white paper, the need to improve the number of commercial stations transmitting on DAB. A concerted effort led to the launch of four additional commercial stations on DAB, which met the stipulation for extra value for the consumer as the 18 DAB channels now offered a greater selection than FM could anywhere in the country.
‘Yes to radio’ campaign
To promote the new services to both consumers and politicians the largest campaign for digital radio in Norway was launched: ‘Yes to radio’ in the summer of 2010. The campaign was written about in over 400 articles, and raised the issue of digital radio high up the political agenda. Not all articles were positive, but many of the negative responses came from the media themselves and did not represent the perception of the general public. This year in February 2011 the white paper ‘Digitisation of the Radio Medium’ was published. It contained details of the plan to switch to digital broadcast, and set conditions for the switchover agreeable to the radio industry.
Progress of DMB
In 2009 three broadcasters, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), TV 2 and Modern Times Group/Viasat, launched mobile television via DMB through the joint venture company Norwegian Mobile TV Corporation (NMTV). 6 TV channels are being broadcast in the greater Oslo area, adding to the more than 20 radio stations via DAB/DAB+. There is also development on the combination between mobile TV/digital radio and additional services via the internet.