FM frozen out as Norway switches to digital

Laurence Harrison, Market Development Director, Digital Radio UK, arrives in Norway for the big DAB event.

Dark but definitely digital

Having arrived in Bodø, Norway’s northernmost city of 50,000 people, positioned right on the edge of the Arctic Circle, I can confirm (stop the press) it’s dark and it’s cold. The welcome, however, is an extremely warm one and the excitement is building towards the start of the world’s first FM switch off on Wednesday. Plenty of eagles here but no polar bears. Instead, a pack of hungry press hunting down anyone with an opinion.

Given there is only three hours of sunlight each day, temperatures well below freezing and the remoteness of Bodø, you can imagine how important radio is to cheer the soul. Although the small population in the area no doubt made it an obvious choice to be the first of the six regional areas to switchover during 2017, it is by no means a simple task to bring the people of Bodø along too. First impressions are, though, that this is indeed what has happened. Our taxi driver Tommy tells us he has had DAB+ in his car for 5 years and then enthusiastically turns up the volume to his favourite station – Rock Radio, a station he could only get on digital.

Bodø is an amazing place. Dominated by the port, the fishing, the maelstroms (look them up) and the Northern Lights (I don’t think we’ll see them unless there’s a band playing by the same name), it feels very modern and very clean. There is no doubt the attention that the switchover has brought is a boost for the city. As well as all the radio industry folk, the Government and media are here to boost the coffers of the local hotels. Our happy hotel receptionist Rude says that he has got a DAB+ digital radio at home but not in his car. ‘I’ll probably listen to radio on the smartphone and will get it done eventually’, he says. Fair enough.

Tuesday sees a conference with the great and the good from Norwegian radio plus international guest speakers. Then follows on Wednesday morning at 11.11.11am (10.11.11am in the UK) the big FM switch off moment with the Norwegian Secretary of State, Bård Folke Fredriksen.

It is a big project with big challenges but it is happening and soon we’ll hear just how ready Bodø is for the switch and if the rest of the country is following suit. Until then Ha det!

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