Norway now on the road to 100% digital radio
Norway now on the road to 100% digital radio
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Norway now on the road to 100% digital radio

Blog: 100% Digital – By Laurence Harrison, Market Development Director, Digital Radio UK

A calm sea, fishing boats, no snow, and even something resembling daylight provided the backdrop to the long anticipated FM switch off in Nordland. The moment that Digital Radio Norway have been working towards for over five years was marked by a perfectly pitched ceremony at Bodø Library which was broadcast live on national television. It really gave a sense that something important was happening.

The many press and TV interviews are still going on around me and today’s switch off has drawn attention from around the world. In the UK, you may have heard Digital Radio UK’s Ford Ennals on BBC Radio 4s Today programme and BBC Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show this morning talking about events in Norway and the UK’s position.

What the switchover event rightly achieved was to bring it back to the listeners. Every speaker talked about the benefits to listeners while acknowledging the challenges, financial and practical, that some may face. No one hid from this aspect but at the same time no one was apologising. “Lots of help is available and please come and speak to us”, was a key message, loud and clear.

The listener was also front and centre for the actual switch-off when long-time radio listener and digital fan, Berit Olderskog, had the honour of pulling the lever from FM to DAB after a boisterous countdown. I spoke to the Head of NRK Nordland who has been at the coalface for the last few months and he said with a wry smile that it had been “interesting”. He broke their audience in to three segements; the young are fine and happy to be digital; males over 50 who say they understand technology have been the most vocal; and the more elderly simply need more help and explanation.

From the Minister and the heads of NRK and commercial radio the message was one of collaboration and a shared digital vision to ensure a bright future for radio. Of course the ability to invest in new content on digital was cited many times as the main benefit, with the broadcasters saying they hoped people would find and try the new stations available. The need to have a free-at-the-point-of-access digital broadcast backbone and avoiding gatekeepers was also mentioned by Graham Dixon from the EBU as a major benefit of DAB.

I must also give a big shout-out to the amazing Kringkastingsorkesteret who provided the uplifting music and in particular the artist Kristian Kristensen who has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. Check him out.

So what have we learnt so far from this first phase of switchover in Nordland? There are many, some big-picture and some more detailed. Some re-enforce what we already thought and others are new. There is no doubt that collaboration and commitment across industry is vital. Be prepared, there will always be some negative coverage and challenges for some. We’ve visited the main retailers here and that has been particularly interesting. It seems people will want to buy adaptors to convert their analogue radios at home. Car conversion is still the big issue (local press in Bodø this morning reported record sales of adaptors and three week waiting time for fitting). All useful stuff but conscious that this is just the start of a long process and there are still a lot of homes and cars to convert and there will be issues We will be staying in touch with our Norwegian colleagues and there will be more to come.

As we head home I’ll leave you with the words of Ole Jørgen Torvmark from Digital Radio Norway this morning, “I am happy and proud today not because we’re switching off FM but because we are securing radios future.”

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