This Country Is Killing FM Radio in 2017

January 6, 2017, 2:12 PM UTC
Microphone in radio broadcasting booth
Photograph by Gary Buss—Getty Images

Picture driving down a lonely mountain road and turning on the car radio…only to find there are no stations. This could happen to many people in Norway, where the government is going forward with a controversial plan to eliminate FM radio by the end of the year.

The plan will see certain regions of Norway shut down FM starting next week, while FM service will end in the capital, Oslo, in September.

In its place, Norwegians will rely exclusively rely instead on a radio technology known as DAB, or Digital Audio Broadcasting. Developed in Norway, DAB offers very clear sound and allows broadcasters to transmit more stations using fewer airwaves.

Even though many use DAB already, the decision to end FM is proving unpopular with the majority of the company, according to a Norwegian news agency.

“Most FM radios will no longer work, forcing consumers to either buy new DAB radios or adapters for FM radios, including those in cars, that can be converted to transmit DAB … An estimated 8 million FM radios in Norway will be rendered useless, and the cost of replacing them with new DAB radios is considerable,” reports the outlet, called News in English.

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The cost of buying an adapter for a car radio is reportedly around 1,500 Norwegian Krone or around $170.

According to Heidi Taksdal Skjeseth, a journalist for Norwegian paper Dagsavisen, the switchover is causing anxiety for some.

“My grandparents, big radio listeners, got a second dab-radio this christmas, but they seemed nervous about losing their beloved radio hours. I’m sure a lot of people are. From what I understand this is just to save money, that keeping the fm system (or renewing it/overhauling it) would be hugely expensive, and this dab-change will happen sooner or later anyways,” she said.

Meanwhile, other countries, including Switzerland and the United Kingdom, are watching Norway’s move and could follow suit in the next few years.

So far, in the United States, there are no such plans afoot. While the FCC eliminated analog broadcasting for television in 2011, forcing some people to buy special adapters for their devices, the agency did not do the same for radio. Even though American consumers have a digital radio option, known as HD Radio, it is not widely used while FM radio remains very popular.

This story has been corrected to reflect $1,500 Krone is about $170.

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