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Norway Shuts Down FM Radio Forever

December 18, 2017, 2:27 PM UTC

There’s something comforting in knowing you can switch on a radio and pull down an FM station just about anywhere—unless, that is, you live in Norway.

As of last Wednesday, FM radio can no longer be found in the Scandinavian country, which eliminated the stations as part of a national technology upgrade.

As the Guardian reports, Norway completed a project to replace FM stations with a homegrown radio standard known as digital audio broadcasting (DAB), which reportedly provides better sound quality and more stations at a fraction of the cost.

The drawback, however, is the technology is reportedly spotty in places and requires Norwegians to fork out money for new receivers:

The move has, however, been met with some criticism linked to technical incidents and claims that there is not enough DAB coverage across the country.

Radio users have also complained about the cost of having to buy new receivers or adapters, usually priced at between €100 and €200 (£88 and £176).

Only 49% of motorists are able to listen to DAB in their cars, according to DRN figures.

A study cited by local media suggests the number of Norwegians who listen to the radio on a daily basis has dropped by 10% in a year, and the public broadcaster NRK has lost 21% of its audience.

Norwegian authorities, however, predicts the drop in listeners will be temporary, and that they will gradually return as they acquire DAB receivers in the coming years.

Other Europeans countries are watching the outcome of Norway’s decision as they decide whether to go ahead with similar radio upgrades of their own.

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Meanwhile, the United States currently has no plans to retire FM radio. The American broadcast regulator, the FCC, eliminated analog broadcasting for television in 2011, which required some people to obtain new tuners for their TV sets. But it did not do the same for radio, and FM stations remain very popular despite a digital radio option known as HD Radio.

While FM radio is over a century old and has been superseded by other broadcasting technologies—including satellite—it remains one of the most reliable forms of communication around. For instance, during the recent bout of severe hurricanes in Florida and Texas, the FCC asked Apple to turn on the FM chips in its iPhones so that people could receive information when cellular and Wi-Fi networks went down.