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Norway To Become First Country To Switch Off FM Radio (reuters.com) 303

Norway is set to become the first country to switch off its FM radio network next week, as it takes the unpopular leap to digital technology. Reuters reports: Critics say the government is rushing the move and many people may miss warnings on emergencies that have until now been broadcast via the radio. Of particular concern are the 2 million cars on Norway's roads that are not equipped with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) receivers, they say. Sixty-six percent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with just 17 percent in favor and the rest undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month. Nevertheless, parliament gave the final go-ahead for the move last month, swayed by the fact that digital networks can carry more radio channels. By the end of the year, all national FM broadcasts will be closed in favor of DAB, which backers say carries less hiss and clearer sound throughout the large nation of 5 million people cut by fjords and mountains. Torvmark said cars were the "biggest challenge" - a good digital adapter for an FM car radio costs 1,500 Norwegian crowns ($174.70), he said. For the same cost, digital radio in Norway allows eight times more radio stations than FM. The current system of parallel FM and digital networks, each of which cost about 250 million crowns ($29 million), saps investments in programs.
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Norway To Become First Country To Switch Off FM Radio

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  • by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:08AM (#53616165)

    carries less hiss and clearer sound

    Hahahahaha. Yes, sure. As long as you get a perfect signal, anyway.

    • by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:17AM (#53616193)
      That was one thing I found interesting when TV went digital: a weak analog signal is just noisy, but easy for people to pick out the information from. a weak digital signal is chunky in ways my brain certainly isn't as capable of parsing through.
      • That was one thing I found interesting when TV went digital: a weak analog signal is just noisy, but easy for people to pick out the information from. a weak digital signal is chunky in ways my brain certainly isn't as capable of parsing through.

        You should probably upgrade your MPEG decoder. When was the last time you upgraded your neural net?

        • ha! I almost replied that in a way to state that humans weren't capable of parsing, rather than myself, but I decided that children used to digital signal drop would probably be better at ignoring it. So while my net isn't getting upgraded anytime soon, there are further generation products on the market.
    • carries less hiss and clearer sound

      Hahahahaha. Yes, sure. As long as you get a perfect signal, anyway.

      Well, OP is kinda right. If you have a really good signal, the results will be a nice clear hiss free result.

      If you don't, you won't hear anything at all. It's called the digital cliff. Less range, higher power requirements. A bold technological step backwards.

      There are emergency communicators who want to switch from FM to digital, and its maddening to hear people who want to have nice static free voice versus knowing a signal is there at all.

      We're moving into an age of pulling signals out from below

    • carries less hiss and clearer sound

      Hahahahaha. Yes, sure. As long as you get a perfect signal, anyway.

      This gets into one of the biggest problems with digital broadcasting - it's generally all or nothing. With analog, there's graceful degradation as the signal quality falls, and in an emergency situation that's preferable as people can still determine what's being broadcast even if it's very faint and low quality. With digital, if your signal isn't strong enough you'll get nothing.

      It seems to me that the best way forward for Norway would be to get rid of *some* FM stations to open up the bandwidth but leav

  • by cheetah_spottycat ( 106624 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:17AM (#53616195)
    ... is monetization. They can sell more channel licenses, encrypt their radio streams, and sell paid subscriptions. This is the beginning of the end of free radio.
    • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:21AM (#53616221)
      Which is the end of radio...which is the end of the music business as we know it. I am sure that I am not alone in that I will not pay for radio.
    • Not quite.... they want more channels so they can sell more ads. Sure, some paid sub channels may pop-up, but I would suspect they instead want more channels to play their back catalogs of content and generate more ad revenue.

      If broadcast services wanted to force a paid only model, then ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox would have turned off their antennas ages ago. The radio networks (iHeartMedia) have the same business model and want that same ad money.

  • I'm one of the minority of people who still like radio for music, news, and entertainment, but I don't think I'd spend $175 for a digital FM receiver. I bet Norwegians are switching over to AM,if they listen to radio at all anymore. Do you think they have crazed conservative personalities ranting about the fact they live in a Socialist welfare state there?
    • by Knuckles ( 8964 )

      There is basically no AM radio in Europe anymore

    • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:50AM (#53616329)

      ...Do you think they have crazed conservative personalities ranting about the fact they live in a Socialist welfare state there?

      Probably not to anywhere near the extent that you 'enjoy' those cranks in America. Socialist welfare states have the same corporate shills and their deluded hangers-on, but on the whole that rhetoric doesn't play nearly as well here as it does in the US.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        The Anti socialism cranks here are simply the result of the closing down of mental institutions back in the 80's and how bad our public schools are.

        When you have mentally deficient that never get education wandering the streets you get these kinds of cranks everywhere. Now they are old enough to confuse people into thinking they actually know something. In reality they all are simply that rambling nutjob screaming the world was going to end 10 years ago.

  • by Traf-O-Data-Hater ( 858971 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:41AM (#53616305)
    My DAB portable radio has a high power usage and chews through AA's at an alarming rate, far far higher than my old FM analog radio. I would be very concerned about the suitability of DAB in sitiations of emergency, where people are asked to have portable radios with a fresh set of batteries, they wouldn't last long at all! And one other problem with DAB, try tuning one in the dark, or otherwise looking at the display. Trying to navigate the stations is extremely difficult compared to a simple tune up or down. And if you have gone off onto a sub menu then it's really difficlt to find where you are. I spare a thought to think how blind or poorly-sighted people have to navigate DAB radio channels.
  • by worf_mo ( 193770 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:46AM (#53616319)

    Due to government requirements, our local public radio and television agency is soon switching to DAB+ [ras.bz.it]. This means that all devices that understand only DAB (without the +, very common until only a few years ago) will no longer be able to receive any channels and therefore be obsolete. Fortunately, FM will still be available, so my receiver from the 1980s will still be working fine. Everybody who bought into DAB too soon will have to buy a new device, though.

  • "Democracy" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by operagost ( 62405 )

    Sixty-six percent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with just 17 percent in favor and the rest undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month.

    Ah, "social democracy". Where they do what's "best for you", not what you want.

    • Please stop pretending that this is done for any social good and not motivated by business greed.
    • Re:"Democracy" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @10:57AM (#53616753) Homepage

      Like the god damn socialist roads, fire departments, and fucking police departments.

      God dam socialists forcing themselves on me. Where they put the roads are stupid, and they should let most homes burn to the ground.

      • Because extremes are always the logical and rational argument... By extension of your argument every business should be entirely government run with regulated pricing, and regulated salaries to its employees. Otherwise a business might charge people more for a product than its "worth" and an employee might be paid less than another regardless of their poor performance.
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          As opposed to the nimble sole proprietorship like way that megacorps carefully manage? Where salaries are set by merit alone based on the manager's manager's manager personally knowing each and every worker and being intimately familiar with the quality of their output?

          Most of the problems you see in socialism are better attributed to the fact that management structures as we understand them do not work well on a large scale. Socialism has in the past tended to build larger organizations with all of the man

          • Again, because extremes are always the logical and rational approach?

            Apply your extremist position to a guy who owns one auto repair shop. Or the family that owns a grocery store. Or a woman who makes exceptional lampwork beads, but can only sell them for X% over her cost to make because that's what's dictated by a government bureaucrat.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Ah, "social democracy". Where they do what's "best for you", not what you want.

      Because in the US the politicians never do what people are against. You're like a guy in a wheelchair making fun of another man's limp. We voted for these clowns. We continue voting for these clowns. And if the latest polls are any indication we're moving to a more socialist government in this year's election. Democracy is working fine. The voters, eh.... but at least we haven't stooped to electing reality show celebrity billionaires.

  • Misguided Priorities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @10:11AM (#53616447)

    The NUMBER of Analog FM stations which the bands can accommodate are MORE THAN NEEDED.

    And switching them off is a major public detriment, Because of the loss of the major advantage which Analog FM radio has....

    Receivers for FM are CHEAP, UBIQUITOUS, Easy to receive transmissions, And Analog signals are very forgiving.

    Also, the relatively small NUMBER IS AN ADVANTAGE. When FM receivers are being used for THEIR MAIN PURPOSE, which.....
    Is to receive broadcast messages, potentially during a time of emergency when aLL THE DIGITAL STUFF is broken.....
    (E.g. Due to EMP)

    • Receivers for FM are CHEAP, UBIQUITOUS, Easy to receive transmissions, And Analog signals are very forgiving.

      That is precisely the problem. There is no money to be made anymore in making or selling FM receivers. It takes courage, to ditch the headphone jack and make everyone buy new hardware. It takes courage to obsolete (yes, I am verbing obsolete. BTW that also obsoletes rules regarding intransitive verbs.) all existing ubiquitous, cheap hardware and force every one to buy new hardware. And, think! Once people get used to the idea of monopolies (defacto or de-fiat) obsoleting hardware, we can force them upgrade

    • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @10:49AM (#53616689)
      You SEEM to have an INTERMITTENT problem with your CAPS LOCK.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Analog AM is even cheaper and can be built with trash found in most homes. we should ditch this FM radio and go back to AM radio!

      and dammit Spark Gap is even more effective! I can eliminate pesky frequency tuning!

    • You are making a really bad assumption - that they can't cut the FM spectrum in half, use the digital version to maintain the existing number of stations. That frees up VALUABLE spectrum to give to other technology.

      We desperately need radio spectrum for other services. Ever have trouble using bluetooth? Not enough spectrum. Cell phone can't connect? not enough spectrum.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        You are making a really bad assumption - that they can't cut the FM spectrum in half

        Reducing the bandwidth reduces the range and eliminates the capability to receive weak signals.

        These are extremely valuable traits that analog radio has..... Under BAD conditions, you can still get a signal.

        The Digital audio is higher quality when you can get it, But when conditions are bad you don't hear static, it cuts out 100% instead.

        That frees up VALUABLE spectrum to give to other technology.

        The additional service

      • Ever have trouble using bluetooth?

        I've never had a problem using bluetooth that wasn't caused by a poor implementation.

        Cell phone can't connect?

        That has nothing to do with spectrum where I live, and everything to do with capitalism.

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        >> That frees up VALUABLE spectrum to give to other technology.

        Please tell me what makes 10 MHZ of VHF bandwidth (i.e.WAY too low for decent data rate) so desperately needed/valuable in Norway?

  • by bigmo ( 181402 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @10:40AM (#53616651)

    when they all play the same thing? Generic music, generic news, generic humor.

  • Lower powers can transmit farther, so it really makes a difference in the RF background noise.

    And honestly, I blame the turdtastic car makers putting in garbage radios and "infotainment" that does not support HDFM. it's been a standard for well over 10 years now. so it's high time the car makers and car stereo makers are forced to put it in place.

    • by scsirob ( 246572 )

      I have both DAB+ and FM in my car (Swedish Volvo), and I live in the Netherlands, a small, totally flat country. These circumstances should be perfect for DAB+. Even so, it drops out at random places where FM works just fine.

      Looking at Norway, unless they plaster the country with transmitters, there's no way they can arrange proper coverage for DAB+.

  • Team Rock Radio was the only station I listened to when I had DAB in the car. Then they decided not to renew the £1M per year rent for the use of that space, and a religious organisation took over their frequency. Just before Christmas 2016 they had to shut down what was left of the business. Internet radio is also a tough place to be, even without paying rent to the DAB people.

  • This is a courageous decision. They should also ban 3.5mm jacks whilst they are passing legislation.

  • "Norway is set to become the first nation to start switching off its FM radio network..."

    How???
    I've read read several articles and none of them describe the mechanism by which they will accomplish this. If it was only broadcasts by the state-owned "Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation" I could understand, but it seems like they're talking about all FM radio. It's not like they can just flip a switch and "turn off" part of the EM spectrum. Does it mean that the Norwegian government is going to make it illeg

    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      Something like that I imagine. They'll probably just not renew the FM licenses of stations - they'll be forced to go digital if not already on it.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @12:12PM (#53617477) Homepage

    If they wanted to reuse the FM band for some public service then I could just about understand it - but 20Mhz of VHF spectrum is useless for any modern data comms so I can't see who'd use it. Seems to me this is simply the worst kind of "we know best" patrician politics forcing people to go digital for no other reason that some political idiots think digital is The Future so must be embrased. By force if necessary. Never mind that analog is better in a lot of case particularly a mountainous country like norway and thats before we get onto the issue of electronic waste from all the junked FM radios.

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