Story 2015-04-21 7H95 Norway to shut down all analog FM radio

Norway to shut down all analog FM radio

in ask on (#7H95)
story imageNorway is making an historic move into a new radio era, being the first country in the world to decide upon an analog switch-off for all major radio channels. Several countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are in similar processes, choosing DAB-technology as the backbone of future radio distribution. Norway began the transition to DAB back in 1995. The DAB-coverage in Norway now exceeds FM-coverage. DAB provides Norway with 22 national channels, as opposed to five channels transmitting nationwide on FM.

"We can finally complete the work that has been on-going for many years. This is the best solution for all listeners throughout Norway, as they now have a better radio." 56 per cent of radio listeners use digital radio every day. 55 per cent of households have at least one DAB radio. While 44 % of listeners only use FM radio daily, according to Digitalradio survey by TNS Gallup. Switch-off starts in Nordland county 11th January 2017 and ends with the northernmost counties Troms and Finnmark 13th December 2017.
Reply 11 comments

This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-21 17:29 (#7H96)

I'm probably one of the last shortwave fans out there. Not the only one, obviously, but we are certainly a dying breed. And I've lived the last decade in the poorer parts of Africa, where you'd think shortwave and similar would still be big hits. Nope. Not only is there precious little on the shortwave bands anymore (except for some Chinese and way too many evangelists) but even poor Africans aren't listening to it.

What Africans ARE listening to is FM on their feature phones or smartphones. As a shortwave fan, this is hugely disappointing to me.

I've been on the mailing list of the DRM group for ages now - unfortunate acronym, it actually stands for Digital Radio Mondiale and I wish they'd change it. And it's been really interesting to watch them progress. Dig Radio replaces your radio with what's basically a small computer that processes the digital signal at relatively low expense. This was unheard of a decade ago when all we had were Pentium IIs, but modern systems on a chip make it possible and not that expensive, either computationally or economically. Dig Radio promises the propogation qualities of shortwave with the audio quality of FM. That's really huge, when you think about it.

By the way, I think this has implications for democratic promotion and the like. Despite jamming wars, it was possible at one time to beam a broadcast into a nation, where people could essentially listen to it without being tracked. TCP/IP as we all no know too well doesn't offer that same anonymity.

Will this new tech get coopted by the likes of ClearChannel and their buddies? Maybe, but Dig Radio offers huge promise, I think. The BBC and some other stations are experimenting with it; this move by the Scandinavians is promising. Maybe teh USA will wise up and give it a try too (maybe not).

At any rate, this is good news.

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-21 18:43 (#7HE3)

I really should get into shortwave again. My grandfather used to spend hours trying to get different stations. I used to do the same when I had a shortwave radio, but I think it broke when I was a teenager and never had the money to get it replaced.

Digital radio in the US is primarily limited to large metro areas. I don;t know when if ever they will try to switch over completely to digital. We still have AM going strong. I absolutely love the sound of AM radio. It has a certain fuzz around it. You can still hear everything well, but its not crystal clear uncanny valley effect you get with high quality FM these days.

Re: This is huge (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2015-04-21 20:05 (#7HH8)

I think the proliferation of divergent standards is what has kept digital radio from taking-off, and giving streaming services the upper-hand. DAB in Europe, DMB (based on DVB-H) in parts of Asia, proprietary HDRadio in the US, DAB+ trying to usurp DAB, then DRM on shortwave making little headway.

If everyone would have standardized on DRM for their SW & MW frequencies, China would be turning out dirt-cheap recievers for it, it would be cheap enough to be built-in to almost every radio sold, so most everyone would have one.

For FM replacements, there's no clear winner. DAB and DAB+ requires several (independent) broadcasters to all operate together from the same broadcast tower, making it a difficult conversion. It does potentially offer CD quality audio thanks to the lossy codec, but that makes it a poor choice for squeezing in lots of lower-quality sub-channels. DAB+ fixes this latter issue, but takes away the advantage of the former, and being completely incompatible destroys the installed-base. DMB has too much overhead and no particular benefits. The IBOC (in-band on-channel) standards are much better options, but HDRadio is expensive and proprietary for no good reason. So once again, I'd be happy to see DRM adapted to operate on those higher FM frequencies as well. But countries that chose DAB are planning on repurposing their FM bands, so not even the frequency range is close, world-wide, and proliferating incompatibilites even more.

The ability of a broadcaster to merge their FM, MW (AM), & SW offerings into a single, seamless data stream would be incredible. Driving away from the city, your radio would just seemlessly jump from the FM station to a longer-range AM station carrying the same content, at slightly lower quality, without a hiccup. When going back into a city, the switch to higher-quality FM channels would be seamless as well.

A nation-wide network of MW transmitters with the same content would be relatively easy to do, thanks to their huge footprint, taking the band from the least valuable, to the more valuable spectrum for broadcasters. And potentially having a SW station or two as a backup even further out, would mean you'd have satellite-radio like coverage at pretty good quality, without the fees.

BUT, since DRM hasnt caught-on yet, I'd rather see a new IBOC transmission standard which uses patent-free modulation and error correction, the better & patent-free Opus codec, and require radios to include SD card slots for dowloading data broadcasts, as well as optional video screens, so radio stations can occasionally send images to listeners, wheter just album cover-art, traffic maps, personality headshots, relevant news images. etc

Re: This is huge (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2015-04-21 22:00 (#7HQE)

The few FM music stations we have in my area seem to have the equivalent music selection of a single disc CD player. Seriously. They play the same few songs over and over again, ad nauseam. Also, there are far more ads than songs played in any given hour.

What I find promising is the independently selected streaming services, like Spotify, that just use your wifi Internet connection (or eat some of you LTE data plan) to send you only the music that you actually want to hear.
  • all songs are on demand and selectable by the user
  • the playback is perfect (no static or crosstalk with other stations like FM)
  • subscriber based with no ads (I would rather pay a few bucks a month instead of listening to hours and hours of ads)
  • can make use of prefetching (queue up some data while on the strong wifi connection) and even storing your favorite songs (for when you have no data connection)
  • you can see the cover art and other meta information about the song
  • Spotify uses the Vorbis audio codec and has hinted on (eventually) switching to the Opus audio codec
P.S. Everyone knows that DRM stands for Direct Rendering Manager.

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-22 08:12 (#7JG7)

The few FM music stations we have in my area seem to have the equivalent music selection of a single disc CD player.
I get a couple of classical music stations on FM and there is a rich wealth to hear. I hear some pieces that are old friends (gladly), but also a huge selection of pieces that are new to me, or I haven't heard in a long long time. I have been listening to classical on FM since the 1950s.

I am kind of glad there is almost zero chance I will live to see this wonderful, free resource disappear entirely.

P.S. - I have also listened to shortwave since the 1950s. Political, cultural, general-interest and other transmissions from a wondrous variety of locations. In its heyday I devoured Radio Moscow, Radio Havana Cuba, Radio Deutsche Welle, Canada, the Netherlands, RAI and the Vatican, Iran (pre insanity), Egypt, Israel, Australia, China, Japan, Quito Ecuador. The drying up of transmissions and terrible RFI problems from modern gadgets have decimated availability, but I still get some interesting stuff.

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-22 19:30 (#7KWM)

There is almost certainly a different in the "FM" experience between European and American listeners, too. The EU has more aggressive regulators that have kept the market more competitive. Most of the FM stations got bought out by ClearChannel, which has a lot to do with the awful homogeneity of the FM spectrum in the USA. The same shit, from coast to coast. It's enough to make you slit your wrists. Ipod + Bluetooth connection to my car's sound system is the best thing ever invented, and it's commercial free. (On the other hand, I don't get exposed to new music. I rely on recommendations from itunes for that).

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-22 19:34 (#7KXN)

Interesting conversation going on in parallel, on Reddit, that seems like a germane response to my own post:

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-22 20:07 (#7KZ4)

iHeartRadio had a fix for this problem several years ago... Their service includes a dial you can adjust from only playing familiar artists, to exploring a wider range of music, or somewhere in-between.

Pandora lets you keep adding more and more artists to a station, which will similarly keep including a larger range of related music than when you just specify a single artist.

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-22 13:55 (#7K69)

The variety you hear on FM radio in the US depends on where you live. In rural areas, you pretty much just have country music, conservative or religious talk radio, and maybe a top 40 station if you aren't that rural. But in large cities you get a nice mix. I have several jazz radio stations to choose from, a few folk, a couple classical music, several rock variations, several top 40, several urban/r&b channels. I really do cherish the folk, jazz and classical stations. Some really obscure americana/ upcomming artists that haven't been popular enough to make spotify/pandora/google play music.

Re: This is huge (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-22 21:15 (#7M2G)

Don't forget college radio. It can be a crapshoot, but even in rural areas if you're near a college town there's a good chance at finding more eclectic playlists than ClearChannel.

(Is there such a thing as college radio in other parts of the world?)

Re: This is huge (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-23 01:24 (#7MDQ)

I disagree completely, all they've done since 95 is to kill radio. The abilities of DAB and DAB+ are oversold and the receivers far too expensive and limited and the very few stations that were worth listening to have long since moved onto the net, outright died, or both. No surprise that the batshit religious loons, Christian and otherwise, and government propaganda known as news is still going strong. Working people listen to shit like Radio 1 not because it's any good but because it's less mental torture to listen to the latest pop song for the two hundredth time than to listen to any of the other shit, it's not because of traffic updates, people have no trouble figuring out on their own that there will be queues during rush hour or that otherwise it will be some accident holding everything up.

There is no actual diversity of opinion or anything factual, only diversity of insanity and that includes Radio Nova for those who know what I'm talking about. I haven't paid one krone towards DAB/DAB+ and I'm not planning to, and since I don't have a TV I don't even have to pay the otherwise forced license fee which is about a hundred USD every half year. A lot of people have started doing the same which is why the socialists are aiming to make it a general tax instead. The label socialist includes social democrats since those bastards sing The Internationale at party rallies, the song of praise for international socialism and communism.

Shortwave or software defined radio or ham radio sounds far more interesting than any of the modern proprietary/totalitarian crap.

Anonymity? Yeah right not a chance.