It looks like the country of Norway has managed to do what a million replays of “Stairway To Heaven” could not: kill FM radio once and for all. As of Wednesday, January 11, the Scandinavian nation is becoming the first in the world to cease FM radio broadcasting. Radio-loving Norwegians will now have to upgrade to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), while millions of traditional radios like those found in vehicles will become obsolete. The government says DAB is cheaper to operate than FM, while offering better sound quality and more variety. Sorry, FM.
The changeover, it should be noted, will not be instantaneous, nor is the switch from FM to DAB completely unexpected. Norway’s Ministry of Culture has been preparing the citizenry for this transition for years, and FM will be allowed to die a slow, lingering death rather than being summarily executed. In fact, FM radio in Norway will be gently phased out over the course of an entire year, beginning in the county of Nordland.
Nevertheless, Norwegians aren’t exactly embracing the change. Polls indicate that a full two-thirds of the population opposes the end of FM radio, with only 17 percent in support. Their reticence is understandable, since the cost of converting a car radio to DAB is somewhere in the $115 to $235 range. And what could this mean for the rest of the world? With Norway ditching FM radio, it now seems like only a matter of time before other countries start following suit. Whether or not this is a bad thing is up for debate. For many, even though it has been robbed of its former relevance, FM radio still has tremendous nostalgic appeal, hearkening back to a time when the broadcasting medium was considered experimental, rebellious, and even a little subversive. That era, alas, may only survive in people’s memories and in old reruns of WKRP In Cincinnati.
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