OSLO — Those who have read my articles over the years may have formed that opinion that I’m an advocate of digital radio. While that is true, it’s also important to present both sides of the news about the acceptance of digital radio in general, and in Norway in particular, since the sun-setting of the service has started there.
Enough time has gone by since the first FM shutdowns to examine audience measurements and other feedback from listeners. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of it. “In a major technology shift, it is natural that some need time to make the transition,” says Ole Jørgen Torvmark, general manager of Digital radio Norway, representing national radio channels, quoted in this article in radionytt.no. But will listeners actually transition to digital radio, or simply give up on it? That’s the operative question for broadcasters in countries that are considering similar shutdowns.
In a survey conducted by Kantar TNS, radio listening in the Nordland county of Norway, where the first FM shutdowns have occurred, has dropped from 74% to 64%, a 13.5% decrease. At the same time, local FMs, still on the air, have seen an increase in listenership, according to the same article.
“DAB means probably more for those who send radio than those receiving radio,” believes Professor Frank Aarebrot, responsible for the survey conducted by Respons Analyze, the results of which show 55 percent of respondents are negative to the introduction of radio in Norway. One in three has not yet acquired such digital radio. The survey was done in February, about a month after the Nordland as the first county extinguished FM network for national radio and the same month as Trøndelag and Møre og Romsdal did the same, according to tu.no. The same research also indicated that only 31% are in favor of DAB.
In yet another survey, conducted by the Norwegian Truck Owners Federation (NLF) among its members in Nordland, Trøndelag and Møre og Romsdal, indicates three out of four respondents say that DAB coverage is perceived as inferior to FM coverage before the shutdowns. Seven out of 10 also believe DAB coverage poses a security risk, according to this report in radionytt.no: “We have made contact with the Federation to get to the bottom of this and will follow up the investigation. All feedback from listeners taken seriously,” says Mari Hagerup, head of media communications in Digitalradio Norway.
Hagerup said it was not clear whether or not truckers were listening to public or commercial radio. “These factors have been shown to confuse drivers in several places, as commercial radio has weaker coverage areas with low population. So it is both DAB and FM.”
“Professional drivers are completely dependent on the weather and messages to handle safely. Now many think they are getting fewer traffic messages than they did with the FM network. It is especially [true] in tunnels and on mountain passes...We see this as very serious,” the CEO of the NLF, Geir A. Mo, said in the same article.
“To ensure the best reception [in] commercial vehicles, we recommend [an] external antenna. Many retrofit adapters come with [a] glass adhesive antenna that attaches to the windscreen, but our recommendation is to replace this with antenna outside the cab. The same principle applies to FM. Many commercial vehicles currently have external FM antennas,” said Hagerup.
Those who work in radio engineering know this to be true — but how many listeners are willing to put even that much effort in to better reception? The harder you make something, even without the intention to do so, the fewer will follow through.