DAB radio spreads, despite protests

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Residents of Trøndelag and the county of Møre og Romsdal lost most of their FM radio channels on Wednesday as the next phase of Norway’s conversion to DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) was rolled out. It wasn’t without more protests.

Trøndelag and Møre og Romsdal were the latest counties to be forced over to DAB+ radio on Wednesday. PHOTO: NRK Kommunikasjons

“It’s costing me NOK 30,000 (USD 3,658) just to upgrade my headsets,” complained farmer and truck driver Håvard Julseth in a message to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), which has been leading the drive to DAB. Julseth uses special headsets while he’s working that protect his ears but have radio transmitters installed. He also has an old car without DAB and a truck with a radio that now needs a DAB adapter.

“I am so furious over this damn DAB driten (which politely translates as “rubbish”),” Julseth wrote. “It’s sad that I really can’t afford to hear radio any longer.”

Lots of other Norwegians who work out in the fields, in forests and on the road are mightily frustrated by the forced transition from FM to DAB. Their own radios no longer work and they fear that new DAB radios and adapters will cost them too much. Erik Ree of Skogn in Nord-Trøndelag works as a teacher but also runs his family’s farm and he’s had to invest heavily in order to keep listening to the radio. Only a few stations (P4, Radio Norge and local radio) can still be heard on FM radios, and only until April 21. Then they’ll disappear, too.

“For me, radio is very important,” Ree told NRK. “Therefore I’ve had to update to DAB in the house, two cars, two tractors, in my workshop and in two headsets. It’s all cost around NOK 20,000-25,000.”

“For many farmers, radio is their friend through the whole day, and we’re experiencing that many are having to prepare for the loss of FM,” Hanne Lauritzen of the retailing chain aimed at farmers, Felleskjøpet, told NRK.

The biggest problem in Nordland, which switched to DAB last month, and now in Trøndelag and Romsdal, is a lack of DAB+ radios and adapters to be bought. “Many suppliers were on the fence over this transition to DAB would really happen, and were late in ordering them,” Lauritzen said. Molde-based newspaper Romsdals Budstikka reported before the weekend that many stores were running out of DAB adapters for cars.

Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland, who’s in charge of politically overseeing the transition to DAB, admitted on Wednesday that she still hasn’t bought a DAB radio herself. PHOTO: Kulturdepartementet

Others are trying to find ways around having to buy new DAB radios or adapters. Even Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland, who has the main political responsibility for overseeing the switch to DAB, admitted on Wednesday that she still doesn’t have a DAB radio at home. “I listen to the radio over the Internet,” Helleland told NRK. “I have DAB in the car, but not DAB+, so I need to buy an adapter.”

She stressed that Norway’s decision to switch to DAB was made 16 years ago and politicians today have to carry it out. “Many players have invested large sums in this for many years,” she said. “We have to follow through on what was said and done.” She insisted that in the long run, DAB “will give listeners better quality on the radio and access to more channels. This is best for the public and not least for preparedness in Norway.”

The minister conceded that “we have to be prepared for problems,” from poor DAB coverage in some areas to the expense and technical problems lots of Norwegians are facing. “But problems are there to be solved.” The next areas to switch to DAB are Telemark, Buskerud, Hedmark and Oppland counties, on April 26.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund