Digital Audio Broadcasting

“There is nothing so stable as change” the bard of American music Bob Dylan once quipped and this grain of truth holds its weight. As music has much changed since those words were spoken by Dylan years ago, the way in which we listen to music is now changing; spear-heading this change is the country of Norway. At the beginning of this year, Norway was the first country in the world to shut down all FM radio stations in their country and instate the use of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting). The main motivating factor in this progression of technology is an economical angle, with savings of 25M US dollars per year according to the Norwegian government. Not all Norwegians were so enthralled by this sonic changing of the guard though, nearly two-thirds of the populace was initially opposed to the transition. A main cause of this opposition is the fact that 2.3 million Norwegian cars were without DAB sets as the new year rang. Another concern during this period of change is for the elderly, who may be less inclined to the transition and therefore are in the way of danger if winter weather warnings fail to reach them. Nonetheless, 70 per cent of Norway’s populace is already listening to digital radio currently so this change is only natural. As Norwegian radio stations are now solely transmitting DAB, this allows them to broadcast 8 times more frequencies at the same cost of operating only FM radio. Landscape is another contributing factor to this transition; the jagged mountains and deep-cutting fjords of the country pose a problem for FM signals. There is a phasing in and out of FM stations that occurs when one is driving through the ragged jowls of the mountains or winding through the fjords to a destination. With the introduction of DAB, this occurrence has been mitigated.

Several other countries (Britain, Denmark and Sweden) are closely observing the sonic experiment currently happening in Norway and may follow suit depending on the outcome. As with any major change, the outcomes are sometimes not always clear cut nor widely accepted. Only time will tell if this decision bears fruitful, so until then we will have to wait and see.

Content written by Christopher Majcher
Photo/Image: Håvard Wien