Pieces of Nostalgia: FM Radio Loses to DAB

Featured Image by Martin Howard via Flickr

Last week, Norway announced it would begin the transition to eliminate FM radio in the country and replace its national standard with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). Norway is the first country to make concrete plans to shut down FM radio.

Norway’s Ministry of Culture claims the decision was made so listeners could “enjoy better sound quality” and offer “diverse and pluralistic radio-content.” Digital radio is also less likely to experience transmitter failure in extreme weather conditions. While this decision is unprecedented, the diminishing impact of FM radio around the world makes the decision unsurprising. The decision could also become the catalyst for other countries to follow Norway’s example.

While there are obvious technical advantages to DAB, I can’t help but feel super nostalgic and anxious that DAB will eventually take over in the United States. I am probably in the minority of millennials to believe this, but FM radio represents a local community unlike DAB. I still remember fondly listening to 93.3 WMMR after school while I completed my homework, and knowing when each DJ came on and what bonus features they would share (Pierre Robert’s “vinyl cut,” Jaxon’s “local shots,” etc.). You can call into WMMR at any time and hear a live DJ and ask for a request. Despite the ability to just pull up a song anytime I want on a steaming service, nothing beats hearing a DJ play your request on-air. I still listen to FM radio for those reasons. On satellite radio you are less likely to hear about what’s going on in your neighborhood or songs from a local band (Radio 104. 5 FM does an awesome Live at 5 on Fridays with local bands). DAB just doesn’t have the “personality” of FM.

However, this idealized view of FM radio is unfortunately no longer a reality for many stations. The “golden age” of FM radio, shown fondly in American Graffiti with DJ “Wolfman Jack,” (see above clip) has been over for a while. Due to consolidation, budget cuts, and a changing face of music, live DJs have been replaced with automation. DJ’s often no longer choose the music they play, and need to play the “Top 40” or other mainstream choices. With stations like those, why not make the switch to DAB and listeners have more options to choose from?

I’ll never lose my love for authentic FM radio, but what do you think of the future of DAB? Let us know in the comments!

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