Gunnar Garfors is the CEO of the Norwegian Mobile TV Corporation (NMTV), and President of the International DMB Advancement Group (IDAG). We had the chance to speak with him and get his opinions on the meaning of radio, transitioning from analogue to digital, and podcasting. Take a look:
How he got started: Originally a journalist, Gunnar eventually began working at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (kind of like the BBC of Norway). Throughout his time there, his position evolved and he became Project Manager of Mobile Services, leading him to what he is today.
On his post on the Foreverness of Radio, and the final quote of Ove Joanson’s speech: “Radio is the medium of civilized man”: Radio is such a great medium, and one of the oldest still active. It’s been around so long because it allows you to create your own pictures in your mind, which stimulates creativity, and further leads to discussions and conversation. It’s also interesting in that you can listen in and have that be your primary activity, or it can also be background media and allow freedom to do other things, yet is always engaging. It’s a very clever medium in that way. Not to mention how much you can learn from it, since radio introduces you to so many new topics, music, and programs. Nowadays we do also have the internet for that, but there’s a sort of forced personalization that comes with that, whereas radio has a wider reach that doesn’t discriminate against anyone. You choose the program to listen to of course, but it’s still untouched. Some may argue it’s merely a product, or a form of entertainment, or even art, but essentially it is not influenced by what advertisers or others may think. It has remained relatively pure and honest.
On how Norway has been the first country in Europe to switch off analogue radio to go digital: It’s a great change for lots of reasons. Norway is a mainly rural country, and most people live outside of the major cities. Analogue is a very expensive medium to build and there are a lot of natural obstacles to go around such as mountains, fjords, islands, to overcome. One analogue trasmitter can transmit only one station, and so people living in small rural towns will only have access to only perhaps 4 radio stations – some even only 1 or 2. Meanwhile cities will have up to 20, it’s quite a difference. One digital transmitter, on the other hand, can transmit 20 to 35 stations. Now most towns and cities in Norway will get around 30 once the transition is finished, meaning lots of new choices and opportunities. There hasn’t been much discussion of it, and the issue has been kind of neglected by the media, but it’s because journalists in Oslo and other major cities don’t realize how much of a difference the change is making. Even commercial radio will have lots more services to rely on. Though Gunnar may not consider himself responsible for the change, he is glad to be an active part of the overhaul.
Why live radio is such a successful tool: It’s such a great way to discover and really enjoy breaking news or sports. People want to be a part of things as they first happen, and though you have the commodity of getting things on demand, there’s more pleasure in discussing what’s going on in real time. It’s something that really works on a social level, that yearning to discuss, which we see in social media as well. Live radio can really be exciting. When it first came out, families used to huddle around and listen, sharing and experiencing something together. Now it has expanded on a larger scale thanks to the internet.
How do you see radio in 10 years: Radio will be radio, and the discussion should not focus only on digitalization. We should turn our attention to programs and content, which will only get better as we’ll have more choices. Digitalization will also bring a lot of new listening devices with screens and an internet connection, and while some programs may not need it, it will enhance the experience of others. People can interact with each other, or, when an ad comes up, can touch a screen to buy a product instantaneously. Radio will always be radio, of course, but some will see benefits in this kind of participation.
And for you guys at Spreaker: It’s all about focusing on content and programs. Do something you’re passionate and care about, that’s what makes good programs. It’s a passionate medium where the possibilities are endless. Podcasting is a superb way of starting out in radio, where you can be picked up and be brought to a wider audience, go live, and then have your listeners tune in to your recorded podcasts again!
Thanks so much, Gunnar, it was an excellent chat!
Photo by Jannecke Sanne