COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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Norway/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

There are three overall aims of media policy in Norway: firstly, to safeguard freedom of speech; secondly, to safeguard cultural diversity and that a media offer is given in Norwegian, and thirdly, to protect children against damaging media content.

NEWSPAPERS

There are approximately 230 newspapers in Norway with a total circulation of 2 150 000 (2014). Both the circulation, the number of readers, the number of subscribers and the income of printed media has dropped significantly in Norway within the last ten years. Simultaneously, the amount of people reading papers online increases, so does the number of people paying for digital newspapers. In 2014, 9% of the Norwegian population subscribed to a payment service for digital newspapers (all data from Media Norway (http://medienorge.uib.no/english/).

Politically, there is a broad consensus in Norway that a diversified press is a democratic asset. In the 1950s, the rising costs of newspaper production led to the demise of many newspapers. In 1966, the press organisations appealed to the authorities for economic support in order to be able to maintain a wide variety of newspapers, and thus to ensure the democratic exchange of opinions. Three years later a state subsidy scheme was established for the daily newspapers. Today, support for the press is provided by the Ministry of Culture administrated by the Norwegian Media Authority and regulated through a special juridical regulation. Both printed and digital press may receive support. In 2014 approximately 140 newspapers received a total amount of NOK 308 million. In addition to this funding, newspapers also receive indirect support through exemptions from VAT. In 2010, the government calculated that this support was NOK 2,2 billion. This exemption had only included printed media however in January 2016 the EFTA Surveillance Authority approved this exemption to be extended to digital news services. The government thus implemented VAT exemptions to include all news media from March 2016.

BROADCASTING

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) was established by the Parliament in 1933. The Corporation was a state monopoly financed by public licensing fees. The first decades NRK just distributed radio signals, but in 1960 the first TV channel was opened. In 1996, the NRK became a joint stock company with the state as the sole owner. Advertising is still prohibited in the NRK, but a limited number of sponsored programmes have been allowed. Parties other than the NRK must hold a licence in order to engage in broadcasting. NRK is financed by a mandatory annual license fee payable by anyone who owns or uses a TV or a device capable of receiving TV broadcasts. The latest white paper on public broadcasting (2015) emphasised that an increasing number of people use the services of NRK through digital devices, not covered by license legislations.

Until the beginning of the 1980s, media policy was largely concerned with NRK. However, during that decade, media policy was liberalised and the way was paved for private broadcasting financed by advertising. The broadcasting of satellite television through the cable network led to a greater need for regulation and administration. The Ministry of Culture issues licences for national and local broadcasting. In 1991, the Ministry established a department of Media Policy and Copyright to be responsible for broadcasting legislation, copyright issues, press subsidies and films. Today, several administrative responsibilities in the media sector are delegated to the Norwegian Media Authority.

The "public service" ideology has been central to media policy in Norway. The public service duties of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation are manifested in its statutes. However, the licences granted to the television channel TV 2 and the radio stationP4 in the early 1990s, as well as the radio stationRadio Norge in 2004 established channels with dual objectives. As privately owned entities, they were to generate the greatest possible profits for their owners, while the frameworks of the licences imposed mandatory public service broadcasting obligations on them.

Today, the commercial station TV2 has an agreement with the government that ensures cable broadcasting of the channel. In turn, TV2 has obligations concerning the location of their headquarters and news production, and content obligations such as 50% of programming being in Norwegian. The current agreement expires at the end of 2016, and a new agreement has been announced for 2017-2019. In the new agreement, most of the content obligations have been eliminated. The announced agreement is open to all applicants.

DIGITAL MEDIA

In recent years (from 2008), there has been a considerable development of optical fibre and other high-speed internet and television supplies, as well as a full digitalisation of the TV signals. This has led to an increase in public access to different TV channels.

Access and the use of the Internet have also increased. Today (2015), 96% of all Norwegians have access to the Internet at home. The use of smartphones and tablet computers has also increased dramatically in Norway from 2008. In 2014, 70% of all Norwegians have access to a tablet.


Chapter published: 20-03-2017

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