How should Norwegian public service be financed in the future?
The Norwegian Government has proposed a platform-neutral media fee for the future financing of NRK, the Norwegian public service company. It also suggests financial support to a single operator for broadcasting commercial public service television.
In December 2016, the Norwegian Minister for Culture Linda Hofstad Helleland presented two white papers (Stortingsmeldinger) on public service media. The proposals aim to create a long-term financing for NRK, as well as to ensure the continuation of commercial public service television.
White paper on NRK’s financing and content
In this report to the Parliament, the Government proposes that the licence fee which funds the NRK be abolished. The current rapid changes in technology and media habits make the current licence fee, which is connected to the ownership of a TV set, obsolete for the future. A new funding model should be based on an earmarked, platform-neutral media fee.
Three options should be examined: a household fee, an earmarked tax like the Finnish model, and an individual media fee (fixed rate). When examined, the alternatives should also be assessed in relation to funding via the state budget. The final proposal should prioritize low administration costs, less bureaucracy, stable funding and independence for NRK, and, moreover, the model should not result in disproportionate distributional effects.
A new financing model can take effect January 1, 2019, at the earliest.
Link to the white paper (in Norwegian):
Meld. St. 15 (2016-2017): Eit moderne og framtidsretta NRK. Finansiering og inhaldsplikter [A modern and progressive NRK. Financing and content duties]
Comment: In 2015, the Government appointed an expert committee to review alternative models for public funding of NRK. In its report from July 2016, the group suggested that future financing for NRK be earmarked and apply to both linear and non-linear services. The majority of the group advocated a household fee, outside the state budget.
White paper on commercial public service television
This report proposes financial compensation for a single commercial public service operator, which should provide daily news broadcasts and have its headquarters outside the capital city.
The background is that the state's contract with TV 2, which has broadcast commercial public service since its inception in 1992, expired at the end of 2016. When a new agreement for the January 2017-December 2019 was announced last year, TV 2 chose not to apply. The cost of meeting the public service obligations in the agreement was considered greater than the benefits offered as compensation (must-carry on the cable networks). Ultimately, no player applied for the new agreement.
The Government now wishes to, through a temporary agreement, secure commercial public service in the short term. The economic aid will serve as compensation for additional costs over five years, and can be applied from 2018.
Link to the white paper (in Norwegian):
Meld. St. 14 (2016-2017): Kommersiell allmennkringkasting [Commercial public service]
Comment: In October 2016, an interim report analysing different models of public funding of commercial public service was presented by the Commission for Media Pluralism. Link to the report in Norwegian.
The Commission for Media Pluralism to deliver its final report
The Commission for Media Pluralism (Mediemangfoldsutvalget), appointed in mid-2015 to assess how economic instruments in the media sector should be arranged to encourage media diversity and a broad public debate in the digital media society of the future, will submit its final report to the Ministry of Culture around March 1. After a consultation process, the Government will present to the Parliament (Storting) a comprehensive review of the public support system for the media, including funding of public service media.
Read more about the Commission (in Norwegian)
More on public service financing models in the Nordic countries: In December 2016, the Swedish Government initiated a study on the future funding of public service media in Sweden. In October 2016, the Danish Public Service Committee (Public service-udvalget) presented five future scenarios for Danish public service media.
From Nordicom's table database (excel):
The public service funding systems in the Nordic countries - an overview, 2017 (Jan.)
BY: EVA HARRIE