On March 7th, the Commission for Media Pluralism presented its final report, “Norwegian media pluralism - a stronger media policy for the public”. It proposes a number of financial measures to ensure media pluralism and quality journalism in Norway, and calls for politicians to speed up their media policy work.
The commission was appointed in mid-2015 to assess how government measures in the media sector should be arranged to encourage media diversity and a broad public debate, with special focus on news and current affairs media.
In its final report, the commission argues that media policy must be about both democracy and media policy. It believes there is a risk that journalism, which is essential for the public discourse, may diminish before sustainable business models are developed, and therefore suggests a number of initiatives and schemes.
Most of the proposals are for measures to be enacted for a limited period of time, during which their impact should be evaluated. The measures are expected to cost around NOK 800 million per year.
More news media to be VAT-exempt
In Norway newspapers are exempt from VAT, which since March 2016 also applies to electronic news. However, this indirect support applies only to news media offering a broad coverage of society. The commission now proposes that the VAT exemption be extended to encompass all news and current affairs media, including in-depth media and the sale of single articles. Furthermore, the commission proposes a temporary exemption for Norwegian news media from the obligation to pay the Social Security Contribution.
Support to local media and innovation projects
When it comes to direct support, the commission finds that the production subsidy scheme should be extended. It especially emphasizes the scheme’s contribution to the emergence of local newspapers and proposes, amongst other measures, raising the minimum rate for local newspapers’ support. A number of new grant schemes aiming, e.g., to support news media innovation projects are also suggested.
New ownership for NRK
In relation to a government proposal from December 2016 on the future funding of NRK, the commission proposes that the ownership of NRK (the state-owned public service company), as a matter of principle, be transferred to an independent foundation.
Support to commercial public service TV and radio
The commission underscores the important contribution of commercial public service broadcasters, as an alternative to NRK. In October 2016, the commission issued an interim report on commercial public service.
It suggested that if the authorities want to ensure the continued presence of a commercial public service broadcaster outside Oslo, they should be prepared to provide financial compensation to such an operator, which, in December 2016, was proposed in a government report. The commission argues that the compensation should be restricted to linear TV.
Moreover, the commission proposes a similar compensation to a radio operator; i.e., that a national radio service should be offered temporary compensation for additional expenses associated with providing public service content and maintaining offices outside the capital of Oslo.
Regular reports on the state of the media
The commission also suggests that the government should submit a report to the Storting (parliament) every four years, reviewing media policy objectives and instruments in the light of recent media developments.
The final report:
English summary of the commission’s final report (PDF)
Full report in Norwegian: Det norska mediemangfoldet. En styrket mediepolitikk for borgerne (NOU 2017:7)
How should Norwegian public service be financed in the future? Nordicom 17.01.2017
Government reports in Norwegian (Dec 2016):
Meld. St. 15 (2016-2017): Eit moderne og framtidsretta NRK
Meld. St. 14 (2016-2017): Kommersiell allmennkringkasting
A Swedish media inquiry about journalism and pluralism: In November 2016, the Swedish media inquiry “A media policy for the future” presented its final report. The inquiry, assigned with analysing the need for new media policy tools when press subsidies in their current form ceased, suggested opening up the support to all general news media, regardless of type and distribution form.
BY: EVA HARRIE