PUBLIKATIONER | 22 mar 2021

Internet distribution and its structural consequences in Denmark: A new Nordicom Review article

Någon håller en mobiltelefon framför en datorskärm

Photo: Scandinav Bildbyrå

A new Nordicom Review article analyses how Internet-based services gradually replace legacy media and communication technology, and how this challenges established business models, control mechanisms and welfare policies. 

The article, “Over-the-top and under the radar: An analysis of Internet distribution and its structural consequences in Denmark”, is written by Sofie Flensburg, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen. Nordicom Review editor Karin H. Zelano met with her to discuss the article. 

"The main goal of my article is to provide an overview of the important turning point in media and communication history, where Internet-based, over-the-top services gradually replace legacy media and communication technologies that carried mediated communication in the past", says Flensburg. 

Could you briefly explain the term “over-the-top services”? 

"Simply put, it refers to how a mode of communication – for instance, what we refer to as telephone calls – has moved from networks dedicated to this exact type of communication to platforms such as Teams or Zoom. An OTT service runs over the Internet instead of through these specialised and dedicated networks". 

The article focuses on Denmark as an example of a classic media welfare society where the state traditionally has played a lead role in the organisation of media and communication technology. 

"I show how this turn to Internet distribution challenges the institutional characteristics in a number of ways, because companies like Google and Facebook have largely taken over the governance and control of the basic communication infrastructures and distribution systems", Flensburg explains. 

New rules needed

A rationale behind the article is that policy-makers, and to some degree also researchers, have neglected to discuss the institutionalisation of these new models of communication. 

According to Flensburg, the OTT services have in many ways gone under the radar of policy-makers, who haven’t been able to develop legislative frameworks to grasp the development and emergent market structures and practices of purely internet-based services such as Facebook, YouTube or Zoom. 

"The main takeaway from my article is a call for discussing what rules we want to develop for these different types of communication platforms that do not fall within the institutional boxes that we have already developed, such as the definition of news media or a television channel", states Flensburg. 

A Nordic relevance?

The study looks particularly at the case of Internet distribution and structural changes in Denmark: Is it representative for all the Nordic states?

"The Danish case is somewhat similar to the other Nordic countries that are characterised by similar historical circumstances, but Norway, Sweden and Finland also have different physical conditions than Denmark, and therefore we see that the Internet infrastructure is developing differently across these contexts", Flensburg explains. 

In a global context however, the infrastructural, economic and political conditions in Denmark are different.  

"The Danish case is so interesting because we are so far ahead in the process of digitalisation. Other countries that are not at the same point might learn from our experiences", concludes Flensburg. 

 

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MIA JONSSON LINDELL