Saturday, December 24, 2011

Norway’s State-Controlled Media

Lenin reading Tidens Krav

Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer sends the following translation, and includes this note:

This article published in Aftenposten a couple of weeks ago concerns the independence — or lack thereof — of the Norwegian media.

In addition to the information presented in the article, it’s worth mentioning that the Norwegian state is handing out Nok 6 billion each year in so-called “media subsidies”. It certainly raises some question about impartiality of the media in the country.

American readers will notice that the mass ownership of local newspapers in Norway parallels what happened here when Gannett acquired most of the larger local papers in the country, as well as dozens of TV stations. We don’t have a comparable level of state subsidy, but our small media outlets are now largely franchises of the conglomerates.

Here’s The Observer’s translation from Aftenposten:

When LO controls the newspapers

By Jon Kristiansen

A-pressen recently acquired Edda Media, and with this latest acquisition will be the biggest proprietor of local newspapers in Norway, excluding the big regional newspapers in the larger cities. From a strict industrial perspective this is a sound business strategy; in light of the future that the media in Norway is facing, with a handful of big media conglomerates. But this is not in itself the main problem. The big question is whether the large trade unions and the political establishment are going to be allowed to dictate the agenda of Norwegian local newspapers, and in addition how this influence will affect the various local democracies

A-pressen is today owned by Telenor (36 percent) and Fritt ord (3 percent), with LO [largest Norwegian labour union] along with other various trade unions owning the remaining 61 percent. A-pressen also embraces the values of LO.

Every Norwegian newspaper is run in accordance with the Norwegian media code of ethics (Redaktørplakaten og Vær varsom-plakaten). The independence and integrity of the newspaper editor is a given in our society, including the newspapers owned by A-pressen. But in what way can such an ownership structure constitute a problem? Well, it can, because the powerful ones always exert control.

This is how it works: the owner (LO / trade union) exerts influence over the company’s guidelines and who gets elected to the board. They also exert considerable influence over the hiring processes of the CEOs and board members of the various newspapers. This board is then responsible for appointing the various editors. This is as far as A-pressen influence reaches, but this is also more than enough. The various newspaper editors hold considerable power in the editorial boards and they are the main suppliers of the editorial contents.

DN (Dagens næringsliv) published an article in 2008 which revealed that Jens Stoltenberg and Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour Party) had had dialogues with then-chairman Knut Brundtland and director Stig Eide Sivertsen, concerning the hiring of A-pressen’s new CEO. LO’s preferred candidate was Jan Erik Larsen, then editor of Tidens Krav, which coincided with the wishes of Stoltenberg and Støre. Former Telenor CEO Stig Eide, Sivertsen who at the time was a member of the board responsible for selecting the new CEO, told Aftenposten that he did not succumb to any outside pressure. The position was eventually awarded to Even Nordstrom, and Jan Erik Larsen was “instead” given the job as chief Secretary at the Prime Minister’s office in 2008.

This incident clearly demonstrates that there is a desire and willingness within the political establishment to wield power and to influence decision making processes. A-pressen’s current CEO Thor Gjermund Eriksen is a skilled media man, but he also has his “party book” in order (member of the Labour Party). A-pressen will with this latest takeover own approximately 100 of the most important regional and local newspapers in the country. In Norway local newspapers have a very important role in their communities — and these newspapers are the most important suppliers of opinions. We need to ensure that all views and opinions are going to be respected — and that they are edited by individuals who are hired solely based on merit. It is not a question about the personal integrity of the editors; on the contrary, Norwegian editors in general are rock solid. The question is who gets to select them.

A-pressen’s mission statement should be changed, and LO should withdraw its ownership of the conglomerate.


Anonymous said...

I think it relevant to also point out that in addition to those billions to the media, Jens Stoltenberg spends 1 billion kroner (NOK) a year on propaganda.

Anonymous said...

"Everybody (still) loves Jens"

"News" on Christmas Eve.
Big photo

Anonymous said...

LO loves Jens, too. A lot. So much that they together with Ap, gave Jens a boat, paid by the LO members, on his 50 anniversary in 2009.

This was discussed all morning on 22 July 2011. Actually, many, Seven out of ten, of the people didn't think giving him a boat as a gift was a good idea at all.

First he got the boat as a gift. Then the party gave him 350 000 NOK to cover the tax on the gift.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it would also be a good idea to clarify that this is an opinion piece written by the editor of a competing newspaper...?

Anyway, there's almost no political debate in the local newspapera anyway. It's local news - in Norway that means boring news. Like say the results from the local 3rd division volleyball team, a cat found outside the local grocery store, etc etc. Who owns the papers wiriting about that is, quite frankly, utterly irrelevant.

The national newspapers, along with BT, SA and Nordlys are the only ones with political debate...


Anonymous said...

Two other things worth pointing out:

1. Before the subsidies were implemented, the papers were owned and funded by the political parties themselves. You can say a lot about subsidies, but direct party control is worse. Running a newspaper in Norway doesn't look like an activity capable of returning profits... At least as long we allow organizations to publish papers, and removing organizations the right to publish a paper isn't quite free speech, now is it?

2. Most of the local newspapers are affiliated with non-socialist papera, most of them with Høyre(the conservatives).

Lawrence said...

A Brave New (Marxist) World!

Whoo Hoo! Doesn't the future look grand?

Anonymous said...

Straight-talking Yorkshireman, editor of the independent weekly 'The Press' which centres on Dewsbury (Yorkshire England) has had a book published this Christmas - "The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury".

Anonymous said...

Jens Stoltenberg - The Dear Leader Father

Dagbladet tries to establish the idea that Jens Stoltenberg is loved by the people, and now has the right to the title of Great Father.

The idea refers to the post war Labour party prime minister, Einar Gerhardsen.

Of course, Gerhardsen was PM in different times, another era. In the days when we are observing the North Koreans crying their dictator, the idea gets all the more caricatural of a Dear Leader Father of Norway.

Anonymous said...

Stoltenberg - Dear Leader

Not surprisingly, there was no possibility to comment on that Dagbladet article. On the other hand, you could comment on an article on smalltalk, and stuff like that.

Didn't Dagbladet think the people would like to praise their Great Leader? Trow roses at him?

Anonymous said...

Labor Union leader proposes to change rules to keep top leader, who gave a boat as a gift to Jens Stoltenberg

Anonymous said...

Jens Stoltenberg has committed Norway to paying at least one billion USD (six billion NOK) to saving rain forests in Brazil and in Indonesia.

Who's going to save the infrastructure in Norway? Particularly needed after the Christmas storm "Dagmar" which has caused a lot of disaster along the coast.