Radio stations risk bankruptcy. Bureaucracy moves to kill retainment of FM.
The Norwegian media authority fines NOK 1.05 million three local radio stations, which the Media Authority believes have had much larger advertising revenues than the broadcasting conditions allow. The decision, which came the day before the Norwegian local radio association began its annual conference in Oslo on April 5, is seen by many as provocative and as an ordering job for the two commercial companies that broadcast nationally at DAB. On top of this the authority is in the midst of a ministry ordered investigation about a ten year extension of FM license period for local radio.
After thorough investigations, the media authority has concluded that these local radios have violated the license terms. It is natural that this has consequences, says Mari Velsand, director of the media authority, in a press release.
The three channels broadcast on FM in and around Oslo. After national FM broadcasts were closed in 2017, local niche channels are the only ones to broadcast on FM in the larger cities. But these cannot have advertising revenues that exceed NOK 135,000 per year and cannot forward other radio stations. The reason is that they should not be able to run commercially and thereby prevent "digitization", i.e. compete with the two commercial companies Bauer and P4 (MTG / NENT).
The three radio stations have in various ways been linked to Svein Larsen and his commercial radio group Radio Metro. Larsen is a co-owner of Asker and Bærum's local radio, while the Media Authority believes that the other two stations have forwarded content from Radio Metro in violation of the terms of the license.
The authority estimates that Norsk Lokalkringkasting and Askar go Bærum Lokalradio have generated annual advertising revenues of NOK 3-5 million. Radio Hurum is estimated to have had NOK 700,000 in annual advertising revenue.
The two large commercial radio operators have long pressed for the authorities to take action against the local stations that cooperate with Radio Metro.
Svein Larsen criticized the media authorities in the autumn of 2018 to dramatize the situation around the local radio. It is no surprise to me that the authority continues to act as a police and judicial authority on behalf of the major commercial actors and continues its tireless struggle to close the FM band and weaken the Norwegian local radio. It has been their line for many years now. Fortunately, politicians seem to have understood the consequences of the decision to close FM. Only politicians can save FM from disappearing not the bureaucracy, says Svein Larsen in a written statement.
Larsen believes that the decision is made on the wrong premises, and that "none of the stations violate the license and the conditions there".
Almost 200 local radio stations outside the major cities may broadcast on FM until the end of 2021. A political decision on what to do next is expected after the media authority has delivered its recommendation of the future fate of FM from 2021 at May 8.
Because of the overwhelming positive consultation response for an extension of FM radio and by most political parties the bureaucracy will probably realize that retainment of FM is a wise choice. However, the two lobbying companies might still succeed to keep Oslo and three big cities free from competition by local commercial FM stations. This is because these companies have powerful lobbying support by the public radio NRK and a key official at the Ministry of Culture.
To forbid any citizen to broadcast on an established world standard as FM radio is not in harmony with the Norwegian constitution.This incomparable regulation is also in conflict with the idea of a free open market driven by consumer demand. Internationally, this an unmatched move in a liberal democracy and could be challenged in both Norwegian and European courts.
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