Friday 8 January 2016

DAB Scandal in Norway: License Fees Fund Guarantee for Private Radio

Government forced to release secret deal. Will the new minister of culture reconsider the FM closure plan?
The former CEO of the public service broadcaster NRK, Hans Tore Bjerkaas, has put his signature on a secret deal between the DAB promotion company Digitalradio Norge and the broadcast provider Norkring. The deal worth 63 million NEK is safeguarding the Swedish broadcaster MTG participation for DAB+ distribution for its network P4 Radio Hele Norge. This means that license fee funding has been used in order to prop up a private foreign owned company.
The owners of Digitalradio Norge are NRK and MTG. The ownership of Norkring is state controlled.  It should be noted that the deal was signed already 2012. Ahead of the 2015 parliament decision to go ahead with DAB+ and close the national FM system. 

The document has been leaked from the Ministry of Culture at the same time lawyers on behalf of the Norwegian Local Radio Assn.(NLF) are looking into the government DAB+ decisions. Among several issues they are critical how license fees have been utilized for the DAB project. 

Norway is not member of the European Union, but an EEA member (European Economic Agreement) and needs to follow the articles and laws that EU/EEA requires.  NLF has written a letter to the Ministry of Culture to get an answer to this basic question: Is the Norwegian FM switch-off decision legal with respect to our EEA agreement?  

Today, January 8th, Norway will have a new Minister of Culture; Linda Hofstad Helleland (Conservative). She is younger than her predecessor Thorild Widvey and also regarded to be more media competent.  Mrs Helleland will now have a hard time to get all the papers in order but there are suggestions in social media that she might reconsider the unpopular and internationally unique political decision to close the FM network already next year. 

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