The ownership situation of the Norwegian media has changed dramatically over the last forty years. Prior to 1969, the press was not regulated by the state. It was mainly owned by families, local businessmen, and, in the case of the major regional newspapers, by the political parties or groups strongly associated with them. The 1969 law on press subsidies had an important impact on the situation, and did for a long time prove very successful, making Norway one of the few countries where the number of newspapers actually grew.
This law was designed to ensure competition by securing a wide variety of papers, and also to help the second newspapers in smaller areas. However, over the last 20 years the situation has changed, and in 2001 there were only nine towns with a competition between two local newspapers. 2 In broadcasting, the state owned Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) NRK retained its monopoly until 1981. A new broadcasting act opened up the possibility for local radio and television service, but on a licence only basis, and it was not until 1990 that the national monopoly was broken.
The television channel TV2 was given a license to be the unique publicity funded national channel, and P4 was to be the only national commercial radio. However, the ownership of these media was strictly governed. Any one owner could only control 20% (later upped to 33. 33% for TV2 because of financial problems), and they were also considered PSBs, so they had to adhere to set rules about programming and the percentage of advertisement. TVN, a cable channel, was also given a licence, but not on a terrestrial basis.
However, as it has close ties with the majority of local television companies, it is broadcast on terrestrial TV to almost the entire country. Initially TV2 took the channel to court, as they had been promised a unique nation wide commercial license, but as TVN ran into financial problems they bought 49,3% of the stock instead. 3 A fourth channel, TV3, is not subject to Norwegian legislation as it is part of a Scandinavian network and broadcasts from England. This project will look at the three major media groups – Orkla-media, Schibsted and A-pressen.
They all have different ideologies, and they also built their network in different ways. As the press has traditionally been the place where the most influence has been wielded, this will be my main focus, and as examples I will use the Orkla owned regional newspaper Sunnmi rsposten and also the Tinius Trust which is an important part of Schibsted. However, the impact of commercial television over the last ten years has been dramatic, so this will also be considered, and I will look at Torsdagsklubben, a satirical debate programme and Rikets Tilstand, both on TV2.
Orkla This company differs from the other two in that it only moved into media in the 1980s, and in the fact that it only draws 8% of its total income from media related activities4. It was founded under the name Orkla Grube-Aktiebolag in 1904 as a mining company5, but soon started to build up its portfolio, and is today one of the market leaders for snacks, toiletries and chemical products. It also has interests in the wood and paper industry, and is one of the biggest advertisers in the Norwegian market.
Orkla-Media was founded in 1987 to manage the media part of the corporation, and is today the second largest media company in Norway6. It has specialised mainly on local and regional newspapers, and always tries to buy the market leader in any given area as long as the price is not too high. When the company went into the market in the late 1980s, it was criticised for its commercial approach to media ownership.
It stated early on that its only interest was making money, and that it would not interfere with the editorial line of the newspapers. In 1987 this led Andreas Norland, Schibsted’s editor at the time, to say that his company was ‘a serious alternative to the new kind of newspaper owners who do not know anything about running a paper and are only interested in making a profit. ‘7 However, this approach was one of the main reasons as to why Orkla was able to buy so many papers so easily.
At this time there were several other companies who tried unsuccessfully to make their way into the market. One of the major ones was Media Visjon, who was squeezed out of the market after a statement by the director that their main objective was to make money, and to achieve this they would change the editorial content of a paper if doing so could make it more profitable.
By the early 1990s, Orkla was the only major investor in the local and regional market, and was able to buy over 91% in all but two – Asker og Birums Budstikke and stlandets Blad – of the papers it tried to take over. 9 Albeit very fruitful, this situation did not last very long, and by the mid 1990s, Orkla faced competition from A-Pressen. The papers owned by Orkla only constitute 418 655 copies or 14% of the daily print run in Norway (2001)10, but they are very geographically concentrated, which means that around the capital, in Mi?? re og Romsdal and on Haugalandet the company has a de facto monopoly.
Orkla is also involved in printing, distribution and the magazine sector, as well as owning three local television and two local radio stations. It has interests in Sweden, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states, and with the purchase in 2001 of the Danish company Berlingske, it has become a truly international corporation. Orkla is in the media industry for commercial reasons, and has succeeded in making big profits due to the fact that its business is highly diversified.
An example is that when the price of paper went up in the mid 1990s, entailing a dramatic increase in the cost of producing newspapers, Orkla was able to balance this with the profits made by its own large paper industry. The fact that Orkla is a big advertiser has earned it some critique, as it has been claimed that this advertising is directed towards media that that the company owns itself. It also has strict financial requirements of its papers. There is a demand for a 15% return, and the company has been criticised for draining capital from its assets.