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Third edition 1997

(Nordic Media from 1999)

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Denmark   |   Finland   |   Iceland   |   Norway   |   Sweden

  Welcome to Nordic Media News

The editions of Nordic Media News, Nordic Media from 1999 onwards, are available on the net. The newsletter is a summary of the contents of Medier i Norden: Resymé (Scandinavian languages news bulletin).

Nordic Media News may be quoted, provided the source is clearly stated.

  Editor                                                      Publisher
Terje Flisen (TF)                                        Secretary General Søren Christensen
Postboks 1726 Vika                                  Nordic Council of Ministers,
0121 Oslo, Norge                                      Store Strandstræde 18
Tel. + 47 22 20 80 61                                 DK-1255 København K., Denmark

Nordic Media News ISSN 1396-934X electronic edition.



TV rights to important events 

On 29 October 1997, the Minister of Culture, Mr. Ebbe Lundgaard, presented a legal proposal to the Parliament concerning TV rights to important events. The proposal implements article 3a in the revised EU directive concerning "TV without borders" (the European Parliament and the Council's directive no. 97/36/EU of 30 June 1997).

The proposal gives the Minister of Culture the authority to give rules for the TV stations to exploit sole rights to important events. The proposed authority is to be used to publish a list of events which TV stations that cannot be received by a significant part of the population or pay channels cannot broadcast alone. The purpose is to secure that all viewers have the opportunity to follow events of significant social importance on TV without having to pay extra for it. Typically, such events will be sports events.

The background for the proposal is that the prices of TV rights to major sports events have risen explosively the last few years. The competition in the market has increased the risk that only TV stations financed by direct user payment can afford to show the events in question. The consequence will be that a large part of the population cannot follow the events on TV.

The events may be national or international, and the TV rights are often negotiated at the international level. In order to make the arrangement as efficient as possible, it is a part of the EU directive and thus the proposal states that the membership countries are obliged to mutually respect each others lists.

It follows from the directive that the events in the list should be of significant social interest, and unique. In addition, the event should be put on by an organisation or a person who has the right to sell the rights that apply to the event. In practice, this partially means that the list - at least currently - will only consist of sport events. In establishing the list, emphasis will be put on whether the event normally is followed by many viewers and whether the event traditionally is centrally placed in Danish sports culture. This means that the importance of the event does not have to depend on the top effort of a given sports star.

Approval by the European Commission
The proposed list, which has been put together after negotiations with sports organisations and the TV stations, includes the following events: Olympic games, summer and winter. European and world championships in soccer (men) - all games with Danish participation, and semifinals and finals. European and world championships in handball (men and women) - all matches with Danish participation, and semi-finals and finals. Denmark's qualification games for European and world championships in soccer (men). Denmark's qualification games for European and world championships in handball (women). It is stated that the list may be changed, so that it continually contains relevant events. When changes are made, the sports organisations and TV stations will be consulted. The list is to be approved by the European Commission, and will later be published in the EU Times.

Since the main purpose of the proposal is to ensure that a significant part of the population has access to the follow the events on non-payment TV, it has been necessary to define the terms "a significant part" and "non-payment TV".

Country-wide transmission network
Only TV stations that transmit their programmes on country-wide terrestrial networks can be received by the entire population, i.e. Danmarks Radio and TV2. It is understood that more than 60 % of the households today are connected to common reception networks and that about 10 % have their own antennas. This means that about 30 % of the population does not directly have access to an event which is transmitted by cable or satellite TV. According to the proposal, the percentage is so high that only Danmarks Radio (but not DR2) and TV2 at present meet the purpose of the proposal.

According to the proposal, "non-payment TV" includes all channels where the viewer does not pay separately more than DKK 25 per month. Licence and payment for being connected to a common reception network is not considered extra payment.

Due to the independence of the TV stations, the arrangement does not mean that Danmarks Radio and TV2 are obliged to transmit the events in question. The sole rights to an event which none of the two want to transmit, may then be used by the rights owner, for example, the satellite, cable or payment TV station. In addition, the owner of the sole rights is always allowed to transmit an event, given that Danmarks Radio or TV2 also has the opportunity.

In the announcement, it is furthermore the purpose to state that the event preferably is to be transmitted live by Danmarks Radio or TV2, unless it is necessary or desirable from the viewers' point of view to show the event with a time delay. In addition, rules will be made stating that Danmarks Radio or TV2 are obliged to informed the holder of the rights whether they want to transmit the event at all, and whether it will be sent live or time delayed.

Finally, it should be stated that any conflicts with pricing of TV rights are to be handled by the council of competition, which will make a statement in such cases.


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YLE to be financed by licence only? 

The activity of Rundradion Ab (YLE) may now be financed by licence fees only. This is suggested in a consultancy report ordered by the Ministry of Traffic.

The report is written by the re institute of business, and it states that one should abstain from fees for public services. It is argued that the fees paid by commercial TV channels to Rundradion skews the competition for viewers. Rather than a fee for public services, licence fees should be collected from the commercial channels.

Licence fee covers 76 %
The Ministry of Traffic commissioned a report on different ways to finance public services, since a new broadcasting law is under preparation. The legislation will contain paragraphs on financing of public service radio and TV.

The Ministry has not yet evaluated the report, but it is being handled by the group of ministers in charge of the new legislation. Currently, 76 % of the expenses of Rundradion Ab are covered by TV licences and 14 % by the fee for public services that commercial TV pays.

In the report, it is suggested that the financing of Rundradion should be based entirely on licence fees, since this is considered to clarify the situation. To forsake the public service fee should separate the financing of Rundradion and the commercial companies. Income from commercials or use of public funds are not seen as alternatives, since they would tie Rundradion to announcers and to the political system. Even the owner's possibilities to control the efficiency of the company and the technological challenges speak for financing by licences fees, according to the report.

Financial deficit
In the report, it is discussed how the financial deficit of Rundradion should be covered if the public service fee is dropped. For example, the licence fees may be increased, the activity could be made more effective and it is also possible to sell property. This may mean a commercialisation of the distribution technique.

Instead of the fee for public service, commercial TV and radio channels should be made to pay licence fees. This should be collected directly to the government as a tax. The collection of TV licence fees should, according to the report, be a task for Rundradion. The income should be transferred directly to the company without having to go through a radio fund.


The press support board suggests changes in the press support 

The governmental press support board has made a proposal to the Ministry of Traffic about a decline of the selective press support from 1999. However, the parliamentary press support will be maintained. After the selective support has been declined, the parliamentary support will be paid to an amount of FIM 75 million per year, i.e. equal to the entire current support.

According to the proposal, the press support should be transformed to a support for public mass communication. The political parties may use this to support their papers and comparable electronic publication.

It is argued that the competition area of the newspapers has changed. The selective support has been channelled to the political papers, since other papers which are not market leaders in the area and should receive support hardly exist any longer. Even the competition authorities have pointed out the disadvantages of the current system.

The parliamentary support is currently distributed to parties according to their number of parliamentary members. In the budget proposition for 1998, the total support is FIM 75 million, of which FIM 40 million is for the selective support and FIM 35 million for the parliamentary support.


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Legislation against computer crime 

A Ministry of Justice commission will soon present a law proposal for changes in the penalty code to include penalties for computer crime. This includes various illegal activities that are carried out with computers or directed towards computers, software or data stored in computers or on digital format.

The proposal recommends that the current paragraphs for document forgery, theft and damage to property may be used also to cover computer crime. It is also proposed that breaking into computer systems, which is an increasing problem in Iceland, is to be considered criminal.


Software export for ISK 1.700 million 

The export value of Icelandic software firms is expected to reach DKK 170 million this year, compared to DKK 110 million last year, and 30 million above the prognoses. The software income has grown fast from DKK 2,5 million in 1990, and has been more than quadrupled over the last three years. The figures are publicised in the September issue of the monthly economic figures from the central bank (Seðlabanki Íslands).

The results are calculated based on figures from 40 companies that only work with software development. More than half of the export goes to the USA, DKK 60 million last year, to other Nordic countries for 20 million and other European countries for 18,8 million. Of this, 7 million went to England. Income from Asian sales reached DKK 11,8 million last year.


Now 28.000 active Internet users 

Recently, an Internet users organisation was formed in Iceland, and this is probably the first common forum for such users in Iceland. About 40 % of Icelandic nation now has access to the net, and there are about 28.000 active users.

The main goal of the organisation is to secure the growth of Internet in Iceland, to change the public attitude to Internet users and their organisations that have not been equally visible in the public debate, such as organisations for teachers, disabled persons and the entire culture sector.


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New government in Norway 

The September general election led to the resignation of the Labour government in October. It was followed by a government consisting of three parties in the middle of the political spectrum. Ms. Anne Enger Lahnstein, who leads Senterpartiet, is the new Minister of Culture.

The parties in the government coalition made a statement concerning the basis of the policies. It contains some signals concerning the goals for the media policies.

The statement says that issues like new forms of editorial responsibility in emerging electronic media will be evaluate from a principal and legal point of view. Likewise, issues concerning copyright legislation for net based publications will be evaluated. It will be important to ensure equal access to new forms of electronic communication and media so that new social barriers are not introduced, nor differences between generations and sexes.

The government parties furthermore signal that they want to work for a reduction of video violence and b renderings of violence in films and news on TV.

NRK is secured
The government parties want to secure that NRK remains a licence financed public service broadcaster with limited sponsoring. More emphasis will be put on local transmissions and productions. The district offices are to be further developed as b and independent units. The government parties emphasise that local radio and TV are important factors in the local media picture, and that they should enjoy reasonable working conditions.


Nordic Shopping Channel 

In co-operation with TV2, Telenor and others, NRK is planning to establish a satellite based channel for TV shop transmissions. According to the plan, Nordic Shopping Channel will broadcast from London. In the beginning, the transmissions will target the Norwegian market. The participant`s aim is to target other Nordic countries later.

If NRK participates, it will be through its fully owned daughter company NRK Aktivum. This company was established in 1997 and took over the commercial activity which previously was handled by the various departments and divisions in NRK. The purpose is to achieve a commercial yield by, for example, rental of production equipment or sale of transmission rights. From the Government's point of view, all programming in NRK should be financed through licence fees. Some people have questioned whether NRK's participation in Nordic Shopping Channel can be in keeping with the company's role as a licence fee financed public service broadcaster.

Which rules?
It has been claimed that the establishment of a London based TV shop channel represents a deviation of Norwegian legislation. According to the current directive and Norwegian rules, TV shop transmissions are considered as advertising and it is not legal to transmit more than one hour of TV shop per day. For this reason, it will not be legal to start a TV shop channel in Norway. The new TV directive, to be implemented in Europe before 31 Dec. 1998, however, opens for up to three hours of TV shop per day on channels that otherwise show programmes, or as pure TV shop channels.

So far, it has not been made clear whether a TV shop channel broadcasting from London but targeting Norway is covered by Norwegian rules or not. However, it follows from decisions made by the EU court that a broadcasting company which establishes itself in a different country in order to deviate from the receiving country's rules (de-localisation) under certain conditions may be obliged to follow the rules of the receiving country. So far, the Minister of Culture has not taken a position on NRK's potential participation in Nordic Shopping Channel.


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Introduction of terrestrial digital TV 

Digital TV transmissions are planned to be started in Sweden no later than 1 January 1999. The Government decided on 13 November to start digital TV transmissions in the terrestrial network in five different locations in the country. In the first part of the development, transmissions are to start in the following areas:

- Stockholm including Mälardalen and
- Norra Östergötland
- Södra and nordöstra Skåne
- Göteborg and surroundings
- Sundsvall and Östersund
In each transmission area, two frequencies are to be used for digital TV transmissions. Each frequency is sufficient for four programme channels, which means that there will be eight programme channels in each area. Six programme channels have been made available for national transmissions, and the remaining two for regional transmissions.

The purpose of the Government is to determine rights so that the programming companies are granted rights to send for four years from the deadline when the transmissions are to start. Important selection criteria which have been decided by the Parliament earlier will, among other things, be that several programming companies who are not co-operating should participate and that more than one programming company should be present in each area.

Digital TV committee
A parliamentary committee will be appointed and given the task to follow and evaluate terrestrial digital TV transmissions at the start-up. The committee will also participate in selecting which companies are to be granted concessions.


Changed ownership in TV4 

The media company Bonniers/Marieberg has increased its ownership part in the Swedish media market. Marieberg is currently the largest single owner in a new Finnish company, Alma Media Oy, which formally will be established on 1 April 1998.

The company consists of a fusion of two Finnish companies, Aamulehti Group and MTV Oy. Marieberg had already bought shares in the two companies and owned 16,7 % of TV4. On 21 October this year, Amulehti Group and MTV Oy decided to purchase TV4 shares from investors and Föreningsbankens, which together means an ownership post of 21,5 %.

Marieberg will thus control a significant part of TV4, directly through its own shares and indirectly through its ownership of the new company Alma Media.


Half a billion SEK investment in public service 

On 13 November this year, the Government decided to support the public service companies with SEK 507,5 million over the period 1998-2001.

Sveriges Television (SVT) will be given the opportunity to start new programming channels and have already shown plans for, among other things, a channel with quick re-transmissions of popular shows and a 24 hour sports and news channel.

Furthermore, they will also have the opportunity to send new channels via satellite. 245 million of the extra funding is proposed to be used to finance new channels and new distribution.

It is also proposed that SVT will receive a permanent support of SEK 75 million yearly for particularly qualified programming of the types documentary, drama and programmes for children and youth.


Law against concentration of ownership 

The Government decided on 13 November to establish a parliamentary committee with the task of making a proposal for legislation to protect the diversity and counteract unwanted ownership concentration.


Local radio to be evaluated anew 

The local radio committee's proposal for changes will not be carried out, the Minister of Culture, Ms. Marita Ulvskog stated on 30 September.

"The significant criticism from several juridical instances has decided", says the Minister of Culture in a comment. The leader of the Social Democratic Youth, Mr. Niklas Nordström will instead, as an appointed evaluator, be given the task of proposing new rules which contribute to diversity in the future commercial local radio.


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