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History of the Ministry of Culture

The Ministry of Culture was established in 1982 under the name Ministry of Culture and Science. Prior to that date, the Ministry of Church and Education bore national responsibility for Norwegian cultural affairs. Since then, the Ministry’s name and responsibilities have changed several times, with church affairs in particular moving between different ministries.

Today, the Ministry of Culture is responsible for cultural, copyright and media affairs (film, broadcasting and the press); sports; religious and life stance affairs; and gaming and lotteries. Several other ministries also deal with cultural matters. The Ministry has had responsibility for coordinating government voluntary-sector policy since 2005.


Ministry of Culture (KUD) 2010– 
Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs (KKD) 2002–2010
Ministry of Cultural Affairs (KD) 1991–2002
Ministry of Church and Culture (KD) 1990–1991 
Ministry of Culture and Science (KD) 1982–1990

(On 1 January 2013,  the Church Affairs Department was again incorporated into the Ministry of Culture, but the Ministry’s name was not changed.)


Trine Skei Grande 17 January 2018
Linda Cathrine Hofstad Helleland 16 December 2015–17 January 2018
Thorhild Widvey 16 October 2013–16 December 2015
Hadia Tajik 21 September 2012–16 October 2013 
Anniken Huitfeldt 20 October 2009–21 September 2012
Trond Giske 17 October 2005–20 October 2009 
Valgerd Svarstad Haugland 19 October 2001–17 October 2005
Ellen Horn 17 March 2000–19 October 2001
Åslaug Marie Haga 8 October 1999–17 March 2000
Anne Enger Lahnstein 17 October 1997–8 October 1999
Turid Birkeland 25 October 1996–17 October 1997
Åse Kleveland 3 November 1990–25 October 1996
Eleonore Bjartveit 16 October 1989–3 November 1990
Hallvard Bakke 9 May 1986–16 October 1989
Lars Roar Langslet 14 October 1981–9 May 1986


“Decentralisation” was a key concept in the 1970s. Culture committees were established in most Norwegian municipalities, and municipalities began hiring heads of culture or culture secretaries. A similar system was developed at county-authority level, and new financial grant schemes were introduced.

Public funding for traditional cultural sectors was also increased. A new Libraries Act was adopted in 1971, as were a new support scheme for institutional theatres (1972) and a new, decentralised museum support scheme (1975). A separate white paper on artists (1978) played a key role in artists gaining the right to negotiate with the state, and in the improvement of artist support schemes.

The cultural policy white papers of the 1970s laid the foundation for a new public cultural policy approach in Norway. The white papers established that cultural policy was a public responsibility, and a means of building a qualitatively richer society. Subsequent policy developed has built on this foundation, even as the Ministry’s responsibilities have expanded.

The Arts Council Norway was formed in 1965, and administers art and culture grants across Norway. The Arts Council promotes new art and culture projects, engages in development efforts and advises the government on cultural policy issues.

The Ministry of Culture has delegated a number of key administrative tasks to subordinate agencies. Among the largest of these are the Arts Council Norway, the National Library of Norway, the National Archives of Norway, the Norwegian Media Authority and the Norwegian Film Institute.

Public grants for cultural policy institutions and projects are administered by the state, county authorities and municipalities. The state is primarily responsible for national and nationwide measures, while county authorities and municipalities bear responsibility for regional and local projects. In the 1990s, the state assumed direct financial responsibility for various major cultural institutions, and introduced distribution formulae specifying the state and regions’ respective shares of funding for others.


The Ministry is also responsible for copyright matters. Copyright is designed to protect the rights and income opportunities of artists, and to promote innovation and the development of new cultural expressions. When regulating copyright, it is important to strike a reasonable balance between the interest of rights holders in profiting from their activities and the interest of society and users in utilising intellectual works and having access to cultural heritage. Copyright is regulated by the Copyright Act.


The media sector has developed at a furious pace since the establishment of the Ministry in 1982. Previously, media matters were almost always synonymous with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). Media policy liberalisation in the 1980s and the licensing of private, advertising-funded broadcasting and satellite television transmission via the cable network increased the need for regulation and administration. 

In the 1990s, a number of media-related administrative responsibilities were assigned to the Mass Media Authority, and the Norwegian Media Ownership Authority was established pursuant to a special act of parliament. In 2005, the Mass Media Authority, Norwegian Media Ownership Authority and Norwegian Board of Film Classification were merged to form the Norwegian Media Authority.


The national sports office (Statens idrettskontor) was established in 1946 with a mandate to function as a link between the state and sports organisations. The formation of Norsk Tipping AS in 1947 laid the foundation for a strong increase in state support for sport.

A large proportion of public sports funding comes from lottery and gaming proceeds, i.e. the profits of Norsk Tipping. These proceeds are primarily funnelled into voluntary, membership-based sports. Funding is allocated to different objectives in accordance with a set distribution formula, under which 64 percent of Norsk Tipping’s profits go to sports activities, 18 percent to cultural projects and 18 percent to social and humanitarian organisations.

Gaming and lotteries

The Ministry of Culture has primary responsibility for the administration of gaming and lotteries. The Norwegian Gaming and Foundation Authority is the specialist administrative and supervisory body. The Norwegian gaming market has undergone considerable changes. The Storting (the Norwegian parliament) adopted a comprehensive gaming machine reform in 2003 which introduced a ban on privately operated slot machines and gave Norsk Tipping the exclusive right to operate gaming machines. The reform was stimulated by the high number of people who developed undesirable gaming behaviour when playing slot machines. In the spring of 2007, the Norwegian state’s monopoly model was upheld by the both the EFTA Court and the Norwegian Supreme Court. The ban on privately operated slot machines took effect on 1 July 2007, and entailed the removal of over 12,000 machines. 1 June 2010 saw the adoption of a ban on payments from Norway to foreign gaming companies without a Norwegian licence. The ban prohibits banks, financial institutions and similar entities from transferring deposits and wins between Norwegian gamers and such companies. 

Voluntary sector

The Ministry of Culture has been responsible for coordinating the state’s relationship with the voluntary sector since 2007. This includes administration of cross-sectoral grant schemes, such as the value added tax compensation scheme, the volunteer centre scheme and the Frifond fund, and the establishment and administration of the Register of Non-Profit Organizations. Other tasks include culture and the business sector, culture and health, and cultural initiatives in the High North.

Church, religious and life stance affairs

The Church of Norway is the largest religious community in Norway. In 2012, a constitutional amendment altered the relationship between the Norwegian state and the Church of Norway by repealing the former constitutional provision providing for a state church. Among the most important changes were the dissolution of the King’s special church council and that bishops and deans are now appointed by church bodies. The 2012 constitutional amendment also provided for further independence of the Church of Norway.

Statutory amendments making the Church of Norway an independent legal entity came into force on 1 January 2017. Church bodies have been transferred to the new legal entity, and as a result around 1,700 church employees – vicars, deans, bishops and staff at diocesan offices and the secretariat of the Church Council – are now employed by the Church of Norway.

The Ministry is also responsible for dialogue between the state and different religious and life stance communities, and the administration of relevant grant schemes in this area. The grant scheme for religious and life stance communities other than the Church of Norway is intended to ensure generally equal financial treatment of religious and life stance communities in Norway. The annual grant must correspond to budgeted state and municipal spending per member of the Church of Norway.

The Ministry currently has the following specialist departments:

  • Department of Administrative Affairs
  • Department of Civil Society and Sports
  • Department of Cultural Heritage and Religious and Life Stance Affairs
  • Department of the Arts and Museums
  • Department of Media Policy


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