Article | Last updated: 2017-09-27 | Ministry of Culture
As set out in Article 100 of the Constitution of Norway, the state has an overarching responsibility in the media sector to promote freedom of speech and democracy by creating “conditions that facilitate open and enlightened public discourse.”
Therefore, the primary objective of the Government’s policy on editorial media is to promote well-informed news production and broad public discourse in the digital media society of today and tomorrow. Editorial mass media play a critical role in the framework for public discourse. The authorities must facilitate an open, diversified infrastructure for the exchange of news, information and perspectives representing all segments of society. Democracy cannot function adequately without such exchange.
Both financial instruments (e.g. state support for media) and regulatory instruments (e.g. requirements regarding content, ownership rules, accountability and editorial independence) are used to achieve the objectives relating to pluralism and quality in Norwegian editorial mass media.
Why the media receives state support
Pluralism in the media sector is an important prerequisite for maintaining an open, democratic society. One of the purposes of the media support is thus to maintain a variety of news and current affairs media. Public support to the media is part of how the government fulfils the intention of Article 100, paragraph 6 of the Constitution, which stipulates: “It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions that facilitate open and enlightened public discourse.”
The Norwegian Media Authority manages the Ministry of Culture’s support schemes in the media sector. This includes the following support schemes:
- Grants for news and current affairs media;
- Grants for weekly newspapers;
- Grants for Sámi newspapers;
- Grants for minority-language publications;
- Grants for local broadcasting.
In addition to the Ministry of Culture’s support schemes, newspapers receive indirect support in the form of exemption from VAT. The rules governing the VAT are the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance.
Changes in media consumption
Government policy instruments directed at the media sector must be continuously re-evaluated due to ongoing changes in the public’s media habits. Figures from Statistics Norway show a decrease in the consumption of all the traditional mass media, with more and more people opting to use free-of-charge services available via the Internet instead. This decline in the use of traditional mass media diminishes media revenues from users and advertisers, making it increasingly difficult to finance journalism essential for the public discourse.
In September 2015, the Government appointed a public commission on media pluralism with the mandate of determining what the government’s objective with respect to media pluralism should be and examining the totality of Norwegian media output in light of key development trends. The commission was asked to provide a recommendation on how the government can target support schemes to facilitate open and enlightened public debate and to promote media pluralism. The commission presented its report on 7 March 2017.