Broadcasting and on-demand audiovisual services

Broadcasting entails the transmission of radio or TV programmes, the key element being that these are received directly and in real time by the public. On-demand audiovisual services are services that have as their main objective offering programmes that can be viewed at a time of the viewer’s choice.

The Broadcasting Act

Broadcasting and the provision of on-demand audiovisual services are regulated in the Broadcasting Act. The Ministry of Culture and Equality is responsible for the Act relating to broadcasting and on-demand audiovisual services and the accompanying regulations.

The regulatory provisions of the Act cover matters such as permission to engage in broadcasting (the duty to obtain a licence), rules on advertising, sponsoring and product placement, retransmission via cable networks, the distribution duty and general provisions on NRK’s organisation. The administration of the Broadcasting Act has largely been delegated to the Norwegian Media Authority.

Public broadcasting

The objective of public broadcasting is to provide the entire population with access to a broad range of content. In Norway, we currently have a public service broadcaster (NRK). The Ministry is responsible for the ownership government of NRK. In order to engage in broadcasting or broadcast locally via wireless, ground-based transmission facilities, all broadcasters other than NRK are subject to licensing. Under the Broadcasting Act, the NRK has a right to engage in broadcasting. NRK is financed by means of a license fee, and is mandated to offer public broadcasting via radio, TV and the internet. The NRK’s public service remit is set out in the NRK placard, which is incorporated into NRK’s articles of association.

The government has presented a proposal for the future financing model of the NRK in its white paper no. 15 (2016-2017) NRK – a modern and forward-looking organisation: financing and content obligations. 

In 2017, the government announced the opportunity to apply for an agreement with the state to provide commercial public service broadcasting. The agreement has a duration of five years and the compensation is up to NOK 135 million annually.

The public service remit includes obligations to deliver self-produced national news programmes supported by a central news desk, Norwegian-language programmes for children and young people, first-time broadcasts of Norwegian film and television drama.  The broadcaster will be required to have its main editorial office and central news desk at least 100 km outside of central Oslo.  The public service broadcaster must deliver its programmes on both linear and nonlinear platforms.

Digital radio

The decision to digitise radio

Radio digitisation is an industry-driven process with the broadcasters rather than the authorities deciding which radio technologies to employ. The government’s role has been to facilitate matters and set out requirements to the broadcasters with special emphasis on safeguarding the listeners’ needs.

In 2011, a broad majority in the Norwegian parliament adopted the criteria set out in the white paper on digital radio to permit national channels to phase out their FM broadcasts: 

  • The coverage of NRK’s digital radio services must correspond to that of the channel NRK P1 on FM.
  • The commercial DAB block must cover at least 90 per cent of the population. 
  • Digital radio services must give listeners added value in terms of technology and content.
  • Affordable and technically satisfactory solutions must be available for radio reception in cars.
  • At least half of all listeners must listen to a digital radio station daily.

In 2015 the government concluded, on the basis of reports provided by the Norwegian Media Authority and the National Communications Authority, that these criteria had been met and that radio could be digitised in 2017. The national broadcasters – NRK, Radio Norge and P4 – in 2015 decided to phase out FM broadcasts region-by-region in 2017. 

Facts regarding coverage

  • The NRK’s part of the DAB network reaches 99.7% of the population. Coverage is thus at least on a par with the FM network, which had a coverage of approximately 98.6% in FM stereo and approximately 99.6% in FM mono. All calculations by the National Communications Authority in 2016. NRK has since supplemented its provision by including further senders in the national block (known as Riksblokka).
  • The commercial part of the network reaches about 93% of the population. This almost equals Radio Norge’s coverage and is significantly above that which P4 had for FM, according to calculations by the National Communications Authority in 2015.
  • According to NRK, one can hear the DAB radio at least 50 km from shore along most of the Norwegian coast with a digital radio receiver or adapter and a good, correctly installed antenna.
  • According to the National Communications Authority, the DAB network’s road coverage is better than that of NRK P1’s FM stereo.  In 2016, the Norwegian Communications Authority calculated that the DAB coverage for the regional block was 93.2% on all road categories overall (European roads, national roads, county roads and municipal roads). The coverage for NRK P1 FM stereo is 89.3% for all road categories. All tunnels that previously had FM have been given DAB coverage.

Facts on digital added value

  • The number of national radio channels has increased from five FM channels to more than 30 DAB channels.
  • The public are making use of the increased range. Approximately a third of all radio listening is now on channels that had little or no distribution on the FM network. Channels such as NRK P1+ would not have materialised without DAB. Every day, about 300 000 Norwegians listen to this service.
  • Especially rural Norway is being afforded a broader range by digital radio provision. This goes some way to explaining why the changeover to digital radio has been swifter in the rural areas than in Oslo.
  • Much of commercial radio provision consists of music channels. The commercial players must procure market-based finance; producing new editorial content is more expensive than sending music.
  • All national radio channels are owned by NRK, MTG or Bauer Media. Ownership has not diversified. This is largely because, to date, these are the only three players that have opted to invest in national networks.

Facts on emergency preparedness

  • The technical aspects of emergency preparedness in the DAB network have been improved compared with the FM network. As mentioned above, the DAB network has higher coverage than the FM network.
  • In the DAB network, radio signals are sent to each sender individually. In the FM network on the other hand, the main senders were fed directly, with smaller senders being fed by smaller senders higher up the chain. In the DAB network, losing a sender no longer means that transmission to the other senders is halted.
  • In addition, NRK have double senders, reserve power and reserve feeding for senders covering more than 5000 individuals (with such senders covering 90% of the Norwegian population).
  • Moreover, the DAB network is subject to operating time requirements that are higher than those of the FM network (99.9% compared with 99.8%).
  • All tunnels that previously had FM have been given DAB coverage. In addition, all channels that are available outside of the tunnel (and not just P1 and P4 in a few tunnels) are also available in the tunnel. All channels can be interrupted for important notifications.

Facts on frequencies

  • Each country’s frequency authority is responsible for administering frequencies within its territory. The DAB frequency area is the same all over Europe.
  • Many European countries have allocated frequencies to DAB transmissions, including several of our most important allies such as the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and France.
  • Norwegian frequency authorities do not permit the use of frequencies that disturb Norwegian radio transmission. Incorrect use and unintentional disturbances may occur, but this type of disturbance can affect all broadcasting and electronic communication in Norway. The Norwegian Communication Authority’s activities include working closely with the armed forces to avoid such disturbances.
  • The NRK’s responsibilities include emergency preparedness. This is regulated in a dedicated regulation on Norwegian broadcasting operation in an emergency preparedness and war setting.

Facts on local radio broadcasting and digitisation

  • In accordance with a white paper on local radio, approximately 215 local radio licensees were in 2016 offered a free five-year extension on their licences; at the same time, the conditions for sending on the FM network were liberalised.
  • Since 2016, no extensions have been given for FM licences with significant coverage in Norway’s four largest cities or new licences announced. This includes 23 licences, of which 22 are already broadcasting DAB signals.

Further information on the changeover to DAB+ is available on the Norwegian Media Authority’s web pages on digital radio