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13 Culture, sport and media
13.1 State subsidies for cultural activities
Since 1980, central government funds for cultural activities have been transferred to the Svalbard Council. The appropriation for 1999 was NOK 119 000, and NOK 122 000 has been proposed for 2000. This is additional to grants to the Svalbard Council for welfare initiatives in the Svalbard budget, cf. section 14.2.2 The Svalbard Council.
A Board of Cultural Affairs has been established which annually arranges a number of cultural events, such as concerts, theatre productions and film showings, art exhibitions, the 17th of May arrangements, sun festivals and events connected with the annual television collection for charity.
Since 1995, administration of the central government grant has been delegated to the Norwegian Council for Cultural Affairs. The grant is channelled through the Svalbard Council.
Grants are also allocated to the Longyearbyen Public Library, cf. section 13.2 below.
13.2 Longyearbyen Public Library
The running of the Longyearbyen Public Library was taken over from 1 January 1997 by Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS. The library's work is also supported by annual grants appropriated out of the budget of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, and administered by the Norwegian Directorate for Public and School Libraries. The grant amounted to NOK 126 000 in 1999, and the amount proposed for 2000 is NOK 129 000. The library employs a full-time chief librarian and a part-time assistant librarian. Registered visits to the library numbered 8 425 in 1998. The library premises were considerably altered and extended in 1997. This allowed a mediathèque to be opened, with a large television and video screen and a slide projector. Opening hours were also extended. This has led to considerably more visits. The new mediathèque is used as a reading room by students and school pupils, and for club and association meetings. It is also made available to the home-based daycare facility for assemblies and advisory sessions with the pre-school teacher. The library is used by the daycare centre for schoolchildren, and discussion evenings are held in cooperation with the health services. Visits by writers, exhibitions and other activities are also arranged. The library is linked to the Internet, and the aim is for the staff to advise and instruct the public in the use of that medium. The library also aims to build up a local collection of all published polar literature.
13.3 Svalbard Museum
Svalbard Museum was opened to the public in 1981, in a former barn in Longyearbyen. The aims of the museum are to promote and preserve Svalbard's culture and natural environment through collection, documentation, research and mediation.
Today the museum is one of the island's most important cultural attractions. Very many of the tourists who come to Longyearbyen visit the museum, and it is also used for educational purposes. The number of visitors has risen steadily, reaching 14 854 in 1998.
The Svalbard Museum board is a sub-committee of the Svalbard Council, which annually allocates a fixed amount of money to the museum. In 1998, the grant amounted to 22 per cent of the institution's revenues. Apart from this, the museum receives no regular public subsidies. This shows that it has greater earning capacity than most mainland museums, not least due to substantial sales of polar literature.
The museum has no permanently appointed full-time staff. Manpower needs are met by temporary appointments, guides who are paid by the hour and vacation substitutes. In 1998, this added up to roughly 1.5 man-years. The members of the board put in a good deal of unpaid work. The museum also benefits from advice from the Governor of Svalbard and from Tromsø Museum. The lack of full-time qualified personnel is a problem.
The museum needs more exhibition space and greater storage capacity. Various alternatives have been under discussion for some time: either extending the existing premises, or moving to a more central location, to be shared with other cultural institutions and perhaps a hotel. A development plan for Svalbard Museum has been drawn up, including new buildings and recommending the creation of permanent posts.
13.4 Svalbard Gallery and the Longyearbyen Artists' Centre
Galleri Svalbard (Svalbard Gallery) opened in 1995. Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS runs the gallery, which receives no state funding.
The gallery has the following permanent collections:
- The Kåre Tveter Foundation collection, comprising some 40 paintings, mainly oils and Svalbard motifs. This is the largest collection of paintings by Kåre Tveter.
- The multimedia show (slides and music) "Arctic light over Svalbard": the photographer and musician Thomas Widerberg photographed a year's changing light over Svalbard; the result is a display which recreates not only the extreme contrasts between the seasons, but also the beauty of the ever-changing northern lights.
- The Svalbard Collection Foundation: Henrik Varming, a former office manager with Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani AS and a great Svalbard enthusiast, collected maps and books which mention Svalbard. They are all on display at Galleri Svalbard. Where polar maps and literature are concerned, the collection is unrivalled anywhere.
- The "Recherche" expeditions: named after the French frigate La Recherche, which visited Svalbard in 1838 and 1839. Painters on the expeditions - the photographers of their day - helped to make them known to others.
In addition to showing its permanent collections, Galleri Svalbard puts on in the region of ten visiting exhibitions per year.
The Longyearbyen Artists' Centre, next door to Galleri Svalbard, houses Longyearbyen's artists, as well as guest artists from all over the world, who can apply for short stays. There are three bed-sits and three workshops for visiting artists. The Gallery has an agreement for exchanges of artists with Nordisk råd for samtidskunst (the Nordic Council for Contemporary Art) in Finland. It also has an agreement concerning the "Svalbard scholarship", awarded annually by the Norwegian Artists' Council to pay for visits by artists to Longyearbyen.
A broad range of sports facilities, especially for indoor activities, is a very important social element on Svalbard in the dark winter season, when opportunities for outdoor physical activities are limited. The two sports clubs Svalbard Turn and Kings Bay sports association offer a large number of different sports. Competitions are held, with participants from the Russian settlements as well as Norwegians, and club members also take part in national events on the mainland.
In the last few years, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has among other things contributed to the funding of a new sports hall and swimming pool in Longyearbyen (1996) and to the rehabilitation of the sports hall at Ny-Ålesund (1998).
Applications for grants towards sports facilities from lottery and football pool funds are processed by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
The first issue of Svalbardposten appeared in November 1948. To begin with, the paper was published once a week from September to May. Since 1986 it has appeared weekly all year round. It takes up any matters with a bearing on Svalbard.
In the late 1980s the newspaper was in serious financial trouble, and an extensive turnaround had to be carried out. In 1992, the Ministry of Justice established an independent foundation and contributed NOK 200 000 as capital. The reasons for organizing Svalbardposten as a foundation in 1992 were stated on p. 8 of Proposition No. 1 (1992-93) to the Storting:
“The Ministry of Justice does not see the running of a newspaper as a natural assignment, nor has it interfered in the newspaper operation. The Ministry is accordingly reluctant to retain formal responsibility for the newspaper. In view of this, the Ministry is of the opinion that Svalbardposten should be given a new organiza-tional form, and that the most appropriate solution would be to reorganize it as a foundation. As a foundation, Svalbardposten would cease to have formal connections with the Ministry of Justice. Proposed statutes have been circulated for comment, and the parties concerned have been in favour of the reorganization. The Ministry wishes to see Svalbardposten continue, and therefore appreciates the importance of giving the foundation an adequate financial base.”
In 1996 it was decided to organize the running of the newspaper through the limited company Svalbardposten AS, which is wholly owned by the Svalbardposten foundation. The foundation and the limited company have the same board, appointed by the Ministry of Justice (1), the Svalbard Council (3), and the employees (1). The board also functions as the general meeting. Amendments to the statutes must be approved by the Ministry of Justice.
The strong commitment of the Ministry of Justice to Svalbardposten over the years reflects its desire to maintain a local newspaper with close links to Svalbard and publication in Longyearbyen. Another objective has been to have a local paper that is neutral where party politics are concerned, so that no political groups on Svalbard can achieve a monopoly of opinion.
In the Government's opinion, organization as a foundation has served these purposes well.
13.7 Radio and television broadcasts on Svalbard
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and the Norwegian Telecommunications Administration began direct television transmission to Svalbard by satellite in December 1984.
The satellite link has brought Svalbard closer to the mainland. Longyearbyen residents have access to NRK's three radio programmes and two television channels, and receive them at the same time as on the mainland. The broadcasts are of the same technical quality as on the mainland. Another consequence of the establishment of the satellite link is that it is now possible in special cases to transmit television images from Svalbard for direct inclusion in news broadcasts.
The NRK 1, P1 and P2 programmes can also be received at Ny-Ålesund. The link to Ny-Ålesund was partly financed by Kings Bay AS. Quality and stability are somewhat lower than in Longyearbyen.
The bottleneck when it comes to making more programmes available on Svalbard is the insufficient capacity of the radio link between Isfjord Radio and Longyearbyen. Work is in hand to provide Svalbard with the same range of NRK programmes, both analogue and in the event digital, as is available on the mainland.
A private operator supplies households with decoders to enable them to receive TV2, TV3, TV1000 and TVNorge. The company is establishing a cable network in Longyearbyen.
Svalbard TV obtained its first local television concession in 1990. Behind the TV company was the association Svalbard TV. The programmes consisted of text advertisements and information. Svalbard TV acquired a concession for a further period in January 1996, when it began ordinary broadcasts, but these were discontinued in May 1996. There is no local radio on Svalbard.