Our view on regulating ownership in media

Schibsted has submitted our response to the Government's proposal on changes in the law regulating ownership in media. Schibsted considers that the predominant trends in the media industry, such as digitalization and globalization, has been underestimated and poorly analyzed.

Read the full statement from Schibsted here (in Norwegian).

Summary of our main comments

Technological development has radically changed Norwegians' media use. Digitalization has intensified competition from international giants who make no contribution to editorial content or journalistic quality. In sum, this situation has had a dramatic impact on the competition situation for Norwegian media houses: the sound financing models of the analogue world are being replaced by uncertain and less profitable models of the digital world. This is posing major challenges for Norwegian media houses.

Schibsted considers the factual basis on which the consultative statement is based to be deficient. Although the predominant trends in the media industry, such as digitalization and globalization, have been noted, the dramatic nature of the change process has been underestimated and poorly analyzed. The severe weakening of the print media, traditionally the most important channel for political exchange in Norway, was treated superficially. To put it briefly, this is about how the financing model for quality journalism in media with a defined journalistic social responsibility is disintegrating.

The current draft bill fails to take the new competition situation into account. The reality is that old dividing lines between online and print have been erased, and these media are converging: all the traditional media actors are emerging in the electronic market, and they are emerging with products which from an editorial point of view are quite similar. International actors with no editorial content, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, are not affected by the Act and are therefore left free to operate in the Norwegian market. On the other hand, the ground is being laid for further regulation of the print media and the traditional media houses, which represent the very backbone of quality journalism with editorial content. This has resulted in a draft bill that distorts competition in favour of the large international media actors. Put briefly, the draft bill is unpredictable, complicated, and at odds with the purpose of the Act, which is to promote diversity of opinion and freedom of speech.

Furthermore, the form of the new draft bill is extremely general. One indicator of the fundamental challenges that accompany regulation is the consultative paper's lack of conclusions in respect of the electronic market. The transfer of decision-making authority to the Norwegian Media Authority by means of regulations strikes us an uncertain solution to absolutely fundamental challenges for the industry. The regulatory regime would be generally too flexible for the authorities and too unpredictable for the media owners.

On this basis, Schibsted believes that diversity and freedom of speech in today's media market would be best served by repealing the Media Ownership Act.

Furthermore, we have the following comments:

• Media competition should be supervised by one body of legislation and one supervisory authority. Norway has a competition supervisory authority with broad competence. It could also regulate the media industry.

• If the Media Ownership Act is nonetheless upheld, a minimum requirement should be that today's general market threshold of one third be increased to at least 40 per cent and be prescribed by law.

• The current regulations governing regional ownership should be discontinued.

• The current regulations governing multimedia ownership should be discontinued.

• The electronic media market should in principle not be regulated by law.

• Should the Ministry nonetheless decide to regulate the electronic media market, this should be treated as a fourth media market as far as the Media Ownership Act is concerned.

• Moreover, if the electronic media market is to be regulated, all opinion-forming actors must be counted in the overall market. This means that NRK, Telenor, TV2 and P4 must be considered alongside social media, the specialist press, etc. (the industry's own measurement system, NIP, would be a useful aid for measuring the electronic media market).

• The proposed regulatory regime is generally too flexible for the authorities and too unpredictable for the media owners.

• The consultative paper lays the ground for a regulatory system that delegates too much authority to the Norwegian Media Authority. On principle, it is inappropriate that one and the same supervisory authority should both prescribe and enforce the regulations.

Published: 9/18/2012 9:33 AM
Last updated: 9/18/2012 9:38 AM