Introduction

Norwegians became newspaper readers, mobilised by a political conflict with Sweden (1860-1905) and class struggle from 1900 to 1935. Radio was available to the population from the second half of the 1920s, to reach  its golden age in the 1950s. Television was officially opened in 1960 and the diffusion among the population was very rapid. After a few years the press, radio and television reached daily approximately the same proportion of the Norwegian population. In 1983, 87 percent of Norwegians read a newspaper on an average day, 82 percent watched television and 75 percent listened to radio, with very small differences according to gender, education, class, geography.The only sociodemographic factor that distinguished between users and non-users, was age - people under 25 years were less frequently newspaper readers, but when the young settled and established their own family, they too became newspaper readers.

When television was introduced, the focus on radio was reduced, but radio maintained its importance as an important channel for dissemination of information in the society for another ten or twenty years, when television and - later - the Internet, took over the role as the prime source of updated news.

The role of the printed newspapers was challenged by the Internet from the 1990s. The share of the population watching television on an average day surpassed the share of print newspaper readers for the first time  in 1998. Since then, there has been a drop in both print newspaper circulation and in the share of population that reads newspapers. The fall started for the popular newspapers and spread to most other segments of the newspaper industry. The papers that have done best in this situation are the national quality opinion newspapers and the small, local newspapers. Both these two types of newspapers contain much information that is not found elsewhere on the Internet.

The first newspapers started to present news on the Internet in 1995. Ten years later almost all newspapers had some kind of news service on the net, without any kind of payment system. It has been difficult to introduce payment systems, but today many newspapers have all or some of the news and commentaries behind a payment firewall. The total share of the population that read newspapers, either in printed or in electronic form, is more or less the same as in 1980s, but now more people read the electronic versions than the printed newspapers.

This means that the newspapers are still an important source for the spread of information in the Norwegian society. And most of the stories that are presented in the other media (radio, television, Internet), come from journalists that work for the newspapers.

Much of the consumption of radio and television has also been transferred to the Internet. This has opened for new actors (like YouTube and Netflix), but also for new forms of nonlinear listening and viewing of programmes initially published on the traditional media.

Initially radio was regulated through telegraph legislations and the state licenced four regional, private radio companies in the mid-1920. In 1933 the Parliament decided to merge the four regional companies and create a state-owned monopoly, based on public service principles, Norsk Rikskringkasting (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation – NRK). The Broadcasting Act of 1933 also gave NRK a monopoly of television. Despite the close relations between the NRK and the Ministry (the Ministry of Church and Education until 1982, the Ministry of Culture from 1982), there have never been any examples of state interference in the programmes, but it is possible that the NRK in certain periods has been too cautious when covering controversial issues. Until 1996 the director-general was appointed by the government (formally by the King), while he (so far, no woman has held this position) is now appointed by the Board of the NRK. The Board is appointed by the government. There have been complaints that the NRK has a leftist bias or favours the Labour Party, but it is difficult to find any evidence of interference from the party or the Ministry in periods when the Labour Party has been in power.

In 1981-82 the monopoly was broken when local radio and television was introduced outside the NRK. Commercial, national radio and television channels started ten years later. Local television has never been strong in Norway. Local radio was popular in the 1980s, but lost much of its audience when it got competition from the national commercial channels. The NRK has the largest market share in both radio and television. The private channels have connections to the business elites, but no direct links to the political sector.

The first political parties in Norway were established in 1884, but already from the 1860s many newspapers took a stand in the conflict between Norwegian national opposition and the pro-Swedish government in questions related to Norwegian independence from Sweden (Norway gained full independence in 1905). When the parties were formed in 1884, most of the newspapers flocked around either Høyre (“right” - the Conservative party) or Venstre (“left” - the Liberal party). When the labour movement gained strength around year 1900, new newspapers were established by local branches of Arbeiderpartiet and trade unions. Several parties were established later, but they had difficulties in establishing their own newspapers. Cities and towns all over the country had a selection of newspapers, representing three or four different political parties or popular movements like the temperance movement or low church organisations. During the period when the party press was at its strongest, strong links to the parties prevented the formation of organisations that could represent the press as a whole, as each party had its own organisations for newspapers, journalists and editors. A reduction in the general, political antagonism after the Second World War led to the formation of national organisations of the categories, and to a professionalisation of the press.

The newspaper market was almost completely dominated by regional and local newspapers until the mid-1960s, when two Oslo-based newspapers started transforming into national, popular mass circulation newspapers.