Radio was established in Norway in the mid-1920s. In 1933 the four private, local/regional radio companies were merged into a national, state-owned radio company, Norsk rikskringkasting (NRK). The NRK introduced its second radio channel in 1984 and a third channel in 1993. The NRK had a monopoly until 1981, when local organisations were allowed to establish local radios. The NRK always made most of its revenues from a licence fee (introduced in order to finance the private radio companies from 1925). The NRK has not been financed by commercials since 1940.
When local radio was introduced in 1981-82, commercials were not allowed - the programs had to be financed by support from organisations etc. This was the epoch of the happy amateurs. Still, local radio was a success. New legislation in 1988 opened for radio commercials and this is now the main source of income for most stations. This led to professionalisation and commercialisation of local radio.
In 1993, a privately owned company, P4, was given permission to start a national radio service, financed by advertising. In 2004 a second, commercial actor started a national radio channel, Kanal24 (now Radio Norge). All these channels have operated on the FM band.
Since 1995 some channels have been available in digital form - DAB (now: DAB+). Gradually more and more new channels have been available only in DAB. The parliament decided in 1995 and 2011 that the FM band will be closed down. During 2017 no national radio channels will yet be available only on DAB. Also some local radio channels will still remain on FM.
In the “golden age” of radio listening - the 1950s, before the introduction of television - Norwegians listened to radio in average 2.5 hours per day. This was reduced by 0.5 hours when television was introduced. Different ways of measuring radio listening, give very different results. Survey data indicate that the proportion of the population that listens to radio on an average day is lower than in the 1990s and that the average Norwegian listens to the radio 90 minutes per day. Automatic registration (Portable People Meter - PPM) indicates a substantially higher level of radio listening.
With the Internet, radio stations all over the world can be accessed, but if we look at the listener’s behaviour, radio is still a local and national media.
NRK has a market share of 65 percent of the total listening (only the channels that take part in the PPM registration are included, most local radio stations are not included; survey data indicate that the PPM figures lack data about radio channels with between 5 and 10 percent of the radio listening. NRK’s P1 is the single largest radio channel with 45 percent. P4 has a market share of 19 percent and the combined market share for all other MTG radio activities is 3 percent. Radio Norge’s market share is 10 percent and other Bauer channels add up to 3 percent.
The NRK is owned by the Norwegian state. Of the two privately owned national radio companies, P4 has since the start in 1993 been owned by the Swedish Modern Times Group (MTG). Radio Norge has had a more unsettled ownership. In 2015 it was sold by American Discovery to the German Bauer Media Group. MTG and Bauer are also actors in the local radio market. The French NRJ group established some local radio channels in Norway, but these are now operated by MTG. There three foreign groups dominate among the larger local radio stations in major cities, while most of the smaller stations have local owners.
The licence fee for NRK is set by the parliament and thereby the NRK is independent of fluctuations in the advertising market, as well as in the audience markets. The government announced in 2016 that the present form of licence fee will be abandoned, but it is not clear what will replace it. The commercial sector is dependent on advertising. Radio advertising is a small part of the total advertising market. Since 2000 there have been some variations in the revenues from radio advertising, but there is no clear trend.