Until digitisation of radio (2017) and television (2007-2008) terrestrial distribution of radio and television required a licence from the Ministry of Culture (for national services) or the Norwegian Media Authority (for local services). In the digital networks, it is the owners of the networks that give the channels access to the network. The digital television network is operated by Norges Televisjon (NTV, owned by the NRK, the TV 2 and Telenor, one third each) until 2021. The digital radio network is owned by Norkring AS (owned by Telenor). Local radio stations operating on the FM platform are still required to have a licence from the Norwegian Media Authority. Telenor is and has always been an important organizer of the technical analogue and digital networks, a gatekeeper.
The private broadcasting companies have to comply with regulations concerning advertising (hours, percentages, commercial breaks in programs, etc.). But these conditions have been liberalised over time.
Newspapers and books are exempted from VAT. There is a continuous discussion about a similar exemption for magazines and journals. In recent years, the same discussion is focused on digital media versus similar content on paper. In 2016 the Ministry of Finance notified that electronic news services are also exempted from VAT.
The state-owned public-service broadcasting company is regarded as an important contributor to the diversity of the Norwegian media system.
In order to maintain local competition and national diversity, there is a system for newspaper subsidies. In 2017, direct subsidies total 313m NOK (approximately €35m) and account for some 2 percent of newspapers’ total revenue. The subsidies are distributed according to specific criteria in order to reach national ideological and political newspapers, the “No 2” newspapers in areas with local competition and the smallest local newspapers. There are separate subsidies for newspapers focusing on Sami language and the Sami population. There is a continuous discussion and inquiry into the criteria for distribution of these subsidies between the newspapers.
Since the mid-1990s, media ownership has become an important issue in media policy. In all branches of the media, there is a strong concentration of ownership. The same owners tend to exert power over several media. There is a strong integration among media owners in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Danish (Egmont and Aller) and Swedish (Kinnevik/MTG and Bonnier) media companies are important owners of Norwegian media. The Norwegian state owns NRK and is a majority shareholder in Telenor (telecommunications, satellites, cable networks and terrestrial distribution of broadcasting). Schibsted is the largest private media owner in Norway. The third major owner is Norwegian media conglomerate Amedia. The American television giant Discovery is a major actor in the Norwegian television market and the German Bauer Media Group has a similar position in the radio broadcasting sector.
In 1998, the Norwegian Parliament passed legislation (The Media Ownership Bill) to prevent ownership concentration. A new administration was established in 1999 in order to enforce the new law, the Eierskapstilsynet (Media Ownership Authority), which was integrated into the Medietilsynet (Norwegian Media Authority). In 2016 the Medieeierskapsloven (Media Ownership Bill) was abolished and concentration in the media is now monitored by the Konkurransetilsynet (Competition Authority).