State TV in Norway: Paying to Be Propagandized

The shameless lies of Norwegian public broadcasting.

Well, it’s done. I just made the first of my two compulsory yearly payments to NRK – short for Norsk rikskringkasting. In English it calls itself the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, but believe me, there’s nothing remotely corporation-like about it. It’s a fully government-owned and government-operated outfit, and its fealty to the Labor Party worldview is reflected in the nickname by which some of its disgruntled viewers refer to it: ARK, or Arbeiderpartiets rikskringkasting – Labor Party Broadcasting.

As of 2013, the semiannual NRK license fee – which, I should perhaps underscore, is something you pay in addition to whatever you might happen to shell out for your cable and/or satellite service – went up to $240.33, for a total of $480.66 per year. (Out of the kindness of their hearts, they divide the amount in two, apparently realizing that for a lot of people this is no small expense.) It’s a tax, of course, but it’s not treated as a tax – which is reflected in the fact that the fee actually includes an eight percent value-added tax. In other words, not only do they charge you a tax on top of your regular income tax to pay for a product that you may never even use – they also tax the tax.

With NRK, as with the BBC, it’s the license fees that pay the bills and keep the enterprise going. And as I’ve complained before (and will complain again), what you’re doing when you cough up this sum is paying to be propagandized. Essentially, that’s what NRK is: a propaganda operation, designed to ensure that when the Norwegian people get their news about the world, it’ll be served up to them with just the right spin, in hopes that it’ll keep them from straying too far from the socialist line they were fed in school. To be sure, ever since 1992, when NRK was finally forced to surrender its TV and radio monopoly, there have been other broadcast news sources in Norway; but old habits are hard to break, and besides, Norwegians have been told all their lives that NRK is the only really serious and truly reliable news source, since, unlike commercial TV channels, which always must look over their shoulders at their advertisers, NRK is undefiled by poisonous capitalistic influences, and is thus able to present them with the pure and unadulterated truth. An amazing number of people actually buy this bull. Dagsrevyen, the national news program that is broadcast every evening at seven, regularly draws around a million viewers in this country of five million.

Still, every once in a while NRK tries to pull something so flagrant in its dishonesty that it actually erupts into something of a scandal. Case in point: the January 12 edition of Dagsrevyen featured an eight-minute story about Mirela Mustata, a Romanian gypsy, or Romani, woman who was in a Norwegian prison after having been convicted of “aggravated human trafficking” in a case involving four children. The clear objective of NRK’s report was to paint Mustata as a victim of cultural prejudice, punished simply for trying to keep her children from starving. To this end, NRK implied that Mustata had done nothing more than put her kids to work selling costume jewelry on the street – which, viewers were instructed, is a harmless, generations-old gypsy tradition. “I did everything I could to take care of my children,” a weeping Mustata said on camera.

What NRK tidily omitted from its report was the actual nature of the offense for which Mustata was convicted: namely, she had taken ten thousand euros in exchange for allowing her eleven-year-old daughter to be pinned down by several men and raped. Mustata exploited the same daughter again in the same fashion when the girl was twelve, and again when she was thirteen. The girl in question, and another daughter whose similar victimization Mustata also arranged for, are now living in foster homes at secret addresses, while two other siblings have been shipped back to Romania to be cared for by the child-protection authorities. None of this was mentioned in the Dagsrevyen report. NRK, in its determination to spin any and every event involving members of certain minorities in such a way as to make them look like virtuous victims, left out everything that mattered.

It says something about the media environment in Norway that the news outlet that called NRK on this outrageously irresponsible piece of reportage was not any one of the big newspapers – pretty much all of which share NRK’s basic political orientation, and many of which receive government subsidies. No, the piece that brought NRK’s mendacities to light was written by Nina Hjerpset-Østlie of the privately owned news and opinion website (which, after the July 2011 Oslo massacre, won a degree of worldwide fame because it was a target of media and political elites eager to silence criticism of Islam). Asked by Hjerpset-Østlie to comment on her piece, NRK refused.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Hjerpset-Østlie’s story was picked up by Jon Hustad, who on January 18 wrote about Dagsrevyen’s twisted reportage in Dag og Tid, one of Norway’s smaller national newspapers – and one that’s known for challenging the leftist media consensus. Hustad’s article, in turn, apparently caught the attention of author and businesswoman Elin Ørjasæter, who on January 19 put in her two cents on her blog – noting, apropos of NRK’s benign and exculpatory view of certain “cultures,” that, after all, it’s also a part of Romani “culture” to keep kids out of school so that they grow up illiterate and end up traveling around with their parents committing organized crimes.

At this point,, Norway’s leading website for journalists, took notice, and actually managed to get the editor-in-chief of NRK’s news division, Ole Eivind Henden to step up to the plate and admit that, yes, Dagsrevyen’s report on Mustata should have mentioned her involvement in a conspiracy to rape her own children. Still, Henden insisted there had been no intention to mislead: the reason NRK had done the report on Mustata, he explained, was that it wanted to highlight the fact “that Romani people are being convicted of human trafficking because their children sell jewelry, among other things.” The little detail that the “other things” in Mustata’s case included rape just didn’t fit into NRK’s story – see? That its news chief could serve up such an excuse with a straight face only proves that skewing the facts in order to sell a specific message – in what is being passed off as an objective news story – is standard NRK practice. (Also interesting is that, as I write this, the January 12 episode of Dagsrevyen is not available at NRK’s website – instead, there’s a message claiming that the “sound or video content is so far not ready.” Curiously enough, the Dagsrevyen broadcasts from the several days before and for every single day since January 12 can be viewed without any trouble. NRK, one suspects, can’t even be honest about why it’s pulled a video off its site.)

The coverage by finally forced at least some major media to acknowledge Dagsrevyen’s “mistake.” As a result, the daughter whose rape was at the heart of the human-trafficking case got wind of NRK’s mendacities and announced plans to file a complaint with the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission – which, in any event, isn’t empowered to do much more than give NRK a slap on the wrist. The prosecutor isn’t happy either, and has asked whether NRK, after pulling such a stunt, thinks it can get away with a semi-apology published at the relatively obscure, as opposed to a full, public mea culpa on Dagsrevyen itself. It will be interesting to see what happens. Alas, I don’t expect there’s a chance in hell that this case, or any number of cases like it, will finally bring about that glorious day of which more than few of us in Norway dream: the day when the NRK license fee is revoked once and for all and these shameless propagandists are forced to stop selling their own version of costume jewelry and earn an honest living.

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