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Norway nixes web linkup

Norway’s Parliament has turned thumbs down on an effort by local commercial channels to link up with other stations to cash in on the country’s booming commercial television market.

The local channels – which have a 20-mile radius – have been carrying programming by TV Norge, a cable satellite outfit backed by pan-Scandinavian media group SBS, in efforts to augment their viewership. The practice, however, had the net effect of boosting TV Norge’s reach, just 43% normally, to as high as 70%.

That triggered a bitter turf war with terrestrial channel TV2, which has a 92% reach and a monopoly on advertising.

TV2 became even more alarmed when several media groups, including the giant Aller publishing company, began buying up local channels, with the obvious intention of linking them regionally to form national commercial networks. Even Norwegian public broadcaster NRK got in on the act, saying it would like to use the local stations for commercial windows.

Parliament voted last week that TV2 has the exclusive rights to national advertising and that TV Norge has until October to stop distributing its programs to local channels.

The nation’s highest lawmaking body also ruled that if the local channels want to form links at all with other media companies, it must be with TV2, quashing the possibilities that any rival commercial web could be formed. TV Norge’s backers, which include CapCities/ABC and Paramount, also had talked of linking the webs to a countrywide net.

In a separate matter, the Parliament also tightened up sponsorship regulations for Norwegian pubcaster NRK, limiting sponsorship income to 1% or less of NRK’s annual $4 million budget. The new regs also require that 50% of the income must come from public sponsoring, and the rest from the private sector. NRK television director Kent Nilssen calls the new rules “frustrating,” charging they bog the pubcaster down in a bureaucratic maze.

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