Trond Giske, Norway's culture minister, seeks to amend the coutry's media ownership law to limit how big a share of national online traffic one company can control, a proposition that garners support from both sides of the political divide (via Adresseavisa.no)
It had to happen sooner or later, didn't it? I mean, Norway's media ownership law already dictates that no party may control more than a third of the newspaper, radio or television market, so why not regulate the national share(s) of the world wide web?
Incidentally, that would be the media ownership law many felt cleared the way for a foreigner like David Montgomery to acquire former Orkla Media, as national media companies had to watch the size of their market shares, but I digress....
'Plurality on the world wide web is just as important as on paper,' said Giske. Yesterday he proposed to introduce categorical ownership limitations for online media, measured by how many per cent of online traffic one operator may control.
Similar proposals have been abandoned twice before, as it was deemed too difficult to measure and categorise online traffic. However, in the light of Schibsted's prolonged efforts to create Media Norway, a merger that would dwarf just about any other player in the Norwegian media market, Giske feels it is time to re-evaluate the media ownership law.
The merger has yet to gain regulatory approval, and after much ado about making sure Schibsted's print ownership stayed within the limits of the media ownership law, the regulatory powers are debating the actual influence of the papers involved and Media Norway's dominant online position. A major objection to the merger is how 'half of Norway' get their online news from Schibsted controlled websites, but that is currently not against the law.
Kjell Aamot, Schibsted's CEO, has rubbished the notion that it's possible to control online media ownership and said it's unfair to regulate national online traffic seeing that Google, MSN and Facebook are opinion formers in the same way as Norwegian news sites.
Adresseavisa quotes Aamot asking whether Giske is "going to stop us owning websites or starting new ones? If bt.no writes a big story that attracts a lot of traffic one day, will they be prevented from publishing a big story the following day so as not to gain too much traffic?"
Or as a friend suggested, will we live to see the day where you'll be greeted with the following message when you try to check Schibsted-owned VG.no (Norway's biggest news site): "Today's quota for online readers at VG.no has been filled, welcome back tomorrow."