“Apart from the massive tumor, I’m healthy, right?”

The Broadcasting Council (consisting of members appointed both by the sitting cabinet and parliament) convened yesterday to hear more about the Israeli embassy’s accusation that the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) coverage of Israel is biased.

Unsurprisingly, the NRK brass as well as the most-mentioned reporter, Sidsel Wold, rejected the accusation, though with some small concessions: the Israeli government shouldn’t have been characterized as “right wing” and there should have been more coverage of Arab regimes (duh).

Whether or not you agree with Hellestveit’s conclusions, she stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the room for sheer courage and integrity. I am not sure she is right, for example, about Dagsrevyen, but it would take some empirical research to prove it, and not just four google searches.  For that reason alone, she deserved to be listened to. Here are some points she made that ought to give everyone pause (if they paid attention, which it didn’t seem they did). I am summarizing rather than quoting, so as to not put words in her mouth

  • Issues surrounding Israel are not just foreign policy matters in Norway: they have become part of the domestic political discourse
  • NRK’s sense of reality, its narrative if you will. matches the prevailing consensus among Norwegian politicians (who often present themselves as analysts in the press)
  • It is costly to dissent with this consensus, as she herself experienced when she withheld her skepticism to the original Goldstone report. (QED all contributors to this blog are anonymous)
  • This is to say, it is consistent with what you would find among secular Fatah members, and certain parts of the Israeli community (she didn’t say which, but I’m guessing the far left)
  • While the news coverage is exemplary in its efforts to be objective, the same can’t be said about the in-depth reports, where important points of view are omitted
  • Both she and the NRK analyst pointed out that NRK tend to consult with Norwegian sources to comment on the issues. By the NRK analyst’s count, 70% of all sources on Israel were Norwegian. About 15% each for Israeli and Palestinian.

Put this all together, and a decidedly undemocratic pattern emerges:

  • NRK is less about informing the general public and policy makers, and more about reflecting the opinions of the elite. In other words, it is a means of telling people how to think about things.
  • The prevailing opinion of the elite is aligned with the opinion of one side in the conflict.
  • This is reinforced by consulting sources that are a part of this elite.

It would be naïve to think that this dynamic is limited to Israel.

Of course, the council ignored these implications, or else thought they were completely acceptable. The head of the council, Grete Fossum, summarized by saying that “NRK does not contribute to increased hostility to Israel. Israel does a fine job of that on its own.”

Her source for that point of view: Undoubtedly NRK.