13 May 2003


Minister demands explanation from SAS chairman (Aftenposten)

Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen is to demand an explanation from SAS chairman Egil Myklebust, following yesterday’s decision by the airline to designate Arlanda in Sweden as its technical headquarters. 417 jobs at Gardermoen will disappear as a result. Mr Gabrielsen, who has recently received several delegations of SAS employees, wants to make sure that Norway’s interests in SAS are being taken care of in accordance with the SAS ownership agreement between Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Mr Gabrielsen can expect opposition if he chooses to intervene in the strategic choices made by SAS’s management. The airline is in crisis, and it is expected that chief executive Jørgen Lindegaard will today announce first quarter losses of over NOK 1 billion.

Labour accuses Government of sitting on its hands (NTB)

The Labour Party has accused the Government and Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen of not being vigorous enough in their efforts to prevent the loss of Norwegian jobs at Gardermoen. “I feel it is a huge disappointment and very sad that over 400 people will lose their jobs at Gardermoen. We in the Labour Party feel the Government and Mr Gabrielsen have been sitting on their hands in this matter. It was only after pressure from the Storting that the Trade and Industry Minister even bothered to contact SAS to uphold Norwegian interests, and by then, of course, it was too late,” said Labour’s economic policy spokeswoman Hill-Marta Solberg in an interview with NTB.

Coverage of Tønne case criticized (Dagbladet)

Everyone who has followed the so-called Tønne case has been looking forward to the Norwegian Press Association’s independent review of the media coverage. The report, written by senior lecturer Svein Brurås and researchers Guri Hjeltnes and Henrik Syse, was presented yesterday. After the presentation, there was a debate between Jens Ulltveit-Moe, president of the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO), Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, Per Edgar Kokkvold, general secretary of the Norwegian Press Association, and John Arne Markussen, Dagbladet’s acting editor-in-chief. The Norwegian Press Association’s report concludes that Dagbladet’s coverage of the Tønne case was not sufficiently precise, was blown out of proportion and focused on people rather than issues.

Critical spotlight on coverage of Tønne case (NTB)

Media coverage of the Tønne case was too intense, one-sided and too focused on the individuals concerned, according to the commission set up to investigate the role of the media. For Tore Tønne’s family, the media coverage of the case was a nightmare. The so-called Tønne case started with a report in Dagbladet on 4 December, alleging that former Health Minister Tore Tønne had received NOK 1.5 million for helping Kjell Inge Røkke in connection with the Kværner merger. On 21 December, it was reported that Mr Tønne had committed suicide, after almost three weeks in the glare of the media spotlight. The researchers behind the report say that it was necessary and correct of Dagbladet to raise the issue, but criticize the way the newspaper went about it. Aftenposten, Dagens Næringsliv and NRK also come in for criticism. The three researchers who made up the commission hope that journalists and editors have learned something from the Tønne case, and are more aware of how they depict individuals who are exposed to intense and continuing media attack.

Norwegian military engineers to Iraq (NTB/Dagsavisen)

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen has confirmed the Government’s intention of contributing a company of military engineers to the stabilization force to be deployed in Iraq before the summer. Mr Petersen yesterday consulted the Storting’s Extended Foreign Affairs Committee, where he said that he was certain that the issues relating to the force’s legitimacy under international law would be resolved. “I was given the backing I wanted. The realities of the case have been cleared with the Storting. The remaining legal questions are something we can resolve, of that I am convinced,” said Mr Petersen. NTB has learned that the Government’s plans are based on the assumption that the UN Security Council will pass a resolution on this issue at the end of May. Intense diplomatic efforts are underway in the UN to enable a force to be deployed before the summer.

Norwegian conscripts in bad shape (Verdens Gang)

Norwegian 18-year-olds are in dramatically worse shape than their counterparts of 20 years ago, according to a comprehensive survey carried out by the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education in collaboration with the Norwegian Armed Forces. Since the early 1980s, recruits’ average level of fitness, measured as maximum oxygen uptake, has fallen by no less than 8 per cent. This corresponds to running 3,000 metres around two minutes slower. At the same time, recruits’ weight has jumped by 4.7 kg, a rise of 7 per cent. “This is the first time a nationally representative survey has been carried out. I would describe these developments as relatively dramatic. The most serious finding is that the group categorized as having a low or very low fitness level has grown by around 50 per cent. It is probable that these people will be on hospital waiting lists in 20 to 40 years’ time,” said Jostein Halléen, professor of sports medicine.

Progress Party agrees to tighten rules on nursery fee tax exemption (Dagens Næringsliv)

Progress Party deputy leader Siv Jensen has moved to lessen the dispute over tax-free nursery places paid for by parents’ employers. She and the other opposition parties behind the Storting’s pre-school day-care reform package, are tightening up the rules about who should qualify for such tax exemption. The Progress Party has been the driving force behind tax exemption, but the party’s economic policy spokeswoman Siv Jensen now says that she and the other parties never meant the tax exemption to be applied so extensively. She claims that Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss has wrongly interpreted the Storting’s resolution. Ms Jensen’s comments are likely to reduce the level of conflict over pre-school day-care reform.

Labour market measures do not help youngsters find work (Dagsavisen)

Last year, the Directorate of Labour spent at least NOK 23 million on measures designed to help young people enter the labour market. It has now been shown that most of these measures have no effect. According to a recent thesis written by Inés Hardoy of the Institute for Social Research, after participating in such measures for one year, young people have less chance of getting a job or being accepted for a training course than those who were unemployed and applied in the usual way.

Budget cuts could spell end of Government (Dagbladet)

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik will disregard four key resolutions voted by the Storting when the revised national budget is presented on Thursday. The opposition claims that to do so amounts to asking for his minority government to be ejected from office. It is already well known that the Government will not be allocating the money required to implement the opposition’s pre-school day-care reform. But Dagbladet has reason to believe that Mr Bondevik will not satisfy the parliamentary majority’s demand for higher pensions and tax concessions for a group of Norwegian seamen, either. Together, this amounts to more than NOK 1 billion, which the Bondevik government is refusing to include in the budget this spring.

1. Worth Noting

  • Friends of the late Tore Tønne are to start a charitable foundation to help victims of the media and undertake media research. Kjell Inge Røkke is among the potential benefactors. Three of Mr Tønne’s friends, Jørgen M. Grønneberg, Torbjørn Gladsø and Kaare M. Skallerud, are behind the scheme, and are members of the seven-strong interim board of directors. Once the foundation is up and running, it will need around NOK 8-10 million a year to cover operating costs, according to Mr Grønneberg.

  • For the second time, the Oslo City Council has awarded a major sales contract to the law firm BA-HR without asking for competitive tenders. BA-HR was contracted to sell the council’s shares in Hafslund and Oslo’s local authority owned cinemas. Neither contract was put out to competitive tender. Normally local and central government agencies are obliged to run a competitive tender process before awarding sales contracts.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)

  • The Labour Party is once again the country’s most popular political party, according to a poll carried out by MMI. Together, Labour and the Socialist Left Party would have an absolute majority in the Storting if there had been a general election today.

  • Sales of surgical face masks have risen more than ten-fold in the past month, according to figures compiled by the APO chain of retail chemists. It is thought that the rise has been prompted by fears of infection from Sars.

  • Last year 422 people complained to the Gender Equality Ombud, an increase of 25 per cent on the year before. 41 per cent of the complaints were made by women, while 30 per cent were made by men. The remaining complaints came from various organizations or were issues raised by the office of the Gender Equality Ombud itself.

2. Today’s comment from Dagbladet

The conclusions of the commission set up by the Norwegian Press Association to carry out an independent review of the media’s role in the so-called Tønne case, include both criticism and constructive proposals for preventing media coverage from being excessively focused on private individuals in the future. The commission’s criticism relates primarily to the one-sided nature of the media coverage and the massive scale the case acquired. Alternative points of view, greater precision in the communication of the facts, and a greater precision with regard to the use of words and terms were called for in the commission’s report. The report’s criticisms and constructive proposals are the result of conversations with representatives from the media that took the lead in revealing the affair that is linked to Tore Tønne’s name. This demonstrates a willingness among media people to subject themselves to self-criticism as a result of this tragic case. But it is important that whatever measures are implemented do not weaken, but rather strengthen, the media’s role in holding up a critical light to the activities of society’s leaders – both in the political and business sphere, and even in the media itself. The commission says clearly that it was right of Dagbladet to bring the case to public attention on the basis of the documents and tip-offs it had received. It is important that the tragic outcome of the Tønne case does not place limitations on the media’s function as society’s watchdog.