A Public Television Pledge Break from Oslo’s Akers River

One of the most enjoyable activities in Oslo is to ride the subway to the top of its Akers River Valley and stroll downhill through a long riverside park — once the city’s churning industrial zone, with factories belching and waterwheels spinning.

The Akers River, though only about five miles long, powered Oslo’s early industry: flour mills in the 1300s, sawmills in the 1500s, and Norway’s Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

Along the way, I was chatting with my Norwegian guide, Aksel (who’d never heard of a “pledge drive”), about how different countries pay for their public broadcasting. I was astounded by how much Norwegians are taxed just to own a TV, but those I talked to all seemed to understand the value of quality news (that doesn’t need to be dressed up as entertainment in order to sell ads and be viable), high culture accessible to the masses, children’s programming that isn’t a tool of corporations marketing things to kids, and World Cup coverage with no commercial breaks.

I spend a lot of time traveling around the USA during pledge drive season to explain to Americans why they should kick in $100 or so a year for public broadcasting. This Norwegian and his countrymen value public broadcasting at the rate of $500 a year per family, and willingly pay that tax just to own a TV. I should bring this Norwegian with me to my next pledge drive.

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