From Iceland — NOT ON THE TV



Published July 9, 2004

The other day I sat down to watch the news. We were in the middle of the presidential elections and I wanted to hear from the pundits how they viewed the election and what they saw as the likely outcome. So I sat down at 7:00pm only to find that Iceland´s favourite newsreader had been usurped by 22 men, a ball and a referee.
Here we were in the middle of a presidential election campaign, a time when the issues relating to the constitution, media laws and the prospect of a referendum are all running to a very public conclusion. At this crucial time, when campaigning is at its most vigorous and when in other countries news coverage would be extended, here it is given up for a football tournament – a tournament where the nation isn’t even represented.
“It must be on another channel” I told myself, as I surfed in vain to find Bogi and crew grapple with the candidates.
What I did find was Omega; the ‘round-the-clock bible channel, sitting there ‘fat, dumb and happy’ broadcasting to a handful of viewers, using up one of the country’s most valuable resources: a television frequency.
Divine intervention is certainly at play here. How a country that has limited analog frequencies can devote 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to a religious network is a mystery of biblical proportions and one that is worthy of review.
RÚV has a mandate to entertain as well as inform, and doubtless the decision to broadcast the football was made in response to that duty. But is it not possible to put it on another channel? Is it too much to ask the good people at Omega to risk the wrath of God and move aside when events, such as presidential elections and football matches, coincide?
Everyone would win. The news and current affairs programmes could run at their usual times, football fans would be able to watch all of their games, and Omega would receive more viewers, as some would forget to change channels at the end of the broadcast and, who knows, some may even want to tune in again?

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