The Norwegian Media Authority has ordered television distributors in the country to remove gambling advertising from Discovery channels such as Eurosport Norway, a decision the media company said it may appeal.
The distributors have until August 15 to stop Discovery from transmitting gambling commercials or face “coercive fines” that would be assessed daily, the media authority said on Tuesday (April 5).
The authority cited Kindred brand Unibet and Betsson brands Nordicbet and Betsafe as it acted in defence of the gambling monopoly, Norsk Tipping.
Both Kindred and Betsson have been ordered by the Norwegian Gambling Authority to stop offering gambling to Norway residents.
But a Discovery spokesperson said the company believes the ruling is “contrary to the country-of-origin principle” in Norway’s European Economic Authority (EEA) agreement.
“We will now review the media authority’s decision carefully and consider how we should proceed. We do not rule out the possibility of further legal proceedings,” said Espen Skoland, site lead at Discovery Norway.
“It cannot be denied that this directive is incompatible with editorial freedom and the ban on prior censorship,” Skoland told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
The media authority “will be instructing distributors to censor content or block signals”, he said. “This means that editors are effectively no longer able to decide for themselves the nature of the content they broadcast and are forced to hand this discretion over to the authorities and the distributor.”
“We are supporters of free media, and this case as such is a matter of principle for us,” Skoland said.
The advertising already complies with strict German legislation, and “in addition to our own self-regulation, which is on-par with that applicable to Norsk Tipping”, he said.
But the authority said that it believes “the TV distributors can set as a condition for the dissemination that the broadcasts on the TV channels FEM, MAX, VOX and Eurosport Norway shall not contain marketing for the gambling games Unibet, Betsson, Nordicbet and Betsafe. This applies to both advertising and sponsor identification.”
A spokesman for Kindred also said the company believes media authority orders are not compatible with EEA law.
"We will continue to lawfully market our brands on overseas TV channels which operate in the broadcaster’s country of establishment pursuant to the Audiovisual Media Service Directive which lays down a country of origin principle for regulation of such advertising," the spokesman said.
A Betsson spokesperson did not respond in time for deadline.
The Norwegian Gambling Authority called the media authority’s ruling a “milestone” coordinating with its attempts to “prevent gambling problems and help move more Norwegian players to a safe and responsible gaming offer”.
There are an estimated 55,000 problem gamblers in Norway, with a University of Bergen survey released last month estimating that problem gambling cost the country €520m annually.
Gambling companies spent 582m Norwegian krone (€61.1m) on advertising between August 2020 and July 2021, the media authority said.
During that period, unlicensed foreign operators spent 72 percent of the funds spent on gambling advertising during the period and 85 percent by number of ads, the authority said, citing Nielsen Media Research data.
The media authority gained the power to order television distributors to prevent or make it difficult to access advertising for unlicensed gambling sites from a Broadcasting Act which took effect on January 1, 2021.