Jan 3, 2008

How Norway creates a worry

OK, that title sounds worse than it is, and also sounds more serious than it is. I guess the real worry is that the arctic region so far this winter is warmer than southern Norway, and also so dry that a grass fire broke out (that's a first!), but that's not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is a phenomenon many other Europeans are familiar with: The TV license. And the worry of not getting it paid on time.

Since 1949, Norway's government owned-and-operated broadcaster, NRK, has charged its listeners and viewers a so-called broadcasting fee. The current TV license costs over NOK 2000 a year. Every year, Norwegians gripe about the TV license. It funds NRK, which now offers three TV channels (but until the early 80's, was a sole channel on Norwegian TV), while the other current 50 whatnot channels are commercial and/or cable. "I never watch NRK," the usual complaint goes, "so why do I have to pay for it? I already pay for cable." But the clever politicians, who set the license fee every year (and raise it every year, too), have determined that the fee is for "owning, renting or borrowing a device for receiving television signals". Luckily, it's one fee per household, not per device or person viewing.

But it gets better: They split the fee in two and send out a semi-annual bill about a month before its due date. But if you should forget to pay by the due date, they don't dun you. Not once. If and when you finally pay the bill, the license office then sends out a late-fee bill, starting from the due date, no grace period.

They changed things around a bit for 2008, which I wasn't aware of. When I got the notice of payment in August (due Sept. 1), it was for only a little over NOK 700, which was unexpected, so I assumed that my newly opted-for automatic deduction gave me a quarterly bill, rather than a semi-annual one. I was very happy about that and even told a bunch of people. But when I went through my monthly bank statement yesterday, I coudn't find a license deduction for Dec 1. I thougt maybe I did something wrong or the bank did or maybe even NRK did (could happen, could happen).

I blame meno-fog (as we ladies of a certain age call it) for what happened next but at least it had a happy outcome: After a rather disorganized foray into my online bank with multiple logins and logouts (because after each logout, I'd remember I'd forgotten something), I finally managed a clear thought and the search function. I could find no payment to NRK in December. I surfed NRK's website looking for information on them missing a billing, and discovered that the semi-annual due dates no longer are March 1 and September 1, but starting with 2008, are January 1 and July 1. Therefore, the payment for Sept 1 2007 applied only through December 2007, and the next semi-annual bill will be due January 31. How nice for those paying semi-annually, I thought, but what about us who pay quarterly? I couldn't find any information, so I started composing a nice e-mail to the nice license office to ask them what I should do about them not deducting from my account when they were supposed to, and how they'd better not charge me any late fees.

I thought it would be helpful to include my license number and I was at least organized enough to know where the September notice was. And while I was verifying my typing of the license number in my e-mail, I happened to glance at a line a little higher up on the notice. It read, "For 1 Sep through 31 Dec 2007".


A penny dropped and clattered hollowly in the vast void that currently holds the position "Keera's brain". (Dan Quayle was right: A mind is a terrible thing to lose.)

I breathed a sigh of relief. No stupid "you were late and we knew it but didn't remind you, you ditz, so nyah" bill on its way, and no suitable-for-hanging-by-coffee-machine-for-endless-entertainment-by-license-office-employees e-mail from me asking about non-existent quarterly payments.

Of course, this means I've got a big bill coming up this month, but now I'm prepared.

More or less.


Sparkling Red said...

How bizarre! Do you ever watch NRK? Is there anything of value on it?

Keera Ann Fox said...

It's very similar to watching PBS. No commercials (which is rather nice), and a lot of documentaries. With the exception of their weekly consumer show, I rarely watch it, since the shows I prefer (like "Law & Order" and "Ugly Betty") are on other channels. I do wake up to NRK on the radio. They have really good radio shows.