Slow TV captivates Norwegian audience

Public broadcaster airs shows on salmon fishing, knitting, log fires and landscapes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:30am


Say goodbye to breathless intrigue and dramatic twists: "Slow TV" is attracting record audiences in Norway, with hours, even days, devoted to knitting, fishing, train trips and panoramic landscapes.

Public broadcaster NRK has replaced some of its usual prime-time drama and entertainment with long, lingering images of cruise liners touring fjords and hours of crackling log fires.

With up to 134 hours of uninterrupted footage, this snail-paced entertainment has become something of a Norwegian speciality.

"It's literally reality TV: something authentic that's shown in real time without being edited down," said Rune Moeklebust, head of programmes at NRK.

The concept was pioneered in 2009, coinciding with the centenary of the Bergen railway line. The route passes through breathtaking scenery, connecting Norway's second city with the capital, Oslo.

The train trip - all seven hours and 16 minutes of it - was filmed with onboard cameras and archive footage was added to fill in some of the duller moments as the train passed through long, dark tunnels.

The idea was original, easy to produce and soon embraced by the public broadcaster, which was unconstrained by commercial considerations.

It decided to air the experiment on one of its two national channels ... to a roaring success.

About 1.2 million viewers, nearly a quarter of the population of Norway, tuned into NRK2 for at least part of the trip.

"When I asked a few days later if I could borrow the airwaves for five and a half days to broadcast live from the Coastal Express (a cruise liner touring the Norwegian coast) I was told 'yes, of course'," said Moeklebust.

The formula, again, was a resounding success - 3.2 million television viewers watched parts of the trip as hundreds flocked to see the ship in various ports.

NRK airs shows on salmon fishing, knitting , the intricacies of making the perfect log fire and many other themes.

"Slow TV is a chance for people to sit down, relax and contemplate," said Arve Hjelseth, a sociologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.