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Discovery makes legal challenge to Norway’s betting ads ban

Discovery Networks Norway, an arm of the international broadcast group that owns Eurosport, has taken legal action over the move by the Norwegian state to ban the advertising of foreign betting companies by broadcasters.

Ahead of the scheduled law change, which is due to come into effect on January 1, 2021, Discovery has issued a subpoena as it looks to avoid being hit by a sharp decline in advertising from the betting sector.

Norsk Tipping holds a gambling monopoly in Norway and the act passed by the Norwegian parliament in May allows the Norwegian Media Authority (Medietilsynet) to order broadcasters and internet service providers to prevent access to advertisements from betting operators based abroad.

Discovery Networks Norway told Kampanje, the Norwegian media website: “We have subpoenaed the state in connection with the new provision of the Broadcasting Act which, from January 2021, gives the Norwegian Media Authority the means to impose on Norwegian distributors of audiovisual services the prevention or hampering of the
promotion of gambling aimed at Norway, even if it is sent legally from other EEA States.”

Having sent the subpoena to Oslo’s District Court in early July, the state has been issued a deadline of September 18 by which to respond.

Financial consultants Oslo Economics have estimated that the betting ban will cause a combined revenue drop of NOK250m (€23.5m/$27.7m) and NOK500m at Discovery Networks Norway and the Nordic Entertainment (Nent) Group.

Discovery insists that it “broadcasts advertisements in accordance with the rules of the country from which they are sent” and that it will continue to do so in 2021.

In response, Gunhild Berge Stang, Norway’s state secretary for the Ministry of Culture, told Kampanje: “Discovery argues that the new statutory provision in the Broadcasting Act contravenes the EEA Agreement. This question was thoroughly discussed in the legal proposition and we see no basis for Discovery’s lawsuit.”

Øyvind Husby, chairman of Kabel Norway, the association that defends the interests of cable operators including Altibox, Telia and Telenor, said that the body has not been involved in the legal action issued by Discovery but has concerns about the practicalities of the bill taking effect.