Björk to Participate in Anti-Whaling Protest This Saturday

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

Icelandic musician Björk will participate in an anti-whaling protest in Reykjavík on Saturday, June 3. The organisers of the event are urging the Icelandic government to put a stop to whaling immediately.

Speeches, music, and a workshop

As noted in a press release sent to Icelandic media this morning, musician Björk is set to participate in an artistic event against whaling to be held at the Hjartatorg Square in downtown Reykjavík (below Laugavegur, between Smiðjustígur and Klapparstígur) on Saturday, June 3.

Icelandic musicians Högni and JFDR will take the stage, and speeches will be delivered by actress Hera Hilmars, Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, alongside representatives from Ungir umhverfissinnar (the Icelandic Youth Environmental Association) and the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network. The two associations will also announce a pending lawsuit against the Icelandic government if the authorities do not revoke the whaling licence immediately.

During the event, organisers will circulate two petitions, an Icelandic and an international one, which will be submitted to the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and the Prime Minister next week. As noted in the press release, over 100,000 signatures have already been collected on change.org over the past month. Nearly 18,000 individuals have signed the Icelandic petition.

A solidarity march from the old harbour

The event will begin at 2 PM at the Old Harbor in Reykjavík where attendees will gather around Fífill, a boat owned by the Elding whale watching company, and proceed towards Hjartatorg square, “in the spirit of the journeys that finback whales embark on every year, from the Azores past Iceland to Svalbard.”

Following the procession, the event itself will take place between 3 and 7 PM and will be emceed by actress and comedienne Saga Garðarsdóttir. The organisers will also host an art workshop for children, who will be afforded the opportunity to paint and make their own flags. The musical performances and speeches will be punctuated by DJ sets from Guðmundur Arnalds, Juanma b2b, and Björk. “Join us for a day of music, solidarity, and artistic expression as we gather for a cause close to our hearts,” the Facebook event reads.

As noted on IR in early May, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated that it was not possible to halt whaling this season, despite a report showing that the practice is not in line with legislation on animal welfare. “Iceland’s only active whaling company, Hvalur hf., says it is developing two methods to make hunting more efficient, one that uses artificial intelligence and another that uses an electric current,” the article notes.

Sun While It Lasted: May Among “Gloomiest” Months on Record

Rain in Reykjavík

This year’s month of May is in contention to break a more than 70-year-old record for the fewest hours of recorded sunlight in Reykjavík. The rainfall record for the month could also fall, Mbl.is reports.

A month of gloom and rain

The Icelandic weather Gods have been in a rather punishing mood this May. With nearly two weeks of continuous cloud cover in the capital area, water-cooler conversations in the various offices around Reykjavík have frequently been punctuated by weather-related grumblings. This morning, an article published on Mbl.is appeared to substantiate such pessimism scientifically, noting that our current month of May was in contention to break a more than 70-year-old “sunless” record in Reykjavík.

“Sure, we still have a chance of hitting solar rock bottom,” meteorologist Trausti Jónsson told the outlet. Trausti pointed out that, to date, the fewest number of “sunshine hours” in Reykjavík were recorded in May 1951, or 102.2 hours. When Trausti reviewed the data on Monday evening, the number of sunshine hours in May had reached a meagre 93.5 hours – with only three days remaining of the month. As noted by Mbl.is, this means that if fewer than 8.8 hours of sunshine hours are recorded over those three days, May 2023 would become the “least sunniest” fifth month of the year since measurements began.

Mbl.is further noted that this year’s May compared unfavourably with May of last year, when the number of sunshine hours in Reykjavík totalled 259.3 – exceeding the May average between 1991 and 2020 by 50 hours. Hours of sunshine have been measured in Reykjavík and the surrounding area since 1911, although measurements prior to May 1921 have gone missing.

Rain, rain, and more rain

On Monday evening, a total of 118.3 millimetres of rain had been recorded in Reykjavík in May. The rainiest May on record came in 2018 when the total rainfall was recorded at 128.8 millimetres. As noted by Mbl.is, it would, therefore, only take an additional 10.6 millimetres of rain during the final days of May to be recorded by the Met Office’s precipitation gauge to break the previous record. Such a thing is not beyond the realm of possibility, Trausti told Mbl.is.

Again, this year’s May compares unfavourably to last year’s, when the total recorded rainfall in Reykjavík was 44 millimetres or approximately 84% of the average rainfall for the years 1991 to 2020. Continuous rainfall measurements began in Reykjavík in 1920. On a slightly more upbeat note, the average temperature in the capital area in May has been close to the average.

Update (June 2): On June 1, Vísir reported that this year’s month of May had broken the record for fewest hours of recorded sunlight in May since measurements began. “The sun shone for 96 hours and the month was the third rainiest since the measurements began.”

“Vulgar, Galvanised Monstrosity” Vexes Breiðholt Residents

Stairs

The residents of Breiðholt are unhappy with a steel staircase that has been erected between the upper and lower area of the neighbourhood. A project manager with the City of Reykjavík maintains that the staircase was among the most popular projects voted for by the residents as part of Reykjavík’s consultation project in 2021.

A lack of consultation

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Steinunn Ásmundsdóttir, a resident of the Breiðholt neighbourhood in Reykjavík, complained of a lack of consultation with regard to the construction of a large steel staircase, erected on a forest path between the upper and lower area of the neighbourhood.

“This is an egregious form of visual pollution,” Steinunn observed, referring to the staircase as a “vulgar, galvanised monstrosity,” which was visible from her balcony at home. Steinunn added that she agreed with a friend, who had remarked that the staircase was reminiscent of something from an American prison. While conceding that she understood that the stairs had been designed to prevent the accumulation of snow, Steinunn – an old ranger and a nature conservationist – was convinced that the design should take its cue from the environment.

“We are always trying to make our environment humane and friendly. And this staircase is a bit grim, in that regard,” Steinunn remarked.

As noted by Vísir, Steinunn was not the only one displeased with the staircase. Another resident, who referred to the staircase as “a big blemish on the forest,” also contacted the outlet to complain that the city had failed to inform residents of the project. Other residents debated the staircase on a neighbourhood Facebook group.

Among the most popular projects

In an interview with Vísir today, Eiríkur Búi Halldórsson, Project Manager for the city of Reykjavík – who is in charge of the consultation project Hverfið mitt (i.e. My Neighbourhood) – stated that the staircase was “among the most popular projects” voted for implementation by Reykjavík residents via a consultation portal in 2021. The staircase was designed to be used all year round, Eiríkur observed, maintaining that it would blend better into the environment over time.

Eiríkur added that it was rare for a consultation project to turn out to be so controversial: “This was one of the most popular project ideas in the neighbourhood. Residents usually only vote on smaller projects but occasionally there are proposals for larger, more expensive projects that are also put to a vote. The staircase falls into the latter category. We put a lot of effort into promoting votes and introducing the subsequent projects chosen for implementation. These projects are then presented to the residential councils of respective neighbourhoods.”

Eiríkur explained that the staircase had been discussed in Breiðholt’s residential council and that a resting area with benches would be installed below the stairs, where running routes around Breiðholt and the Elliðarárdalur valley would be marked. The stairs were designed with the twofold goal of promoting neighbourhood fitness and improving access – which had been severely lacking – to the forest path: “Someone suggested that we construct the staircase out of wood, but I’m not sure such a thing would last beyond the summer. We wanted to ensure that the stairs would last and be usable by residents all year round,” Eiríkur observed.

Eiríkur further noted that the building material had been chosen with a view of minimising the impact on the soil. Furthermore, the construction of the stairs was still ongoing, with the project expected to be completed at the beginning of June. “Over time, the vegetation will grow and then the stairs will blend even better into the forest. I think this will turn out well and be a successful project of which we can be proud.”

Majority of Surveyed Advertisers Want RÚV to Stay on Ad Market

Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir

A recent study conducted by the Bifröst University examined the attitudes of large advertisers towards RÚV’s presence in the advertising market. The majority of respondents were in favour of RÚV remaining in the ad market.

Majority in favour

The question of whether or not the National Broadcaster (RÚV) should remain in the advertising market has long been a controversial one. In broad strokes, opponents argue that RÚV, being partly funded by government subsidies, enjoys an unfair advantage over private media companies, while proponents maintain that RÚV’s programming would suffer and that a portion of the ad revenue that RÚV would receive would be diverted to foreign advertisers (Google, Facebook, e.g.). Minister of Culture and Business Affairs Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir recently announced that she would not be withdrawing RÚV from the ad market. (A working group was established in April to examine the effect of the withdrawal.)

A recent study conducted by Bifröst University has now shed light on the perspectives of advertisers regarding the potential removal of RÚV from the advertising market. During a seminar held in the House of Business, some significant findings were presented yesterday morning, RÚV reports.

The survey’s authors sent a questionnaire to 111 executives of Icelandic companies and received 56 responses. Out of the respondents, around 30% were from companies with over 200 full-time employees, while 19% represented companies with 100 to 200 employees. The researchers were satisfied with the response rate.

One of the key insights from the study revealed that approximately 36% of advertisers expressed their intentions to either reduce their advertising budget or redirect it outside the country if RÚV was eliminated from the advertising market. The survey also found that a majority of the respondents, about 64%, viewed the removal of RÚV from the advertising market in a negative light.

Following the presentation of the research findings, a panel discussion was held with marketers active in the advertising market.

20% to divert funds to foreign media

Nearly half of the respondents in the survey believe that advertising funds currently allocated by marketers would shift, to some extent, towards other media channels. Over 20% of advertisers stated that they would completely divert their advertising budgets to foreign social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

The study also found that Sjónvarp Símans was identified as the private media company that stood to benefit the most from the removal of RÚV from the advertising market. However, only around 19% of respondents expressed their intention to advertise there. A smaller percentage, specifically 7%, indicated their preference for advertising with Stöð 2, Stöð 2+, and Sýn’s sports channels.

Conversely, the radio segment of the survey revealed a different trend. If RÚV were to be removed from the advertising market, 47.6% of advertisers would shift their focus to Sýn’s radio platform. Bylgjan, Sýn’s most popular radio station, was identified as a favoured prospect.

It is noteworthy that 9.5% of advertisers expressed interest in targeting podcast listeners and considered advertising on that platform. Additionally, 7.1% of respondents stated their intention to advertise with Árvakur’s radio media (Árvakur is the publisher of Morgunblaðið).

Filmed commercials to decrease significantly

The study noted that the film industry would undoubtedly face significant consequences if RÚV were to be removed from the market. Over 30% of respondents indicated that they would either greatly reduce their production of filmed TV commercials or cease production altogether in such a scenario.

The survey conducted by the researchers also aimed to explore other aspects, including the comments made in relation to the bankruptcy of Torg ehf, the company that owned and operated the media outlets Fréttablaðið and Hringbraut. Sigmundur Ernir Rúnarsson, the former editor of Fréttablaðið, argued that RÚV’s dominant market position had played a part in the company’s bankruptcy.

Respondents were asked about their perceptions regarding the impact of RÚV’s presence in the advertising market on the bankruptcy. Around 67% stated that they believed RÚV had little or no influence on Fréttablaðið’s fate. Regarding the TV station Hringbraut, half of the respondents held the belief that RÚV played little or no role in its closure.

Conclusions

As noted by RÚV, the study’s main results indicated the following:

Two out of three respondents were in favour of the status quo, that is, of RÚV remaining in the advertising market.

84% of participants use RÚV to publish TV and radio advertisements.

35% of advertisers said they were likely to transfer their advertising money to other national TV channels if RÚV was taken off the market.

36% of advertisers would either reduce advertising money or divert it to foreign media.

59% of participants believe that the absence of RÚV would have a major impact on their ability to achieve set advertising goals.

63% of advertisers who produce filmed ads think it is likely that they will reduce that production if RÚV were removed from the ad market.