Bill Would Require Streaming Companies to Invest in Icelandic Culture

lilja dögg alfreðsdóttir

Streaming companies operating in Iceland would be required to invest in Icelandic TV and film production if a new bill proposed by the Minister of Culture is passed. Both Icelandic and foreign streaming companies that service the Icelandic public would be required to do so. The goal of the bill is to strengthen Icelandic culture and language and encourage investment in local production. RÚV reported first.

5% of income back into Icelandic production

In recent years, international streaming services and social media have negatively impacted the competitiveness of domestic media in Iceland. The draft bill states that it is one part of measures intended to improve domestic media’s competitive position in regards to foreign streaming platforms.

If the bill passes, streaming providers would have to choose between two payment options. Either they would pay 5% of the subscription income from their activities in Iceland to the Icelandic Film Fund on an annual basis, of they would invest the same percentage in the production of domestic audio-visual content.

Public broadcaster exempt

The content produced under the requirements would have to include Icelandic cultural and social content. Half of the production costs would need to be incurred in Iceland or half of the shooting to take place in Iceland.

Streaming platforms with low turnover or few users would be exempt from the requirements, as would national broadcaster RÚV and similar public service media. Streaming services that do not offer films, fictional TV series, or documentaries would also be exempt.

Iceland’s Minister of Culture has previously taken on international streaming platforms in defence of Icelandic language dubbing and subbing.

Agree to Action Plan for Icelandic as a Second Language

lilja dögg alfreðsdóttir

Alþingi approved an action plan on the Icelandic language on Wednesday, May 8. The action plan, which is the result of collaboration between five separate ministries, will run through the year 2026 and include some 22 measures intended to make Icelandic language learning more accessible to foreign residents, preserve the Icelandic language, and otherwise support the development of the language.

The plan can be viewed here, in Icelandic.

A positive view of language is central

The introduction to the plan reads as follows: “The importance of supporting the Icelandic language in government agreements is discussed. There is an emphasis on children and young people utilizing the language and support for children of foreign origin and their families. Icelandic is considered a precious resource that should be a creative and fertile part of the environment. It is particularly emphasized that attention must be paid to Icelandic language instruction for children and young people, adult immigrants, and Icelandic learners to meet changing conditions in society. Efforts to strengthen the position of Icelandic in the digital world, with an emphasis on language technology, will continue.”

The plan likewise states that a positive view towards language ought to be central to Icelandic language policy, stressing both the preservation of the language, and adapting it to a changing society and technological environment. This statement could also be understood to mean that Icelandic language policy ought to focus on language and language learning as a possible means of integration into, and not exclusion from, Icelandic society.

22 measures to support the Icelandic language

The plan includes a total of 22 suggested measures. Some of the most salient proposals are listed below.

  • Icelandic language lessons for foreign residents, which are integrated into work hours.
  • Increased quality of Icelandic instruction for foreign residents.
  • Further development of language technologies according to the Language Technology Plan.
  • Increased dubbing and subtitles in Icelandic.
  • Online courses and distance learning for Icelandic as a second language.
  • Online Icelandic courses at the BA level.
  • Improvements in the Icelandic abilities of staff at preschool and primary schools.

Ambitious and accessible

Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir stated: “The plan is ambitious and accessible, which, in our opinion, will ensure that actions are followed up effectively. For example, the experimental projects that are part of the action plan ensure that the language is alive and constantly requires new ways to evolve. What works, and what doesn’t? An example of this initiative is the restructuring of Icelandic language instruction for foreign workers who work with the elderly, sick, or disabled in hospitals, nursing homes, or home care. The plan also proposes that experimental projects be conducted in places where instruction is carried out in two languages ​​and peer support needs to be developed.”

The action plan is also linked to many projects that are currently being developed in collaboration between ministries and institutions, including immigration and refugee policy, education policy until 2030, a comprehensive review of higher education, and the tourism industry action plan until 2030.

Read more about Icelandic language learning initiatives.

Icelandic Swimming Pool Culture Nominated for UNESCO Status

Swimming pool in Iceland

Icelandic “swimming pool culture” could be added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, minister of culture and business, has confirmed a nomination for it to be added, Heimildin reports. This is Iceland’s first independent nomination for the list, which includes things like Chinese shadow puppetry, Inuit drum dancing and singing, French baguette bread and Finnish sauna culture.

Physical and spiritual

The nomination comes with multiple statements of support from municipalities, sports and swimming societies and swimming pool guests. They include stories, experiences and attitudes towards swimming pools in Iceland with discussions on their meaning and importance, according to a statement from the ministry.

The nomination has been prepared fro some time by the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies and the National Museum of Iceland. “Swimming pool culture holds a special and important place in the daily life of Icelanders,” said Lilja. “Meeting in the hot tub or taking the family swimming is a social connection which is invaluable and makes its mark, not only physically, but spiritually as well.”

Big part of everyday life

According to a recent survey, 79% of adults in Iceland go to swimming pools. Some 120 public pools operate in Iceland and are a big part of everyday life all around the country.

The process for UNESCO evaluation is 18 months, so it will be revealed in December 2025 whether Icelandic swimming pool culture will be added to the list.

Authorities Combat Fake Volcano News

eruption, Stóra-Skógfell, Sundhnjúkargígarröð

Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, has spent ISK 100 million [€670,690 / $725,584] on marketing to respond to and correct international news coverage on the volcanic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula over the last few months.

The current eruption has been ongoing since Saturday, making it the longest-lasting in the recent spell of volcanic activity on the peninsula.

Imprecise reporting

The Icelandic Tourism Board, social media influencers and others have received public funding from the ministry, Vísir reports. “It’s very important that the correct information gets out there,” Lilja said, pointing to a BBC online article which indicated that Iceland was in a “state of emergency”. This would be an imprecise translation of the civil protection alert levels which the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management decides on at any given time.

Effect on tourism

Other news articles have connected the volcanic activity to tourism and questioning whether anyone would want to go to Iceland. “Tourism is the industry responsible for most of our foreign currency income, around 35%,” Lilja said, adding that tourism was an important pillar in securing the stability of the Icelandic Króna, along with energy intensive industries, fisheries and the creative and tech industries.

 

Artist Stipends to Increase

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir / Minister of Culture and Business Affairs

Minister of Culture and Business Affairs Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir has proposed a substantial increase in public funding for artist stipends, Heimildin reports.

According to a draft bill, three new salary funds will be created and the month of salary to be allocated will gradually increase from 1,600 to 2,850 until 2028. Funding will increase in steps from ISK 124 million [$906,000, €832,000] next year to ISK 700 million [$5.1 million, €4.7 million] in 2028.

Funds for film writers and age groups

The Artists’ Salary Fund is a collection of funds meant to support the arts. Funding is determined annually by Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, and The Icelandic Centre for Research is responsible for managing the fund on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Business Affairs. For 2024, 1,032 months of salary were allocated, while 9,336 months were applied for

The draft bill notes that the number of available months of salary for allocation has remained unchanged since the law came into effect in 2009. The three new salary funds that will be created, if the bill becomes law, will be a Film Writers Fund, Vöxtur – a fund for artists 35 years old and younger, and Vegsemd – a fund for artists 67 and older.

New Tourism Campaign Prompts Criticism

Locals and tourists enjoy the sunshine in Reykjavík's Austurvöllur square.

A new collaborative project aimed at promoting tourism in Iceland, called “Good Hosts,” has drawn vocal criticism from Efling union chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

The project was announced Friday, July 14th, with Minister of Tourism Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Chairperson of the Tourist Service Association Bjarnheiður Hallsdóttir, Director of Tourism Arnar Már Ólafsson publishing the project’s website on social media.

The project aims to encourage Icelanders to embrace the important role of being “good hosts.” According to the project website, “the hospitality of the nation is a significant part of creating a positive experience for tourists in Iceland. Together, we are a part of some of the most valuable moments for people on their journey. We all enjoy the benefits of tourist visits. We can thank the vibrant tourism industry for its diverse services and outstanding hospitality throughout the country. The visits of these enthusiastic guests have made our society more diverse and enjoyable.”

The project additionally calls upon individuals and companies to take part in a “good host pledge.”

The project, however, has drawn criticism from some, including Efling union chairperson Sólveig Anna. In a recent post, Sólveig Anna recalls the strikes earlier this year during a particularly contentious contract negotiation:

“Last winter, Bjarnheiður Hallsdóttir claimed that the tourism industry was in ruins following COVID. She accused Efling, a union representing low-wage workers in the capital area, of manufacturing a disaster […] She also expressed concerns that if Efling’s members went on strike, exercising their constitutional right, inflation would increase, and people would become unemployed. In essence, she portrayed the legitimate and self-evident fight of low-wage workers, mostly immigrants, for a better life, as a criminal attack on the well-being of all Icelanders […] Now Bjarnheiður wants to compel all of us to promote our beautiful country for her […] She wants us all to help her sell our homeland so she can become richer.”

Among the benefits of the recent growth in Icelandic tourism, the project highlights 25,770 jobs that have been created, in addition to increased services for the entire nation.

 

[visual-link-preview encoded=”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″]

First Comprehensive Music Policy Approved by Alþingi

Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir

Alþingi has approved the Ministry of Culture and Trade’s bill on music, the first comprehensive policy on the matter in Iceland.

The legislation aims to establish a new music policy for 2030 by strengthening the environment for the creation and performance of music in Iceland, establishing a comprehensive framework for music-related issues, and creating favourable conditions for its creation, promotion, and performance.

The bill is seen as especially important given the role that music has historically played in Icelandic culture and the promotion of Iceland abroad.

Read more: Draft Iceland’s First Comprehensive Music Policy Approved

In a statement, Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir said: “These are truly milestones for music in this country. I wish all of our wonderful musicians congratulations and I am truly looking forward to listening to the results of these significant changes. I also want to thank all of the amazing people who worked on the policy-making.”

A key achievement of the bill is the creation of a new centre for music, to be established later this year, and is intended to support all kinds of music activities and export projects for all music genres. In addition, the centre will manage the registration, administration and distribution of Icelandic music.

New sources of funding will also become available under the law, which merges the current Music Fund, the Sound Recording Fund and the Icelandic Music Export Fund. The role of the new fund will be to promote Icelandic music, sound recording and development work in the Icelandic music industry. The fund will promote  Icelandic musicians and their work, both in Iceland and abroad.

Lilja stated further: “I am grateful for the great support that the issue received in the Icelandic Parliament. I also want to thank the good and powerful group of people who have participated in this work. The future of Icelandic music has become even brighter following these changes, which will be enjoyable to follow along the way.”

New Centre for Icelandic Studies to Acquire Manuscripts on Long-Term Loan

icelandic manuscript heimskringla

The Danish government has agreed to the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies’ request to loan Icelandic manuscripts on a long-term basis. RÚV reports.

The manuscripts in question would be displayed at the new centre for Icelandic manuscript studies, which has yet to be named. Originally financed in 2005, the new centre recently ended its open call for naming suggestions and is expected to open this April.

Read more: Danish Professor Reluctant to Repatriate Manuscripts

A committee will review the suggested name and select the best, to be revealed at the building’s upcoming opening.

However, not all are in support of relocating the manuscripts. Danish academics have resisted possible repatriation, stating the manuscripts are a part of Danish cultural heritage as well.

Some Icelandic academics have likewise cast doubt on the utility of bringing certain manuscripts back to Iceland. In 2019, professor Viðar Pálsson at the University of Iceland stated: “From a purely academic point of view, if the manuscripts go home to Iceland, I do not know in what way, if any, it would strengthen scholarship there.”

Highlighting the potential dangers of transporting historical manuscripts, he further stated: “In the past centuries, people defined what manuscripts were considered Icelandic. Many of the manuscripts would fall into a grey area, but virtually all manuscripts that we can say are mainly Icelandic have been brought back. But there are also some manuscripts that we could describe as rather Icelandic than anything else that we may nevertheless want to recover at some point. Of course, there are manuscripts in the Danish archives containing prized Icelandic sagas, but then there were manuscripts containing more prosaic legal material, royal narrative material and so on that originate in Iceland but are not necessarily Icelandic in content.”

Despite such objections, Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Alfreðsdóttir has been eager to acquire the manuscripts on behalf of the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies.

The manuscripts in question would be displayed with the latest technologies at the new centre. Estimates state that the long-term loan will cost some 250 million ISK [$1.8 million; €1.7 million].

According to RÚV, the loan request is currently being processed by the Arnamagnæan Institute in Copenhagen. A response is expected promptly.

 

 

Possible Changes to Car Rentals, Including Limits on Mileage and Age

winter tires reykjavík

Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir stated in an interview yesterday with RÚV that changes may be coming for the rental car industry in Iceland.

The statement came in response to the Ministry of Tourism’s efforts to improve education for foreign drivers on Icelandic roads following the tragic 2018 accident by Núpsvötn, in which three British citizens died.

Iceland’s unique landscape is of course a major driver of the tourism industry, but many foreign tourists may not be prepared for the road conditions in Iceland.

Read more: Núpsvötn Car Accident Among Worst in Icelandic History

The car in involved in the Núpsvötn accident had been driven some 340,00km and was 12 years old. Now, politicians and members of the tourism industry are reconsidering what regulations should apply to rental cars to prevent future accidents.

“We will refer this to a working group within the ministry that has been working to promote increased security for tourists in this country. We will use this terrible incident to improve regulations and possible legislation to ensure further safety in this country,” Lilja stated to RÚV.

Hendrik Berndsen, chairman of Hertz in Iceland and chairman of the Tourism Association’s Car Rental Committee, also expressed the need for better regulation in the rental car industry.

The Tourism Association is responsible for 90% of Iceland’s 24,000 rental cars.

Speaking to RÚV, he called for a limit of 200,000km for rental cars, and a possible limit of 6-8 years.

“It may not be possible to directly blame the car,” he said,  “but is very important that there are the latest cars for drivers who come to the country.”

Harpa Þórsdóttir Appointed Curator of National Museum Amidst Some Critique

national museum of iceland þjóðminjasafn

In a recent press release from the Ministry of Culture and Trade, Harpa Þórsdóttir was appointed the head curator of Þjóðminjasafn, the National Museum of Iceland.

Harpa will be taking over the position from Margrét Hallgrímsdóttir, who has held the position since 2000.

However, Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Culture and Trade, has come under some criticism for the appointment. As the position was not advertised publicly, some say that the appointment is a return to corruption and nepotism.

In an editorial for Vísir, administrative specialist Haukur Arnþórsson criticized the lack of transparency, and called for public positions to be advertised in such a way that ensure a fair hiring process:

“The main ideas behind the obligation to advertise vacancies are, on the one hand, that public funds are managed well […] and on the other hand, that everyone is equal in relation to the public sector and that their merits are assessed professionally and honestly. These points of view are not met when an employee is recruited by transferring between jobs. It is not clear what criteria are at play, which is, however, the case when a job is advertised – and the minister cannot give the public proper explanations of the hiring criteria in this respect.”

Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Culture and Trade, has pushed back against the criticism, stating that Harpa is both highly qualified, and that legal precedent exists for such hiring practices. Many other ministries, for example, hire through internal selection instead of placing open applications for every vacant position. Regarding the hiring, Lilja stated: “We have a very capable individual coming from one museum and moving on to the next.”

Harpa completed her Maîtrise in Art History at the Sorbonne in 1998, and has had a 20 year long career in museums and museum management. Prior to her appointment to the National Museum, Harpa directed the National Gallery Iceland, another of Iceland’s three major public museum collections.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has since stated that she intends to investigate such “manual hiring” practices, and wants to begin an initiative to collect data on such practices.

“I think it is important to compile these numbers over a period of time so that we can assess whether this is a trend, and to make decisions on that basis,” she stated to Vísir.