National Broadcaster RÚV Launches New Icelandic Language Resource

lilja dögg alfreðsdóttir

In line with new initiatives to increase access to quality Icelandic language education, national broadcaster RÚV has launched a new service aimed at language learners: RÚV Orð.

Learn Icelandic while watching television

The new resource is intended for self-study and greatly expands the functionality of subtitling for Icelandic television content. The new project was developed in cooperation with Swedish non-profit Språkkraft, which has pioneered language technology solutions to social integration and language learning for Swedish immigrants.

The new resource allows Icelandic language learners to select their Icelandic level and create a learner profile. They can then access television programming with subtitling in ten languages, including English, French, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, Thai, and Ukrainian.

Learners will then be able to watch Icelandic television programmes with interactive subtitles that are colour-coded according to difficulty. Learners will also be able to define words in the subtitles by simply clicking on them and to save words for later review. Note that the subtitles are automatically generated and as such are not perfect. Some learners have noted some problems, which are not uncommon with machine translations, but have generally found the resource useful.

Read more: Icelandic as a Weapon

The new resource will be available directly from the RÚV media player once testing this summer is concluded. It is, however, currently live and can be accessed here.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Culture and Commerce, the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, and the Minister of Education and Children met with RÚV to launch the project with the intention of improving access for Icelandic language learners of all levels.

The goal of the project is to promote the inclusion of people with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds in Icelandic society by ensuring access to high-quality digital language learning.

 

 

Halla Tómasdóttir Elected President of Iceland

Halla Tómasdóttir will be the seventh President of Iceland, RÚV has declared.

The 55-year-old businesswoman and CEO of B Team had a significant lead in all districts this morning when 191,065 votes had been counted. She had received 65,669 votes, a 34.6% share 0f the total votes, leading second-place Katrín Jakobsdóttir, former Prime Minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement, by a significant margin.

“I think people want to discuss our society and take part in it,” Halla said at her campaign celebration in the early hours this morning. “I feel the energy of the people who have joined me on this journey.”

Halla surged in recent weeks

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who was ahead in the polls for much of the campaign, had 47,398 votes, or 25%. Director General of Iceland’s National Energy Authority Halla Hrund Logadóttir followed with 28,636 votes, or 15.1%, with comedian and former mayor Jón Gnarr and Professor Baldur Þórhallsson in fourth and fifth place.

I “want to congratulate her and I know she’ll be a good President,” Katrín said when Halla’s victory was becoming clear.

Three of the six voting districts had completed their count at the time of this writing, while many absentee ballots were yet to be counted. RÚV analysts, however, considered it highly unlikely that the results could change, as Halla Tómasdóttir’s lead was significant.

Halla was only polling at around 5% in early May, but gained traction in recent weeks. She previously ran for President in 2016, coming in second with 28% of the vote.

A closer election expected

Outgoing President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, who triumphed over Halla in 2016, said last night that her message had obviously been well received by the voting public. He added that Katrín had faced tough questions about how she entered the race when she resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement in the middle of her term to run for President.

“Most of those who spoke publicly about the election race expected it to be closer,” Guðni said. His term comes to an end on August 1, when Halla and her family move into Bessastaðir, the President’s residence on the Álftanes peninsula. She will be the second woman to hold the office after Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who was the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as president in 1980.

“I only see one team in Iceland and that’s Icelanders,” Halla told Iceland Review in an interview during the campaign. “[We] can make Bessastaðir the home for our national compass.”

Critical Debate Tonight for Presidential Candidates on RÚV

Parliamentary candidates debate in August of 2021.

Tonight, all twelve presidential candidates will participate in their first joint debate on RÚV at 7.40 PM. A political scientist has noted the significance of the debate, particularly for inexperienced contenders, and Jón Gnarr, who needs a strong showing in light of declining polls.

All candidates meet for first time

Tonight, all twelve presidential candidates, six women and six men, will convene for a televised debate at 7.40 PM, broadcast live on RÚV. In an interview with RÚV, Eiríkur Bergmann Einarsson, a professor of political science, stressed the importance of the evening for the candidates, as it marks the first time voters can evaluate all contenders on the same stage.

“People want to be able to envision that the candidate is equal to the task, behaves in a manner befitting the office, and is a credit to Iceland. Thus, a lot of things are being scrutinised. Attributes like resolve, vision for the future, tolerance, and goodwill are sought after,” Eiríkur maintained.

Eiríkur added that it would be interesting to follow the discussions, especially since most candidates lack extensive experience in electoral campaigning and public debate at such a high level. Among the candidates is Katrín Jakobsdóttir, “who should be as comfortable as a fish in water, seasoned in such circumstances,” according to Eiríkur, while others will need to prove themselves to the nation. “Like Halla Hrund, who has never participated in such an arena before.”

Crucial night for Jón Gnarr

Eiríkur believes that tonight’s debates could be most crucial for Jón Gnarr. According to the latest survey by the School of Social Sciences at the University of Iceland, his support has significantly dropped, to just over 7%. “History has shown that performance in such settings can be decisive,” Eiríkur observed.

As noted by RÚV, today also marks the start of absentee voting in the capital region, taking place in Holtagarðar, Reykjavík, from 10 AM to 8 PM. Generally, absentee voting occurs at district commissioner offices across the country. Locations can be found on the commissioners’ website.

The 12 candidates slated to attend tonight’s debate:

  • Arnar Þór Jónsson
  • Ásdís Rán Gunnarsdóttir
  • Ástþór Magnússon Wium
  • Baldur Þórhallsson
  • Eiríkur Ingi Jóhannsson
  • Halla Hrund Logadóttir
  • Halla Tómasdóttir
  • Helga Þórisdóttir
  • Jón Gnarr
  • Katrín Jakobsdóttir
  • Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir
  • Viktor Traustason

Hera to Represent Iceland in Eurovision

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, has decided that singer Hera Björk will represent Iceland with her song Scared of Heights at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö in Sweden this May. According to an announcement from RÚV, Hera was the undisputed winner of Söngvakeppnin, Iceland’s preliminary competition.

Only two days ago, RÚV launched an independent inquiry into the voting process of Söngvakeppnin. Several voters reported glitches in RÚV’s voting app. Some who attempted to vote for Hera’s main competitor, Palestinian Bashar Murad, shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. The songwriter for Bashar’s song, Wild West, submitted a written request for an independent inquiry into the error.

Few votes in question

RÚV says that both songs were affected by the voting app glitch and that Hera’s victory was dominant as she received some 3,500 more votes than Bashar. According to the voting app’s developers, only 748 votes were in question. “The votes possibly affected due to this glitch were even fewer than originally thought and it’s clear that this had no impact on the final results,” RÚV’s announcement read. “Hera Björk is the undisputed winner of Söngvakeppnin 2024.”

Saddened by the discourse

Iceland’s participation in Eurovision has been criticised in light of Israel’s ongoing participation in the competition during its military action in Gaza. Bashar’s participation was seen by many as a statement to oppose the war, but he was also subjected to racist comments during the process. Hera’s songwriter, Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, known professionally as Ásdís, said that she wanted Bashar to represent Iceland and that her conscience didn’t allow her to participate further.

Hera said that she was saddened by the discourse. “Both in terms of how people talked about me and my supposed viewpoints, but even more so about how Bashar was treated,” she said.

Program Director Skarphéðinn Guðmundsson said that RÚV was aware of the discourse surrounding the competition. “We encourage everyone to support Hera and her team,” he said. “She will be a fantastic representative for us.”

Hera Björk Wins Amid Eurovision Controversy

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Hera Björk has won Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin, but it is still unclear whether she will represent Iceland in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Hera won Iceland’s pre-Eurovision competition with her song Scared of Heights last Saturday, beating out Palestinian contestant Bashar Murad in the final. Some have called for an independent investigation into the voting process after reports of glitches in national broadcaster RÚV’s voting app.

Iceland falls on bookmakers’ lists

Five acts performed in the televised Söngvakeppnin finals last Saturday evening, with Hera Björk and Bashar Murad voted as the two finalists. Prior to the final, Eurovision bookmakers had considered Bashar as most likely to become Iceland’s Eurovision representative and had placed Iceland in third place on their Eurovision betting odds lists. Since Hera’s win was announced, Iceland has fallen to eleventh place.

Glitches in voting app

Several Söngvakeppnin voters reported glitches in National Broadcaster RÚV’s voting app on Saturday. Some who attempted to vote for Bashar shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. Vodafone Iceland stated that any glitches were not due to a systemic issue on their end. RÚV is looking into the matter, but director of Söngvakeppnin Rúnar Freyr Gíslason has stated that the total number of votes affected by potential glitches were not so great as to influence the final outcome. The composer of Wild West, the song Bashar performed, has called for an independent investigation into the matter.

Icelandic musicians call on RÚV to not participate

There have been calls to boycott Eurovision among the Iceland public this year due to Israel’s participation in the contest. These calls have been echoed within the Icelandic music community as well. Over 550 musicians in Iceland signed a petition calling on RÚV to boycott the competition if Israel is permitted to participate. The signees include a plethora of well-known artists such as Emilíana Torrini, Bríet, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Páll Óskar, and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Of Monsters and Men). The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists also released a statement urging RÚV not to participate in the contest.

RÚV Director Stefán Eiríksson has previously stated that the broadcaster would leave it up to the winning musician of Söngvakeppnin to decide whether or not to participate in Eurovision in Malmö, Sweden this year.

Iceland Delays Eurovision Decision Amid Gaza Concerns

Eurovision Söngvakeppnin 2020 Daði Freyr Dimma

RÚV has decided to postpone its decision on Iceland’s participation in Eurovision until after the national Song Contest concludes and in consultation with its winner. The decision follows protests related to Israel’s participation in Eurovision amid the Gaza conflict.

Decision deferred

RÚV has decided to sever ties between the Song Contest — an annual music competition determining the country’s representative for Eurovision — and Iceland’s participation in Eurovision. The Song Contest will go ahead as usual, but the final decision on Iceland’s participation in Eurovision will not be made until after its conclusion and in consultation with the winner. The reason for this decision is criticism that has arisen over Israel’s participation in the contest, despite the conflict in Gaza.

Concern among contestants

In an interview with Síðdegisútvarpið on Rás 2, Stefán Eiríksson, director of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV), stated that those contestants entering the Song Contest are understandably concerned about calls to boycott Eurovision in light of the conflict in Gaza. These concerns have been communicated to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). In light of this, RÚV has decided to defer its final decision on participation in Eurovision — held in Malmö, Sweden, this spring — until a winner has been announced.

Read More: Daði’s Eurovision is 2020

“Under this new arrangement, contestants will still apply with the goal of participating in Eurovision on behalf of Iceland,” Stefán remarked. The decision on whether or not Iceland will participate in Eurovision will then be made in consultation with the winner, which means that whether or not Iceland will participate in Eurovision will not become clear until mid-March.

“The contestants, like us, are concerned about the situation that has arisen. The Song Contest has been our way to prepare for Eurovision, and we have previously announced our intentions to participate in Eurovision like before. We do not, however, know what the future holds,” Stefán stated.

A completely new approach

“Deciding on RÚV’s participation in Eurovision after the Song Contest concludes is completely new,” Rúnar Freyr Gíslason, executive director of the Song Contest, remarked. He stated that contestants who have been selected for the competition, and who will be revealed on Saturday, have accepted this compromise. Criticism of participation in Eurovision certainly has not gone unnoticed by them.

Rúnar and Stefán also noted that, following conversations with their colleagues abroad, the demand for boycotting Eurovision due to Israel’s participation does not seem to be widespread, with the exception of Iceland and Norway. Like Iceland, Finland is also planning on hosting its national Song Contest before deciding whether or not to participate in Eurovision.

When asked whether this wouldn’t place undue pressure on the winner of the Song Contest, i.e. to decide on Eurovision participation on behalf of the nation, Rúnar replied that there was “pressure on everyone.” However, he added, it was important to emphasise that RÚV did not shape foreign policy — and much less so a potential Icelandic contestant in Eurovision.

“A huge decision to make.”

Reacting to the news, Bragi Valdimar Skúlason, chairperson of the Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists (FTT), observed that it was good that the Song Contest would go ahead as usual; it is an important platform.

“Perhaps it’s time to remember that the Song Contest is one thing and Eurovision is another, even though they are obviously interconnected.”

When asked about the pressure placed on the winner of the competition, given that Iceland’s participation in Eurovision is a matter close to many hearts, Bragi stated that he hoped RÚV would provide ample support to the person in question:

“One does worry a bit about what that pressure will be like and what the situation will be then. It’s a huge decision to make and hopefully, RÚV will support the winner well, whoever it may be, and assist them in making a decision. This is an extremely complex issue.”

As previously noted, it will be revealed on Saturday which songs and performers will participate in this year’s Song Contest.

This article was updated at 10:06 AM.

FTT Urges RÚV to Boycott Eurovision if Israel Competes

Eurovision Söngvakeppnin 2020 Daði Freyr Dimma

The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists (FTT) has urged RÚV not to participate in the 2024 Eurovision unless Israel is excluded. Director of RÚV Stefán Eiríksson has previously stated that RÚV does not plan on withdrawing from the contest.

Shifting the responsibility to RÚV

The board of the Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists (FTT) has issued a statement addressed to Stefán Eiríksson, Director of the Icelandic National Broadcaster (RÚV). In its statement, the FTT urges RÚV to withdraw from the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest – unless Israel is denied participation on the same grounds that barred Russia, after its invasion of Ukraine, from competing last year.

“The members of our association are urging us to make our voices heard,” Bragi Valdimar Skúlason, Chairman of the FTT, told RÚV yesterday. Bragi pointed out that the association speaks for songwriters and not for musicians in general.

“According to our reading of the room, people will be very unhappy and may even withdraw personally,” Bragi Valdimar observed. With its statement, the association wants to put the decision into the hands of RÚV as opposed to the artists themselves. “We wanted to shift the responsibility to RÚV, as there is a board meeting today,” Bragi explained yesterday.

Director Stefán Eiríksson has previously confirmed that RÚV would participate in Eurovision, as it has done since 1986.

The statement from the FTT in full:

“The Board of FTT, the Association of Composers and Lyricists, urges RÚV not to participate in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest unless Israel is denied participation in the contest on the same grounds as Russia in the last competition.

It is our collective duty to take a stand against war and the murder of innocent civilians, including children. We always have a choice not to associate our names with such actions, whether we are individuals or state institutions.

We owe nothing to those nations that exercise excessive force through military power and should not share the stage with them in events that are typically characterised by joy and optimism.

Board of FTT:
Bragi Valdimar Skúlason, Chair
Védís Hervör Árnadóttir, Vice-Chair
Sóley Stefánsdóttir
Ragnheiður Gröndal
Andri Ólafsson
Hallur Ingólfsson
Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir”

RÚV Apologises for Misconduct of Photographer in Grindavík

Grindavík earthquakes crevasse

Yesterday, a Grindavík resident shared footage of a RÚV photographer trying to enter her evacuated home, sparking disapproval on social media. RÚV and the involved photographer subsequently issued apologies, acknowledging that the actions violated the news organisation’s ethical standards.

Not in line with ethical standards

Yesterday afternoon, a Grindavík resident shared footage from her Ring camera of a RÚV photographer attempting to enter her home, which had been evacuated owing to ongoing geological unrest in the area: “A journalist walked up to my house earlier today, took pictures, tried to open doors, and then looked for a key!” Incensed by the incident, the woman requested that journalists leave the homes of Grindavík residents “alone.”

RÚV subsequently expressed its regret over the incident and offered an apology to the residents of the house and to the people of Grindavík. Heiðar Örn Sigurfinnsson, News Director of RÚV, emphasised that the behaviour was not in line with RÚV’s code of ethics:

“Our journalists have strived to report on the events in Grindavík with respect for the residents and their properties. The practices seen in the video do not reflect the editorial guidelines or the ethos of the newsroom. We have traced the incident back to a misunderstanding and haste at the scene, but will subsequently review our procedures and guidelines, emphasising to all field reporters the importance of respecting the privacy and properties of Grindavík residents, and not causing them any more discomfort or distress than they are already experiencing.”

Photographer apologises

Following RÚV’s press release, the photographer in question, Ragnar Visage, apologised for his behaviour on social media:

“Dear friends, as I am probably the most unpopular person of the day, I sincerely apologise for my behaviour in Grindavík today. I was in a complete rush, and I was the only one left in town (apart from the first responders), and I was asked to capture indoor footage. In a moment of utter thoughtlessness, and amidst all the chaos, it seemed most straightforward to try to enter the nearest house. Idiotic, I know! I have received considerable reprimands from rescue workers, understandably, and have sincerely apologised to them. This behaviour is in no way in line with the principles of RÚV or the spirit in which the newsroom operates.”

Icelandic Whaling CEO Defends Suspended Vessel

Hvalur, whaling company,

In a recent interview with RÚV, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Iceland’s only whaling company, defended a recent incident that led to the suspension of one of his vessels. Kristján cited mechanical failure and criticised the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) for its lack of expertise and procedural lapses.

Untenable situation

In a recent interview with the news programme Kastljós, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Iceland’s sole whaling company, addressed questions concerning an incident that resulted in the suspension of operations for one of his whaling vessels.

Kristján explained that the incident on September 7 was accidental, involving a hook entangled in a winch. This mechanical failure left the harpooned whale alive and attached to the hook, with the crew unable to either reel it in or release it. “It was an untenable situation with no better course of action available,” Kristján stated.

He further argued that a video capturing the incident was misleading. “The footage, taken by an inspector from the Directorate of Fisheries, employed by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), utilised zoom features that distorted the actual distance of the whale from the vessel,” Kristján said. He contended that the whale was out of range for immediate euthanisation, making the suspension of the vessel’s activities based on the video unjust.

Kristján criticised MAST’s expertise, stating, “To my knowledge, the organisation lacks individuals with a comprehensive understanding of fishing.” He estimated that approximately 70% of MAST’s staff consists of general office workers and veterinarians. Kristján also claimed that MAST had failed to consult with the Directorate of Fisheries before making the decision to suspend operations, thereby violating its own protocols.

Fulfilling the quota impossible

When questioned about the likelihood of the suspension being lifted with only ten days remaining in the hunting season, Kristján Loftsson responded, “I’m loathe to peer into the brains of MAST’s employees. I refuse to do it.”

Kristján concluded by revealing his intention to apply for a new whaling licence once the current one expires. He also disclosed that the company has thus far hunted fifteen whales, approximately 10% of the total quota of around 160, acknowledging that fulfilling the quota is unlikely. While he confirmed experiencing significant financial losses, he declined to specify the amount.

Laufey Sets New Jazz Standard on Spotify

Bewitched / From the Start

Icelandic musician Laufey’s album Bewitched broke Spotify’s jazz streaming record with 5.7 million day-one streams, RÚV reports. The standout track From the Start has also gained viral traction on TikTok.

5.7 million streams on its first day

Icelandic musician Laufey’s new album, Bewitched, has set a record for the most streams in the jazz category on Spotify on its day of release, accumulating 5.7 million streams, RÚV reports. The previous record was held by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s 2021 album Love for Sale, which received 1.1 million streams on its first day.

Bewitched, released by music label AWAL on September 8, is Laufey’s second album. It features the British Philharmonic Orchestra on two of its tracks and consists mostly of original compositions, along with one cover song.

It received a five-star review from NME: “There’s a certain magic in Laufey’s music. Filled with swooning strings and gently sighing backing vocals, her lush offerings can evoke both the Great American Songbook and modern pop greats like Billie Eilish.”

The track From the Start has gained notable attention, particularly on the social media platform TikTok, becoming the most popular song from the album to date.

Speaking to the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis yesterday, Laufey was overjoyed by the reception: “I strive to focus less on metrics and more on creating the highest quality music possible. Yet, when the album is released and the statistics begin to roll in, it’s always an unexpected delight.”