Iceland Culture

Iceland Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Iceland

According to INTERNETSAILORS.COM, Iceland is a country located in Europe. The Icelandic media market has undergone a major transformation process since the beginning of the 2000s, following the same pattern as in the other Nordic countries.

New technology in the IT sector and the launch of free magazines have fundamentally changed the media consumption and the business models that have carried the traditional media, while blurring the boundaries between different industries as the internet becomes the platform for both sound and image as well as text.

Internet and mobile telephony

More than 93% of the population aged 16–74 are on the internet daily, which means that Icelanders are at the absolute top of the world when it comes to internet use. Mobile surfing has increased sharply since 2010 and more than half of the population uses the mobile for Internet access.

There are three dominant mobile operators that together have about 95% of subscribers. The largest is Síminn, which was formed in 2005 when the state telephone company was privatized. The second largest in the market is Vodafone Iceland, owned by the Dagsbrún group, which also owns the media group 365. (Multinational Vodafone Group has no co-ownership but only licenses its brand.) The third operator with its own 3G network is Nova, whose main owner Björgólfur Thor Björgolfsson has become widely criticized for his role in the Icelandic financial crisis 2008–09, including as the principal owner of the bankrupt bank Landsbanki.

The surfing behavior of Icelanders does not differ from the other Nordic countries. Global sites such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube dominate. Two traditional media companies qualify for the top ten list – the newspapers Morgunblaðið and DV’s websites.

TV and radio

The radio and TV industry is organized as in the other Nordic countries. The state-owned RÚV (Rikisútvarpið) had a long monopoly on radio and television broadcasts. Radio broadcasting was started in 1930 and TV broadcasting in 1966. Until 1983, RÚV had only one radio channel, a channel with a high proportion of cultural and educational programs. After much criticism, RÚV started the channel Ras 2, which is more focused on daily news and popular music.

July was TV-free month until 1983 and Thursday broadcast-free day until 1986. RÚV has been financed with both license fees and advertising, but since 2008 the license has been abolished and replaced with a special tax.

In 1986 the monopoly for the etheric media ceased and a number of private radio and TV channels established themselves. The media group 365 dominates in radio with the most popular channel, Bylgjan, and the same company distributes five own digital TV channels and some 50 international.

Daily press and magazine

The newspaper market in Iceland changed radically in 2001 with the launch of the free magazine Frettablaðið, with Swedish Metro as the role model. The magazine is distributed to more than 80,000 households daily and is the most read in the country. It is considered to be close to the Social Democrats and advocates for EU membership. Frettablaðið is owned by the media group 365 and is an integral part of 365’s website Ví, which is one of the most visited in Iceland (2012).

Before Frettablaðið was launched, Morgunblaðið, founded in 1913, was the dominant daily newspaper. The newspaper reached its circulation peak in 2000 with just over 56,000 copies, but has since collapsed sharply.

In political parties, Morgunblaðið has close ties to the Conservative and EU-critical Independence Party. The warehouse set accelerated in 2009 following the controversial decision to appoint former Governor of the Central Bank of Iceland, Davíð Oddson, as editor-in-chief. Oddson is a member of the Independence Party and was prime minister in 1991–04. Morgunblaðið’s edition is now under 40,000 copies, but the newspaper’s website is one of Iceland’s most visited (2012).

The third newspaper of importance is the tabloid DV, since 2010 partly owned by the employees of the newspaper. DV devotes more resources than the other newspapers to investigative journalism, but is often criticized for its long-running publications.

The other daily press consists of about 20 regional and local newspapers, most with one day a week. Modern day press originated in Iceland during the 1910s. Prior to that, occasional periodicals had been published. Thjódólfur, founded in 1848, is considered the first.

During much of the 20th century, virtually every newspaper was strongly linked to one of the four political parties. It was only in the 1960s that this trend was broken and more and more newspapers declared themselves politically unbound.

During the 1990s, several nationwide newspapers were closed and today only Morgunblaðið, Frettablaðið and DV remain. The magazine market is dominated by the publishing house Bírtingur, which publishes about ten weekly magazines and magazines, some of them in collaboration with other publishing houses in the Nordic countries.

Book and publishing system

Iceland’s book system has a remarkable prehistory. In the Middle Ages, diligent print-offs on calfskin printed down oral traditions of poetry and prose, thus saving some of the most precious literary treasures in the Nordic world.

The country’s first printing press was built about 1530 on the bishop’s seat of Hólar by the last Catholic bishop, Jón Arason. There, religious literature was published; The entire Bible came in Icelandic translation 1584. The most frequently printed book is Hallgrímur Pétursson’s Passíusálmar (Passion Psalms), which was first published in 1666 and is still published in new editions.

The Icelandic book publishing, which included 32 works in 1887, had increased to about 1,500 titles annually in 2012, which in relation to the population is thought to be the most in the world. The Icelandic Publishers Association, the Association of Icelandic Book Publishers, has over 40 member publishers. Among Iceland’s rich flora of periodica are the cultural magazine Skírnir, the oldest journal in the Nordic region, founded in 1827.

The National Library of Iceland (National Library of Iceland), which was added in 1818 and merged with the university library in 1994, is a duty delivery library and comprises just over 1,000,000 volumes of Icelandic and foreign print and about 15,000 manuscripts (2012). The domestic pressure is recorded in annual lists, as well as audio files. Several archives and libraries are responsible for publishing in various specialist areas, mainly among them Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, who continuously publishes works on Icelandic ancient literature.


According to APARENTINGBLOG, calculated per resident, Iceland publishes more books and has more bookcases than any other country in the world. Throughout history, literature has stood in a class of its own in Icelandic culture.

The classical literature was written down in the 12th and 13th centuries. It mainly reproduces older, oral traditions from pre-Christian times. The oldest works were written in Norway but could be preserved in Iceland because, unlike the other Nordic countries, the country was Christianized in relatively calm forms. Thus, it did not become so urgent for the church to suppress the memories of the pre-Christian era.

This early literature was created by unknown authors and is collected in the so-called Edda poetry. As immortal works, Hávlaim, who, among other things, gives advice on the Viking era’s knowledge and etiquette, as well as Völuspá, which depicts the world’s creation and the gods’ struggle for the world’s destruction, ragnarok.

An easily accessible genre is the poem of poetry or the drape which in the 9th century gave Egill Skallagrímsson and other skalders the opportunity to excel in an exquisite and distinctive imagery, so-called teachings. Within the prose, the personal and family stories from the 13th century form a special genre; most famous is Njal saga whose word button but dramatically expressive storytelling technique still inspires writers today.

Even after the entry of Christianity in the 1000s, the literary traditions of ancient times were alive and new works were created, for example the unique and poignant Sólarljóð (Solsången) by an unknown writer.

An important tradition is the writing of history, exemplified by Landnámabók which depicts the island’s colonization. One historian and conservationist in particular was the great man Snorri Sturluson (in sworn form Snorre Sturlasson; 1179–1241), who among other things wrote the history of the Norwegian kings in Heimskringla.

In the 1300s, a new form of epic poems, rímur (singularis ríma), came under the influence of European ballad poetry. These have maintained their popularity in Iceland into modern times. In the 17th and 18th centuries manuscripts of the Icelandic sagas were brought to the colonial power of Denmark, but in the late 1900s these were brought back.

The 16th century reformation became a break for cultural life, which had largely been centered around the church. However, as an important religious poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson emerged in the 17th century. His collection of 50 Passion Psalms still characterizes the Church’s Easter celebrations and is read on the radio each year during Lent.

During the 19th century, a national revival was born among Icelandic intellectuals in Copenhagen. Literary production gained new momentum, and the rise continued in the 20th century.

To begin with, many Icelanders wrote in Danish or Norwegian to reach a larger Nordic audience. In Icelandic, on the other hand, Halldór Laxness wrote novels such as Salka Valka and Iceland’s Clock, and he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955. Among recent authors are Friða Sigurðadóttir, Einar Már Guðmundsson, Gyrðir Elíasson and Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (Sjón), all of whom received the Nordic Council Literature Prize.

Composer Jón Leifs became one of the Nordic region’s foremost composers in the 20th century, known among other things for Hekla, a musical representation of a volcanic eruption. Icelandic films have also attracted attention with directors such as Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, Friðrik Þór Friðriksson, Dagur Kári and Baltasar Kormákur.

Iceland has a world famous modern cultural personality in the singer, composer and actress Biörk (Guðmundsdóttir).



New catch quotas for selection

February 20th

Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson from the Independence Party announces that Iceland will continue hunting for elections for the next five years. The catch quotas will be 209 for herring whales and 217 for folding whales. The government is divided on this issue. The Left-The Greens are critical to continued election hunting, but the Conservative Independence Party manages to push through its line with support from the Progress Party. Both parties believe that the hunt takes place in a sustainable way and in line with scientific recommendations, which is supported by a newly released research report from the University of Iceland and the Institute of Marine Research.

Iceland Culture

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