Bergen: The media tech capital of Norway

Published 08.05.2024
The Norwegian government made a statement 33 years ago, granting Bergen a unique position. Now it's time to act again.

By: Helge O. Svela

"What the **** is it with Bergen? Are you the center of the universe or something?" an American from CNN asked.

It wasn't an insult, but an expression of genuine astonishment at everything happening in the media and media tech capital of Bergen.

People may wonder what's in the Bergen water. Not only is Bergen the number 1 media technology city in Norway, but the city also excels on a global scale.

This hasn't come about by chance. In 1991, the government took a clear position, stating that the country's first commercial broadcaster (TV 2 Norway) was to be located outside Oslo. Starting up afresh i Bergen, people with background from newspapers and other industries with beginners mindsets reinventet the Norwegian TV industry, without the legacy of the established public service broadcaster NRK.

What followed was pioneering work and a flourishing technological environment. The growth surrounding this environment is unparalleled in the technological history of Norway.

Many of the media tech companies based in Bergen now have customers worldwide. If you turn on a TV while on holiday, there's a good chance that the graphics in the news broadcast are made with Vizrt, that the studio cameras are by Electric Friends, and that the broadcast itself is produced with the Dina program from Fonn Group, to name a just a few examples.

The city of Bergen continues to gain momentum and set direction. Recently, the media cluster Media City Bergen got a grant of 10 million Norwegian kroner from Agenda Vestlandet for Project Reynir. In this project, we bring together the media industry, media tech companies and academia in the fight against disinformation.

Generative artificial intelligence, which allows people to create realistic – but fake – images and videos simply by typing a few words into a webpage, challenges the truth. Never has it been easier to create content that looks real, but is false.

Artificially generated noise amplifies global problems. If we become unsure of what we can trust, we lose our collective ability to act on climate change, war or economic instability.

The core of Project Reynir is to strengthen the signal of credible sources in a sea of noise. For you, as a consumer of news on your mobile, the end product will be a solution that empowers you to investigate how an image was created and what has been done with it before it appears on your mobile screen. In addition, you get visual confirmation that the article in your Facebook feed is indeed from your local newspaper, and not someone pretending to be them.

Here in Bergen, we're at the forefront of solving global challenges, and we gather partners like Microsoft, BBC and The New York Times in the same meetings as Norwegian companies such as Schibsted, TV 2 and NRK.

However, everything is not rosy. Paradoxically, or perhaps quite true to form, Bergen and its inhabitants could do better in spreading the word about what we achieve in this city. Therefore, relatively few actually know that Bergen is a leading international media tech city. More people need to recognize the value creation that happens here.

Bergen's position is not a coincidence, but the result of diligent work that began after the government made a statement and invested in Bergen just over 30 years ago.

Now it's time to press on. Let's take the technology in Project Reynir as an example. It is not only useful for the media industry. Ensuring that people can trust the identity of the sender will benefit from this.  

Other sectors of society should adopt this technology. For example, the White House and Joe Biden have signaled that they will use this type of technology in their communication to the public. And it's important to be sure that information from Bergen municipality or the government actually comes from them, is it not?

The government should support our effort here. Governmental bodies and large public institutions would benefit greatly from this type of technology.

Our challenge to Minister of Culture Lubna Jaffery and Minister of Digitalization Karianne Tung is this: Support an initiative that exists and works! The government was exemplary clear in 1991. Now you must make another statement, to solidify Bergen as Norway's undisputed capital of media tech.