NRK halts new ‘Lilyhammer’ show

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Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has halted the looming premiere of its much-promoted new TV series “Lilyhammer,” starring actor and musician Steven Van Zandt. The decision to indefinitely postpone the launch of the series came after NRK officials found it to contain illegal product placement.

The series has been hyped for months, not least because it had attracted Van Zandt, also known as “Little Steven” during his years as guitarist with rock legend Bruce Springsteen. It was supposed to start running on New Year’s Day on NRK’s main channel, NRK1, and also has been sold for broadcasting in the US.

Launch unclear
Now it’s unclear when the series will launch, after NRK claimed its producer, Oslo-based Rubicon TV, had allowed use of product placement, in violation of Norwegian law.

“Product placement is not legal in Norwegian TV productions that are broadcast from Norwegian territory,” Petter Wallace of NRK said in a press statement. He claimed Rubicon TV had entered into “a series of agreements” with companies and organizations with promises on product placement in exchange for goods, services or cash. “This is a violation of the agreement between NRK and Rubicon TV,” Wallace said.

Wallace said external producers of shows to be aired on NRK, Norway’s state broadcaster, are allowed to have sponsor agreements but not agreements on product placement. That’s seen as hidden advertising and illegal in Norway. Wallace also stressed that all programs broadcast by NRK are supposed to be without commercial influence.

‘Will find a solution’
Lasse Hallberg, managing director of Rubicon TV, downplayed the decision by NRK to halt the January 1st premiere and claimed he told newspaper VG he was having “a good dialogue” with NRK on he issue. He denied any products had been placed in scenes from the show to earn money.

“There is some unfortunate formulation in some contracts and we will find a solution for that,” Hallberg told VG. The contract formulation, he said, had been interpreted by NRK as product placement.

Hallberg also claimed it would not be necessary to clip any scenes from the series, to make it acceptable for airing by Norway’s state broadcaster.

Rubicon TV is one of Norway’s largest television production companies and has been behind a long list of series airing on a variety of Norwegian television channels. The “Lilyhammer” show has been billed as an action comedy about a gangster who has to assume a new identity and relocate to the Norwegian town of Lillehammer, which was the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Van Zandt, who also played a gangster role in the hit US TV series “The Sopranos,” has spent a lot of time in Norway since production of the show began last year.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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