These are a few of the most important events in the history of NRK Sápmi:
Important dates in brief:
■ 1946: 8 November. NRK started regularly scheduled Sami radio broadcasts: 20 minutes once a week.
■ 1947: 20 November. YLE began regularly scheduled Sami radio broadcasts: 15 minutes once a week.
■ 1948: 1 December. NRK hired the first Sami journalist in a permanent position. The person began in April 1949.
■ 1949: The production of Sami broadcasts was moved to Vadsø.
■ 1964: The production of Sami broadcasts was moved back to Tromsø.
■ 1965: On 19 February, SR began regularly scheduled Sami radio broadcasts; 5 minutes per day.
■ 1973: October. NRK began Southern Sami broadcasts. The regional office NRK Trøndelag was responsible for the broadcasts.
■ 1975: January. NRK and SR began collaborating on Lule Sami broadcasts. The regional office NRK Nordland had responsibility for the broadcasts then.
■ 1976: 4 November. The production of Sami radio broadcasts was moved to Karasjok.
■ 1976: The local office in Tromsø was established immediately after the main editorial office was moved to Karasjok.
■ 1979: NRK Sámi Radio established a local office in Vadsø.
■ 1982: 1 June. NRK Sámi Radio established a local office in Kautokeino.
■ 1984: July. NRK Sámi Radio got its own broadcasting house in Karasjok.
■ 1988: February. NRK Sámi Radio established a local office in Oslo.
■ 1989: August. NRK Sámi Radio moved its local office from Vadsø to Tana.
■ 1990: 20 February. NRK began regularly scheduled Sami television programs.
■ 1991: 7 February. NRK began regularly scheduled Sami children’s programs on television.
■ 1992: 25 August. NRK Sámi Radio became its own division of NRK.
■ 1993: NRK Sámi Radio established a Southern Sami local office. The office was at first located in the regional office NRK Nord-Trøndelag in Steinkjer.
■ 1993: 3 October. NRK Sámi Radio began regularly scheduled Southern Sami broadcasts on the national network.
■ 1996: June. NRK Sámi Radio established a local office in Kåfjord.
■ 1996: August. NRK Sámi Radio established a local office in Tysfjord.
■ 1996: The Southern Sami local office was moved from Steinkjer to Snåsa, which is centrally located in the Southern Sami region.
■ 1997: December. NRK Sámi Radio established a local office in Skånland.
■ 1999: February. The Sami radios established a joint online newspaper, www.samiradio.org
■ 1999: June. NRK Sámi Radio began to transmit their broadcasts on the digital network.
■ 2000: April. Joint Sami Radio news broadcasts were reestablished.
■ 2001: 20 August. NRK and SVT began daily news broadcasts on television (Ođđasat). Berit Nystad was the news anchor in the first broadcast. YLE joined the collaboration in January 2002.
■ 2003: NRK Sámi Radio established an indigenous editorial staff to strengthen the coverage of indigenous people’s issues in its own broadcasts as well as in NRK’s other programming.
■ 2003: The area of local office in Kautokeino was expanded to almost double the space, considerably improving the potential for radio and television production.
■ 2003: NRK Sámi Radio initiated a collaboration with other indigenous broadcasters to strengthen the coverage of indigenous people’s issues in their own broadcasts as well as NRK’s other programming.
■ 2003: 28 December. Kola Sámi Radio in the Russian area of Sápmi began regularly scheduled radio broadcasts. The broadcasts were 15 minutes, once a week.
■ 2005: NRK increased the Sami children’s offerings on television (Mánáid-TV) to two weekly broadcasts.
■ 2007: YLE, SVT, SR and NRK adopted common goals and strategies for the joint Nordic collaboration.
■ 2007: NRK Sámi Radio moved its online offerings to www.nrk.no and chose the internet as the main platform for news updating.
■ 2007: NRK Sámi Radio strengthened the staffing in the Lule Sami and Southern Sami area by moving journalist positions from its main editorial office to Tysfjord and Snåsa.
■ 2008: NRK Sámi Radio took part in establishing a global network for indigenous broadcasters, World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (WITBN).
■ 2009: NRK Sámi Radio increased the Sami children’s offerings on television (Mánáid-TV) to three weekly broadcasts.
■ 2011: 1 January. NRK Sámi Radio changed its name to NRK Sápmi, to reflect more clearly that NRK’s Sami division does not only produce radio programs.
■ 2012: NRK Sápmi increased the Sami children’s broadcasts on television, Mánáid-TV, to four weekly broadcasts.
■ 2013: 19 August. NRK Sápmi began an evening version of Ođđasat. The news anchor for the first broadcast was Johan Ánte Utsi.
NRK Sápmi history in brief:
On Christmas Eve 1936, a worship service in Sami was recorded in Polmak church. When it was broadcast, it was the first time a program in Sami had been aired on the radio. After this, letters to the editor appeared in the newspapers requesting more Sami radio broadcasts. Incidentally, Lars Jonsen Gaup (1897-1973) from Karasjok was helped by a local police officer to write a letter to the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) in Oslo, calling for Sami broadcasts.
The early years with regularly scheduled Sami broadcasts: 1946-55
From 8 November, 1946, Sara K. Hætta (born 1925) from Kautokeino produced the first regularly scheduled Sami radio broadcasts. The broadcast location was Tromsø. Ellen Øvergård (1889-1954) from Kautokeino took over the production of the Sami radio broadcasts from the end of March 1947.
Early spring 1948, Kathrine Johnsen (born 1917) fra Vestertana began working for the Sami broadcasts. At the same time, Edel Hætta Eriksen (born 1921) from Kautokeino began working, assisting in making the Sami radio broadcast. Both attended the teachers’ college in Tromsø and produced the Sami broadcasts part-time.
In 1949, Thor Frette (1918-87) was hired as a journalist and the head of NRK’s Vadsø office. He was also given responsibility for the Sami broadcasts, which were moved from Tromsø to Vadsø. He was himself positive toward the Sami broadcasts, but he was actively opposed by, among others, the editor of Finnmark Tidende (Finnmark Times) and member of the Broadcasting Council, Richard Rasmussen. Rasmussen had himself studied Sami, but was a campaigner for the prevailing policy of the time of Norwegianization of the Sami. His letter to the Director General of NRK, Kaare Fostervoll, dated 3 December, 1949, included the following:
«There reigns a considerable dissatisfaction among those who have worked with Norwegianization in Finnmark that forces are appearing to undermine this work just when one stands before the final and decisive effort. (…) When it comes to the Sami broadcasts of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, (it is the Norwegian people’s opinion) that this broadcaster already has done such a fine job of Norwegianization that a disruption at this point would constitute a step backward. (…) news in Sami or broadcasts of other Sami questions, other than the religious broadcasts, are in my opinion unnecessary.»
Years of resistance: 1956-65
Trygve Madsen (born 1927 in Kautokeino) was a Sami journalist in Vadsø, 1956-58. He created, among other things, the first series of literary readings in the Sami broadcasts (1958). In 1959, Kathrine Johnsen (1917-2002), fra Vestertana, was hired in a permanent position as a journalist. She worked very actively with Sami broadcasts for several decades. For many of these years she worked alone and therefore was given an honorary title ”the mother of Sami radio”. In her work, she experienced both resistance, oppression and indifference, and her superiors never gave her any hope that the Sami language would survive and develop.
In 1960, a meeting at NRK was arranged concerning the Sami broadcasts. Kathrine Johnsen, Broadcasting Manager Arthur Klæbo and Director General Kaare Fostervoll were present. The topic of the meeting was the Sami broadcasts and the Sami language. A heated discussion ensued. It was at this meeting that the Director General stated that ”in five years, the Sami language will die out, and in ten years it will be totally gone”. The statement incensed Kathrine and she said to Fostervoll that "it’s only a statue that cannot change its mind”. Afterward, she spoke the words that later became famous:
«Arthur Klæbo will die one day, but it is not a matter of indifference to Klæbo if I take a stranglehold on his throat while he sits here and I strangle him in that chair, or if Klæbo is allowed to live his life to the end of his days and dies a natural death. It is just the same with the Sami language. It is not a matter of indifference if we throw it overboard, like it was some unnecessary ballast, or if the language is allowed to live until it dies a natural death.»
In the fall of1964, the production of the Sami radio broadcasts was again moved to Tromsø after having been in Vadsø from 1949. From 1965, the Sami news from Tromsø was also broadcast in the Sami area in northern Sweden every morning from 08.00 – 08.05. From the fall of 1966, the broadcasts were also transmitted across the northernmost areas on the Finnish side. This was the beginning of the Nordic Sami radio collaboration.
Years with warmer winds: 1966-75
From 1966, the air time for Sami broadcasts was extended. The air time of 1.5 hours per week was quite a lot at that time. When the air time was extended further in the following years, it was a sign that Sami was truly beginning to find its place and garner support within the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. However, many years still had to pass before the staffing was strengthened.
Even though two large reports recommended the establishment of a joint Sami radio and television center for production of Sami radio and television broadcasts, the recommendation was not followed up.
In 1971, Andreas Njarga (born 1939) from Polmak began working as a journalist for the Sami broadcasts. Thus, there were two journalists once again, but the workload had increased.
Therefore, in 1974, a third journalist position was established for the Sami broadcasts. It was John Trygve Solbakk (born 1945) from Båteng in Tana, who was hired.
NRK began to broadcast Southern Sami programs in 1973. The broadcasts were 10 minutes every fourth week, and for the first eight years they were made by Anna Jåma Granefjell in Røros.
In January 1975, NRK launched Lule Sami radio broadcasts. The broadcasts were five minutes per week, transmitted from Bodø and Luleå. Kåre (Urheim) Tjikkom and Inger Kuoljok made the broadcasts from Jokkmokk.
The years after the move: 1976-85
On 4 November, 1976, the first Sami radio broadcasts from Karasjok went on the air. After having struggled “in exile” for several decades, the radio operation was finally moved to a live Sami environment. NRK Sámi Radio eventually acquired regional office status within NRK.
The Broadcasting House is built
In 1984, NRK Sámi Radio got its own Broadcasting House at Stálloláttu in Karasjok.
In 1985, Nils Johan Heatta (born 1954) from Kautokeino began as Director of Sami Radio. He had previously worked as a program engineer in Karasjok and Kiruna, and later as a journalist in Karasjok. In 2013, Nils Johan Heatta still holds the position of Director of NRK Sámi Radio.
TV-operation begins: 1986-95
Kathrine Johnsen worked as a journalist, and in at times functioning head, up to 1987, when she turned 70. For her work with Sami radio broadcasts, she received the King’s Medal of Merit in Gold and the Sami Council’s Award of Honor.
ČSV was the title of the regularly scheduled television programs which NRK Sámi Radio launched in 1990. A year later, regularly scheduled children’s television programs began. To begin with, they were aired as a monthly program, but that eventually increased to a weekly offering.
In 1992, NRK Sámi Radio became a separate program division in the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, something which gave it an entirely different status and position in NRK than before.
In 1993, NRK Sámi Radio began regularly scheduled Southern Sami radio broadcastson the national network. The broadcasts were created at the Southern Sami local office which was established in 1993, and moved to Snåsa in 1996. Sigbritt ”Pia” Persson was responsible for Southern Sami radio broadcasts until she left NRK in 2002.
Einar Førde (born 1943) was appointed Director General at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in 1989. During his tenure, NRK Sámi Radio grew and developed significantly. Also, in terms of the Nordic Sami collaboration, he was a promoter.
The Sami Broadcasting House, completed in 1984, eventually became too small, since the operation grew during the 1990’s. Therefore, the Sami Broadcasting House was expanded in 1995 with new editorial offices and transmission facilities for radio broadcasts. It has since expanded yet another time.
New local offices: 1996-2000
In June 1996, Director General Einar Førde was present at the opening of the new local office at Kåfjord in northern Troms. News and other programming from that area increased considerably when Mona Solbakk became the first employee at the office.
In 1996, NRK Sápmi moved the Southern Sami office to Snåså.
During the anniversary year of 1996 (the 50-year anniversary for NRK Sámi Radio) NRK Sámi Radio began using new facilities in Kautokeino. The local office in Kautokeino had been established already in 1982, but had always been housed at the Kautokeino Cultural Center. In the new building, there were work spaces for 4 employees. NRK’s office in Kautokeino has since been moved to larger facilities.
November, 1996, marked the 20-year anniversary of NRK Sámi Radio’s establishment in Karasjok. At the same time, it was 50 years since NRK began regular Sami broadcasts.
Digital radio channel
At their meeting in Stockholm in the winter of 1997, the Nordic heads of broadcasting (the Directors General) decided that a separate Sami radio channel should be established as soon as possible. The directors’ resolution was a follow-up to the Sami radio directors’ report which had been presented before Christmas 1996. The radio channel was to be started when the digital broadcast network was expanded and implemented. NRK decided early on that one of the channels in the digital network should be reserved for Sámi Radio. NRK Sámi Radio could begin broadcasts on the digital network (DAB) already in June 1999.
Tysfjord and Skånland are given their own offices
NRK Sámi Radio’s local office in Tysfjord began operations in August 1996, although the office was first officially opened in June 1997. The office location was at Árran Lulesamisk Senter at Drag and journalist Sigmund Johnsen became the first permanent journalist for Lule Sami broadcasts on NRK Sámi Radio.
In December 1997, the local office for southern Troms was established. The first employee at the Skånland office was Sigmund Olsen. In 2013, the office was moved to Harstad.
The Sami radios established a joint newspaper in 1999. The online newspaper was officially opened in Copenhagen in March and was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The newspaper offered, among other things, news in Sami, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish. YLE withdrew from the collaboration in 2002, but SR Sámi Radio and NRK Sámi Radio continued working together for some time. Later, the joint newspaper was discontinued and instead, the Sami broadcasters established their own online newspapers. SR Sameradion and SVT Sápmi in Sweden joined forces in 2010 to create a joint website for news.
After the second building phase of the Sami Broadcasting House was finished, the work began on designing yet another expansion which was to include production facilities for television. The third building phase, with modern television equipment, was ready in the fall of 1999 and was opened in May 2000 by the Director General, Einar Førde.
After many years of planning, the Sami television news aired for the first time on 20 August, 2001. The biggest and most important event in Sami media history took place when NRK and SVT jointly established daily television newscasts, which were transmitted simultaneously all over Norway and Sweden. The television news was a 10 minute program and aired Monday through Friday. In January 2003, the news broadcast expanded to 15 minutes. YLE joined the collaboration half a year after it was initiated, in January 2002. The broadcast has since been expanded to 20 minutes. On 19 August, 2013, NRK Sápmi also began an evening broadcast of Ođđasat in Norway.
The Kautokeino office expands
In the fall of 2003, NRK expanded its offices in Kautokeino. The premises are almost doubled in area. After the expansion, there is room for 7-8 employees and ample facilities for the transmission of radio broadcast from Kautokeino. Excellent facilities for production and editing of televison news and other television elements have also been put in place.
Increased collaboration of indigenous peoples
Sámi Radio had long planned to strengthen the coverage of indigenous people’s issues in its broadcasts. In 2003, Sámi Radio established a separate staff which produced indigenous content on a more regular basis for both its own broadcasts and NRK’s other broadcasts as well. As a result, employees’ expertise in indigenous issues was strengthened and a journalistic network was established, a network which other staff members in Sámi Radio could tap into for their work.
In 2008, NRK Sámi Radio helped establish a global network for indigenous broadcasters. World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (WITBN).
On 1 January, 2011, NRK Sámi Radio changed its name to NRK Sápmi. This was done to show that NRK Sápmi produces TV, online, and radio, not just the latter. After this, NRK Sápmi’s radio broadcasts were still called Sámi Radio, even though the institution changed its name.
Heads of NRK Sápmi
■ Andreas Njarga (born 1939) from Polmak, was Director of Sami Radio from 1976-79.
■ Hans Eriksen (born 1937) from Polmak, was Director of Sami Radio from 1979-80.
■ Odd Mathis Hætta (born 1940) from Kautokeino, was Director of Sami Radio from 1980-83.
■ Arne Store (born 1945) from Nesseby, was Director of Sami Radio from 1983-85.
■ Nils Johan Heatta (born 1954) from Kautokeino, was Director of NRK Sápmi from 1985-2015.
■ Mona Solbakk (born 1971) from Tana, has been Director of NRK Sápmi since September 1st 2015.