For a nation drunk on winter sports such as skiing, biathlon, ice-skating and cross-country skiing, broadcasting ‘live’ chess to millions of people in Norway must have been an experience in itself.
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK, which is an abbreviation of Norsk Rikskringkasting AS), the oldest, most respected, popular and influential media house in Norway, has been doing just that for the last six rounds of the World chess championship here.
Actually, NRK had obtained the rights from Doordarshan to telecast the world championship after what is said to be a tedious bidding process. NRK’s sports reporter Ole Rolfsrud and cameraman Helge Tvedten, who are here covering the championship are excited to be part of an epochal event. “We are proud to be a part of NRK. We are happy to be here. The people are nice, friendly and we are being treated well,” they said.
The buzz in the Magnus Carlsen’s country is unmistakable and Ole described it thus: “Norway has been infected with a chess disease.”
Used to broadcast through satellites, this is the first time that NRK is using the internet lines to telecast. “The DD is in Standard Definition format and we have to change it to High Definition format. Your brain is working very hard to fix it. Microsense (dealing with Wifi access & WLAN services) has been guiding us,” said Tvedten.
NRK, though state-owned, claims to be independent. “We are funded by the Norwegian people. Every Norwegian owning a television set has to pay a yearly subscription. Remember we are only five million (population). NRK is extremely important to its people,” observed Rolfsrud.
Certainly, a chess boom has started in Norway, thanks to Carlsen. “There is one shop in Norway and it has sold out everything. More people are watching and getting interested (in chess). We have been getting many (positive) feedback online,” said Rolfsrud.
By telecasting 100 hours of chess (roughly taking into account the 12 rounds), into the homes of Norwegians, NRK will, possibly, change the way chess is being viewed there.