Norway's slow TV craze stymied by uncooperative reindeer

A mammoth 168-hour programme about deer migration has been put on hold after the reindeer stopped moving

Norway's slow TV craze stymied by uncooperative reindeer


Norway’s famous slow TV – which sees the national broadcaster NRK devote hours of programming to relaxing and monotonous events – has hit a hitch after the progress of migratory reindeer paused for days because they stopped moving.

Known as ‘Sakte-TV’ in the Nordic country, the format was popularised in the 2000s when NRK first broadcast a seven-hour train journey, mounting a camera to a locomotive travelling from Oslo to Bergen.

With 20% of the viewing public tuning in and costing very little to produce, NRK has since launched annual slow TV events, including a 134-hour ferry journey, a 12-hour show dedicated to storing wood and wood-burning fires, and a 14 hours of a camera focused on a bird feeder decorated to look like a café.

Reindeer Migration: Minute by Minute was billed as one of the most audacious projects in slow TV ever devised by NRK, and started with great success.

Videographers made their way into the Norwegian wilderness, attaching a camera to a reindeer’s head. Cameras were pointed on the Sami guides who were driving the herd and millions of viewers tuned in to their TVs to watch hundreds of deer make their way from Šuoššjávri on the Finnmark plains to summer grazing spots on the island of Kvaløya. All in crisp HD across 168 hours of television.

And then the reindeer stopped walking. As The Local reports, the reindeer are now progressing so slowly that the entire production has been brought to a temporary halt after the much-feted finale, which would have seen the ungulates swimming on their way to the island, failed to materialise.

“The aim of the project is to make a completely unknown part of Norwegian daily life known to the rest of the Norwegians,” Minute by Minute’s editor Ole Runne Hætte told The Guardian.

The plan was to keep the cameras running uninterrupted, with the finale slated to run on Friday, when the show’s producers assumed the herd would reach the dramatic coast and make the swim to the island.

But, as the saying goes, never work with children or animals, with the reindeer not at all bothered by scheduling conflicts on live TV. The herd first decided to take a slower-than-usual route to the coast, and then stopped moving altogether. After hours of watching stationary reindeer reposing in the snow, a decision was made to relieve the 31-man crew, who had been following the deer for weeks.

“It is first and foremost a matter of time,” Hætte told the Norwegian paper Aftenposten. “We have stretched the elastic as much as we can with regards to our staff. We cannot get a replacement team so far out in the wild.”

NRK has not given up on the broadcast and has assured viewers that the swim across the strait will be broadcast when the animals arrive there, which “might happen on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.”

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