Slow TV migrates with reindeer

Photo: Hoang Le Giang
Reindeer migrating.

Tove Andersson
Oslo, Norway

“The whole project is madness,” said Ole Rune Hætta, Program Director at NRK Sápmi.

Reindeer herding minute by minute took a new turn and the slow TV program had to take a break as the reindeer took a different route than national TV channel NRK had expected.

Slow TV concepts are not new to Norwegians, but Finnmarksvidda through the eyes of the reindeer is. Over 1,000 reindeer move each year to areas where they can find food. This year one of them had a camera on its head.

The eight-day program followed the Sara family’s reindeer from the winter pastures on Finnmarksvidda to Kvaløya in Finnmark.

Difficult conditions on Finnmarksvidda make the “reinflytting” necessary but also unpredictable for the TV team. There is still winter, often bringing harsh winds, and the TV team is dependent on the weather.

In addition, they’d need to travel across large areas without mobile coverage. Satellite equipment weighs too much, so NRK Sápmi and NRK Finnmark have had to come up with many new solutions for getting wireless signals. Three teams alternated between driving from mountain top to mountain top where they set up their own stations to get wireless signals to the rest of Norway and the world.

NRK used drones to get the best possible overview of the spectacular move.

The non-stop transmission was meant to finish on April 28 with the reindeer swimming to Kvaløya. But the reindeer were in no hurry. “The plan is to give the show a rest and pick up broadcasing before the animals swim a few hundred meters across to the island where they spend summer.” Rune Møklebust, Program Manager at NRK, explained to newspaper Aftenposten.

“But is that not a breach of the slow TV concept?” Aftenposten asked.

“Yes, but we must always redefine,” Møklebust answered.

Photo: Tove Andersson
Reindeer, not in motion. The latest slow TV enterprise came to an unexpected end due to recalcitrant reindeer not following the show’s schedule.

Hunting of wild reindeer, as well as herding, is important in northern Norway for meat, hides, antlers, milk, and transportation for several Arctic and Subarctic peoples. NRK followed this herd from Lake Iešjávri, which lies in the municipalities of Alta, Karasjok, and Kautokeino.

Many reindeer herders in northern Norway used old Norwegian Navy landing craft to ferry reindeer every year to various islands in Troms and Finnmark counties.

Reinflytting minutt for minutt is only the most recent in the slow TV concept, which began with the 2009 airing of all seven hours and 16 minutes of the train journey between Oslo and Bergen, commemorating its 100th anniversary.

Møklebust said he had “no idea” eight years ago the genre would be such a success.

“It’s normally one of those ideas you get late at night after a couple of beers in the bar, and when you wake up the next day, ‘Ahh, it’s not a good idea after all,’” he told CBS News in an interview.

The slow TV concept, according to Møklebust, requires “an unbroken timeline. That you don’t take away anything. That everything is in there. That all the boring stuff is in there.” It worked for trains and cruises and even for such typisk norsk fare as “National Wood Night” and “National Knitting Night,” and even though the stars of the most recent show were uncooperative, the footage aired is mesmerizing and hypnotic.

Reinflytting minutt for minutt is over, but you can still watch all the “episodes” at tv.nrk.no/serie/reinflytting-minutt-for-minutt.

Born in Oslo, Tove studied anthropology, history of religion and ethics at UIO (University of Oslo.) She worked in social services and wrote Jeg heter Navnløs (My name is nameless) in 2002. She’s worked as a freelance journalist since 2007, starting up with travel, music, and book reviews, while writing poetry and fiction as a hobby.

This article originally appeared in the May 19, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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