Basic Data


Official Country Name: Republic of Iceland
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 276,365
Language(s): Icelandic
Literacy rate: 99.9%

Newspapers have been published in Iceland since 1848, when the weekly Thjooolfur brought domestic and foreign news to readers in Reykjavik. From that modest beginning, Iceland has grown to become one of the most voracious newspaper consuming nations in the world. Dozens of newspapers, most of them small weeklies, are published in Iceland, a remarkable occurrence given the fact that Iceland's population is only 280,000 and lives on the perimeter of an island the size of Kentucky.

The most prominent general interest daily newspapers in Iceland are Morgunblaéié (Morning News) and its afternoon rival DV . Morgunblaéié , a conservative morning paper with a circulation of 50,000 and an average size of 36 pages, is both the oldest and the largest. DV , the second largest newspaper in Iceland, is a liberal tabloid with a circulation of 21,000 and an average size of 20 pages.

The first successful attempt to publish a daily newspaper in Iceland was in 1910 when Vísir was founded. Three years later Morgunblaéié was begun. Unlike most Icelandic periodicals of the day, these newspapers emphasized impartiality, seeing their primary function as publishing news rather than polemics. But the development of the powerful four-party system enveloped all newspapers, including Vísir and Morgunblaéié , from the 1920s until the 1970s. Not until instability among the political parties combined with privatization in the late 1960s and early 1970s were daily newspapers freed from party control and encouraged to become independent and professional.

The value of professionalism for Icelandic journalists can be traced to the founding of the Union of Icelandic Journalists (BÍ) in 1942. Because it was born during the heyday of the party press, BÍ's early emphasis was on status, privilege, and collective bargaining rather than professionalism. But as the party system declined, BÍ began to devote time to seminars and conferences on the improvement of journalistic practices. The changeover to a more professional standard of journalism is evident in the "Rules of Ethics in Journalism," a code enforced by BÍ since 1988. It is also evident in the education in journalism and mass communication offered by the University of Iceland.

Radio and television are major sources of news in Iceland. The state-owned Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV) began radio broadcasts in 1930. According to the Broadcasting Act, the RUV is obligated to promote Icelandic language and culture and to honor democratic rules, human rights, and freedom of expression. RUV's Channel 1 broadcasts classical music and documentaries; Channel 2 broadcasts pop music and current affairs. RUV's short-wave station keeps Icelandic sailors current on happenings at home.

Since 1966 RUV has also operated a television station. Its broadcast day begins and ends with news. RUV participates in satellite program exchanges with the Eurovision network and with Nordvision, a union of public television broadcasters. News and information comprise a significant portion of RUV's programming.

Since 1985 the government of Iceland has licensed private broadcasting to complement RUV's public offerings. The result has been an expansion of broadcasting alternatives, much of which is owned by the company Finn Midill.

The highly literate Icelanders also support a large and diverse magazine and book publishing industry. Icelandic periodicals number in the hundreds, and some 1,600 book titles are published every year in Iceland. Among the largest magazine and book publishers are the privately owned Edda and Frodi and the state-run National Centre for Educational Materials. Internet publishing proliferates as well, serving an Icelandic population, 80 percent of whom either have access to or own a computer connected to the Internet.

Many Icelanders worry that the growing influence of English may diminish the preponderance of Icelandic. They cite the fact that two-thirds of television programs broadcast in Iceland are imported, mostly from the United States, and the sale of books written in English is growing. However, most Icelandic newspapers and magazines, as well as their Web sites, are written in Icelandic.


Jeppessen, Karl, and Dennis Moss. "Educational Television in Iceland: The Availability and Utilization of Video Resources in Schools." Journal of Educational Television. 16:1 (1990).

Vilhjálmsson, Páll. "Press History in Iceland: A Study of the Development of Independent Journalism in the Icelandic Daily Press." M.A. thesis. University of Minnesota, 1993.

John P. Ferré

User Contributions:

Ian Sanderson
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May 14, 2016 @ 9:21 pm
This message come to you from the Cook Islands situated in the South Pacific Ocean due south of Hawaii. The Cook islands consists of 15 small inhabited islands with the island of Rarotonga being the largest with a circumference of just 31 kilometres and the capital. Out most northern island Penrhyn lies just 8 degrees south of the equator. We have a total population of around 13,000. Our 15 islands lie in 2.1 million square kilometres of EEZ ocean of which ALL has been zones a whale and shark sanctuary. Plans are that very soon all this ocean will be a Natural Heritage Marine Park.
My wife and I - in our early 80s - originally came from New Zealand 25 years ago, and have lived in Rarotonga ever since enjoying the tropical weather.
Both our children and our 2 dogs came with us.
Now partly retired I was an accountant/Internal auditor, a qualified civil, structural and architectural draughtsman and a legal financial advisor. My wife Jackie being a New Zealand qualified secondary school teacher finally retired at the age of 71. I however still work from home.
My reason for writing to you is that living in the tropics I would very much like to know a little more about life up in your part of the world. Almost from one climate to another.
My wish to you is that you could please send to me a copy of your newspaper as I have a great interest in ndewspapers. From them you can leann so much, even reading through the advertisements and classifieds.
If there should be anyone out there who would like to know a little about our tiny island country, I would be pleased to hear from them.
We may be in our 80s but I am not at all concerned how old or young they are. There may be children who would like to know about our way of life for a school project.
Sir, I thank you for allowing me to write to you and will be ever so grateful to hear from you.
Yours most sincerely,

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