Two Norwegian state-owned institutions, broadcaster NRK and the Norwegian Film Institute (NFI), are opposing the government's plans to sell the back catalogue of state-owned production outfit Norsk Film to the commercial sector.

The Norwegian government announced in October that it was parting ways with Norsk Film, which has suffered a string of box office and critical disappointments over the last five years (ScreenDaily, October 9). Denmark's Nordisk Film is bidding to acquire the government's 77.5% stake in the company, while Scandinavian majors Sandrew-Metronome and Svensk Filmindustri have both expressed interest in buying the outfit's library.

However, NRK and the NFI are arguing that the back catalogue is part of Norway's cultural heritage and should remain in the hands of a public body. The 170-title library contains many popular classics as well as some commercial successes.

While Norsk Film's managing director Tom Remlov would prefer to sell the catalogue to the highest bidding private company, Norway's culture minister Ellen Horn said in an interview that she does not necessarily support the idea. Preservation of national film culture is one of the main pillars of the government's guidelines for public film policy.

The Norwegian municipalities, which own 20% of Norsk Film's shares, said they want to keep their stakes in the company. The remaining 2.5% stake is held by Norway's Vaar Bank.

The NFI and NRK are both undergoing a period of transition. The NFI's role is being reduced to preservation, marketing and distribution under reforms set to be approved by parliament on December 15. Meanwhile, NRK is facing budget pressures after the board approved a plan to cut 300 jobs in order to save $20m next year.