EDIT 23 November 2013:
This system has changed. You now need a decoder to watch any Norwegian TV channels. If you have a TV decoder in your name, you’ll have to pay up, no way around it. The radio signals are moving to DAB(+), but slowly. You can still listen to radio for free, but try finding a car with a DAB radio in it… Also the DAB signals are supposed to be sooo gooood, but I can’t even get signals in my own house.
You can watch NRK TV for free online with a Norwegian IP address, and that works very well, even when half the country is watching.
A TV License is a tax that Norwegians (and some other unlucky citizens) pay to watch or own a television. It is used to pay for the national “public broadcaster”, called NRK in Norway, which is similar to the BBC in UK.
WHY?! Yes, we ask ourselves this too. Why not give NRK the rights to fund their programs with the help of commercials, like everyone else? Nooo… the government want to control what Norwegians watch, and what programs are available for us. Even the other big company that delivers lots of TV channels in Norway; TV2, has to follow rules the government set, like where their main office is, where they send their news broadcasts from and even how much Norwegian programs they have to show. And for this TV2 gets a big fat nothing, they have to fund all this with commercials. It’s quite insane really.
Insane is also the amount of money you have to pay to have a TV, tuner or TV card for your computer. Every year you pay about 450 US Dollars. Yes. I repeat; 450 US Dollars, just to OWN equipment that may or may not be used to watch NRK.
The money is also used to fund a number of radio channels run by NRK. Nevertheless, the government also meddle in what other radio channels broadcast, and if they are allowed to keep their frequency on the FM band. DAB, Digital Audio Broadcasting, is a digital radio broadcasting system the Norwegian government is trying to force all channels and all listeners to use. Some “tiny” problems with this is stuff like that no new cars are delivered with a DAB radio (and there is just one car radio you can buy with DAB, not one brand, but one -product-), the quality is worse than the FM band, the DAB radios cost a lot so hardly anyone has bothered to buy one, and Norway is the only country that wants to implement this very old technology, everyone else in Europe has opted for a newer version.