Norwegian creator Sophie Elise Isachsen and Gary Lineker prove influencers, free speech and national broadcasters are a tricky mix

Posted by Dina Zubi in Comment

1 year ago

This month prominent Norwegian vlogger, entrepreneur and author Sophie Elise Isachsen resigned from her role at NRK, stating she wasn’t willing to compromise commercial deals for her podcast with the Norwegian national broadcaster. As seen in the UK with Gary Lineker’s recent BBC debacle, influencers and tax-funded broadcasters are a tricky combination.

When Isachsen launched her NRK podcast with best friend Fetisha Williams in September 2022, Sophie & Fetisha quickly became one of the most popular audio shows in Norway. Some were critical of her contract with NRK, claiming she isn’t a good role model for young people due to past controversies involving plastic surgery, nudity and fines for breaching ad rules.

Adding fuel to the fire, Isachsen posted an Instagram picture of her and a friend holding what seemed to be a clear plastic bag with white powder in it in February 2023. The image was deleted after minutes, but the damage was already done. The Norwegian Broadcasting Council received more than 4,000 complaints and many called for the influencer’s podcast deal to be terminated.

After a stretch of silence from Isachsen, she released a statement through her management, where she claimed NRK wanted to limit her commercial freedom. “I’m not willing to shut down the rest of my business to save NRK’s reputation,” she wrote. The influencer took charge of the narrative by breaking the news, and later launched a new podcast with Williams – independent of NRK. Communication expert Lasse Gimnes told Nettavisen “the podcast will probably go from being big to becoming far, far bigger. One can only dream of the exposure they have had”.

Isachsen is not the only influencer to land in hot water over a national broadcaster gig. Former footballer and pundit Gary Lineker’s recent comment comparing the UK government’s immigration policy to 1930s Germany sparked a media storm and he was suspended for not keeping with the BBC’s impartiality rule. Other presenters refused to host their scheduled BBC programmes in solidarity, including Alex Scott and Ian Wright. Lineker has now returned to Match of the Day.

These cases have proved the difficulties that come with deals between national broadcasters and highly influential media personalities. The BBC and NRK – and the taxpayers funding them – hold partners to different standards than their commercial counterparts. More importantly, Lineker and Isachsen both came out on top, proving media companies may need influencers more than influencers need them.

By Dina Zubi, news and features writer for CORQ. Picture credit: Sophie Elise Isachsen.