Knitting In Real Time Is Just Right For Norway's Slow TV

Huge audiences are tuning in to Norway's Slow TV, which broadcasts ordinary activities — like a seven-hour train journey, an eight-hour fire — in real time. Creating a sweater on air, from shearing to spinning to knitting, could set a world speed record — but then the segment would be too short. Host Rachel Martin speaks with programming director Rune Moklebust about the Slow TV movement.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This weekend, Norwegians are turning on their televisions to watch hours and hours of live knitting. That's right - it is part of the country's Slow TV programming, where ordinary activities, like knitting, are broadcast live. It started with a televised seven-hour train journey then eight hours of watching a fire burn and broke the Guinness world record with a five-day program following a cruise ship along Norway's coast. Over half the population tuned into that. Rune Moklebust is a programming director at NRK, the country's public television company, and he helped start the Slow TV movement. He joins us from Bergen, Norway to talk about this. Welcome to the show, Rune.

RUNE MOKLEBUST: Hi. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: So, how did you come up with this idea, Slow TV?

MOKLEBUST: We did a couple of ordinary documentaries about the railway line. So, we're sitting in lunch one day and one guy is saying, well, why not film the whole trip and broadcast it real-time. It's one of those ideas you'd normally get late at night at a party. And the day after, you're saying, oh, then that was not a good idea.

MARTIN: Yeah, that didn't happen here.

MOKLEBUST: No. It was the brightest day when the idea came - no alcohol involved. And it was broadcast on a Friday night and then something happened. People were sitting there for two hours.

MARTIN: Really?

MOKLEBUST: You know, and four hours, and some people are watching the whole, the whole thing.

MARTIN: I can kind of understand the appeal of watching a journey - a cruise or a train ride if you have some personal connection to the route - but hours of watching a fire burn? What's happening there?

MOKLEBUST: It started with our natural history unit. It did 18-hour just people fishing in the river. And it took three or four hours before the first salmon came.

MARTIN: Is there a narrative, a plot?

MOKLEBUST: No. It's the sound of fishing, which is not much. But after those 18 hours, the head of the channel said it felt a little short, didn't it? And, yes it did, definitely.

MARTIN: The knitting program is about to happen. Can you give us preview of that? What can we expect to see?

MOKLEBUST: The first four and a half hours will be talking about knitting in every aspect, or almost everything, because we can't fit everything in. Around midnight, we will turn the pace down, if possible. Start with a record attempt - Guinness world record attempt - of the process from sheep to jumper.

MARTIN: A jumper, we should say for people in this country, like a sweater basically.

MOKLEBUST: Yeah. So, we're going to start with the sheep and share the wool of the sheep and then start spinning it and then knit jumper for a grown-up person. There is an Australian record to break. If we break it, it's perfect, but then it would be a little bit too short.

MARTIN: Rune Moklebust. He is the programming director at NRK, one of the founders of something called Slow TV. Rune, thanks so much and good luck with breaking that record.

MOKLEBUST: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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