Government policy on the future of electronic media set out in a report
Today, on 26 September 2012, the government adopted a Communications Policy Programme for Electronic Media to be submitted to the Parliament as a report. The report takes a position on such issues as granting operating licences, frequency band use and criteria for programme content. It proposes that an adequate transfer period should be granted for the switch of the terrestrial television network to full use of high-definition technology. Minister of Housing and Communications, Ms Krista Kiuru, is satisfied with the finished report. - When preparing the report, the future operating requirements of electronic media actors as well as consumer needs were taken into consideration in a balanced way. The report proposes that it will be possible to receive all free television channels using the current standard television sets until 2026 in two multiplexes. The switch to high-definition technology of one of these multiplexes will be reviewed by the government no later than in 2020. To ensure that the switch to high-definition technology can take place efficiently and in a controlled manner, the Ministry of Transport and Communications will appoint a wide-based working group to prepare a detailed transfer plan and schedule by summer 2013. The working group will also assess the correct time for switching to high-definition broadcasting on a larger scale by 2016. Subscription-based channels will switch to full use of the new broadcasting technology no later than from the beginning of 2017. One half of the broadcasting network capacity in Finland is already used by high-definition multiplexes. However, the criteria for full switch to the new technology will include sufficient prevalence of high-definition sets for television operators and the possibility of using the currents sets until the end of their life span for households.
The 700-megaherz frequency band, now used for television broadcasts, will be allocated to wireless broadband in 2017. A decision on the broadband use of the 800-megahertz band has already been made. These solutions will encourage alternative distribution channels for television programmes and implement the goal contained in the Government Programme of making Finland the leading European country in terms of broadband access. It is estimated that plenty of frequencies for television broadcasting will remain after these allocations.
Almost all existing network and programme licences of the terrestrial network will expire at the end of 2016. The new licences will be granted as proposed in the report.
The report proposes that in the future, new network licences will continue to be granted on the basis of a comparison of the applicants, in addition to which a moderately increased spectrum fee will be introduced for others than public service multiplexes.
Programme licences will remain but the procedure concerning them will be streamlined. Under the proposal, the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority would decide on television and radio licences, while important communications policy decisions would also in the future be made by the Government.
Commercial public service channels will be expected to broadcast programmes in Finnish and Swedish, news, current issues programmes and documentaries. Commercial public service channels currently include MTV3, Nelonen and Fox. The act on the Finnish Broadcasting Company already contains provisions on the public service duties of this company. The programme quota of independent production companies will be increased from the current 15 per cent to 19 per cent of broadcasting hours or programme budget. The purpose of this change is to ensure that the volume of independent productions in Finnish or Swedish will remain at least at its 2012 level.
The procedures concerning radio broadcasting will also be streamlined. In the future, most of the operating licences will be granted by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, which will also assume more responsibility for decisions concerning frequency technology. The possible digitalisation of radio broadcasts will not be launched at this stage.
Mr Kalervo Haverinen, Special Adviser to the Minister of Housing and Communications, tel. + 358 50 331 6914
Ms Maaret Suomi, Senior Adviser for Legislative Affairs, tel. +358 40 700 5620
Mr Olli-Pekka Rantala, Director of Unit, Communications Market, Communications Policy Department, tel. +358 50 344 3400