Working group proposes support formats for journalism
A working group appointed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications to study forms of media support is proposing permanent forms of assistance for media operations that provide news and current affairs content. These forms would be editorial production assistance and development assistance. The assistance will seek to promote communications that are reliable, diverse, wide-ranging and socially meaningful.
There are currently no broader general direct assistance programmes for journalism and the media in Finland. Forms of assistance include a lower VAT rate for the press and individual grants, for example to the press or cultural journals.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed the media support working group in summer 2020 to consider various solutions for supporting journalism.
The forms of assistance now proposed by the working group would enable a comprehensive support mode for existing and emerging media operations that produce news and current affairs content. The working group believes that direct media subsidies would improve the financial position of beneficiary enterprises, thereby also boosting employment in the sector. Development support would also encourage the emergence of new businesses in the sector.
Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka welcomes the editorial production assistance and development assistance proposals of the working group:
- I endorse the basic idea of the proposal to support media operations that produce independent, professional content together with associated development work, whether from established or new businesses. Further preparations are obviously still needed, but we have now secured a good foundation for developing domestic media, explains Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka.
Both the Minister and the working group point out that in addition to national media operations, it will also be necessary to ensure adequate regional and local media services.
- I shall also review the report proposals with our government partners. The goal is to earmark media assistance funds at the earliest opportunity, Minister Harakka notes.
Three forms of permanent assistance
The main form of support would be temporary editorial production assistance irrespective of technology, which would basically be paid to cover the costs of journalistic work and the development of activities and content. Assistance would be granted to media outlets that provide news and current affairs content and cover a wide range of issues that are relevant for democracy. Both subscription-based and entirely advertising commercial-funded free media for consumers could be eligible for assistance. The operations of the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE are financed from tax revenues and would fall outside the scope of the envisaged assistance.
The working group also proposes a form of development assistance that could be granted to startup media and for the development projects of established media operations. Beneficiaries of this assistance could include operations developing editorial content production and distribution, or introducing new technologies.
A third form of support proposed by the working group is special assistance for community media (citizen media). This could be granted to media producing content that is targeted in particular at audiences of immigrant background, or to media operations that are otherwise ineligible for assistance granted to newspapers or cultural journals that support national minority languages. Community media operations were excluded from the scope of the temporary State subsidy to the media granted in 2020, as this support was allocated to commercial, advertising-funded media operations.
Independent media board to assist in preparing grants
The working group proposes that media subsidies should be granted by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency. The Ministry of Transport and Communications would exert no influence over journalistic content or decisions concerning the beneficiaries of assistance.
The working group proposes that an independent and temporary media assistance committee should work with the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency in preparing subsidy decisions. The Board would discharge the functions of a State aid authority, and its operations would be prescribed by Act of Parliament. A similar approach is already applied in the procedure for granting broadband construction support.
The working group also proposes an alternative approach with respect to development work, whereby grant awards would be handled by a foundation established for this purpose. The work of this foundation would similarly be prescribed by Act of Parliament.
Background to the working group
On 25 June 2020 the Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed a working group including representatives of media sector operators and sector specialists to assist in preparing a temporary State subsidy for journalism and to consider a permanent aid mechanism for this purpose.
The work of this working group reflects the evolving operating conditions of the media sector due to technological changes accompanying digitalisation.
The final Finnish language report of the working group entitled Government proposal on permanent aid mechanism in support of journalism may be viewed on the Government website (see link below).
Tino Aalto, Special Adviser to the Minister of Transport and Communications, tel. +358 50 436 9188
Sini Wirén, Director of Unit, tel. +358 40 507 0916
Emil Asp, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 40 509 9757