Ministers consider funds to support journalism

Timo Harakka (SDP) has highlighted the social importance of journalism during the coronavirus crisis.

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File picture of newspapers / Credit: iStock

Ministers are considering the recommendations of a new report to earmark budget funds for journalism, especially local media, which has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

While media outlets are reporting increased interest from audiences looking for reliable journalism during the crisis, the advertising revenues on which many depend to stay in business have sharply declined.

The new report was commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and Minister Timo Harakka (SDP) said on Tuesday that the media’s operational capacity must be safeguarded.

“The social importance of journalism has been highlighted during the coronavirus crisis. It is an invaluable source of information for people” says Harakka.

File picture of Timo Harakka (SDP) Minister of Transport & Communications at press briefing, Helsinki, 28th April 2020 / Credit: Lauri Heikkinen, VNK

“However, the coronavirus situation has pushed the media economy to the limits. In order not to jeopardize the rights of citizens to information, in this acute situation it is necessary to find out quickly how to keep journalism functional” he adds

The report was put together by Elina Grundström, a former chairperson of the Council for Mass Media in Finland, and comes up with four main recommendations:

  1. Discretionary support during the coronavirus crisis to strengthen high-quality or regional journalism and investigative journalism;
  2. Direct grant from the state to print media outlets, in line with similar practice in other Nordic countries, that is proportional to their subscription size;
  3. Reviewing all subsidies which might be available to media outlets to ensure the vitality of local regional journalism, and support the digital transition of the media;
  4. How to tax social media platforms which distribute Finnish journalism free of charge, so that they are obliged to pay for the content they distribute.

In addition the government is looking at how to use Posti to guarantee 5-day a week distribution of newspapers around the country, which can be a challenge in more remote areas as Posti cuts back its services in general.

The recommendations on Tuesday’s report will be considered by the ministry, and possibly incorporated into May’s extra budget proposals.