Minister Harakka: Functionality of the media must be ensured
A report on the support for journalism commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and Communications has been completed. The report proposes a support model consisting of both swift forms of support and a more permanent support system for journalism.
Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka says the report is part of a wider package. Issues covered in the review include the ensuring of the five-day delivery of newspapers throughout Finland and the news agency support. Ensuring the delivery will be discussed in a working group of state secretaries under the leadership of the Prime Minister's Office. The group will assess the postal legislation and the future of postal and delivery operations. The possible scope of support for news agencies is currently being examined.
“The importance of journalism to society has been highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis. With regard to people’s access to information, it is an indispensable source. However, the COVID-19 situation has placed a lot of strain on the economy of the media. In order to ensure that the right of people to access information is not compromised, it is necessary, in this acute situation, to urgently examine how journalism could remain functional,” Minister Harakka says.
Elina Grundström, journalist and author, who drew up the report that has now been released, suggests discretionary support as a swift form of support in the COVID-19 crisis. The report includes the following four proposals:
1. Discretionary support in the COVID-19 crisis
The report proposes discretionary support to the media facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus situation. Support could be applied for projects that aim to strengthen high-quality local and regional journalism, investigative journalism, production of more in-depth reports and delivery of journalistic content to digital platforms.
For distributing the support, an independent support committee consisting of experts in journalism would be appointed. It would make a proposal on the distribution of the support independently. The support could be used for payroll costs or for purchasing freelance work.
2. Non-selective support
The non-selective support proposed by the rapporteur would correspond with the Nordic practices. It would be a percentage-based support proportionate to the revenues of the media from subscriptions and single copy sales in 2019.
3. Permanent support for journalism to be examined
According to the report, alongside the swift forms of support, a study should be launched on the entire package of discretionary support and the support committee.
The entire scheme would support journalism regardless of the platform, ensure the vitality of local and regional journalism and support the digital switch-over of the media. In this context, all existing support for journalism would also be reviewed. It would be assessed, whether the existing support could be sensibly combined with the new aid package.
According to the report, it would be justified to include in the permanent support scheme the non-selective support form that would be targeted as well as possible on journalism.
4. Taxation of platform companies to be examined
The report states that even the highest-quality Finnish journalism cannot easily be made profitable as long as international social media platforms and search engines share journalists’ work free of charge.
For this reason, the rapporteur proposes that a more detailed study be launched on how the taxation of platform companies could be increased in Finland and how they could be obligated to pay for the contents they share to the media that produces the content.
What are the next steps?
The Ministry of Transport and Communications will examine the expediency and feasibility of the solutions proposed by Elina Grundström to support journalism, for example from the perspective of national legislation and EU state aid legislation. This will be carried out in cooperation with other ministries and authorities. In Finland, the preparation of taxation is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance.
The aim is to include the appropriation for the support of journalism in the third supplementary budget.
Background to the report
On 16 April 2020, the Ministry of Transport and Communications commissioned Elina Grundström to draw up a report on how journalism could be supported in a situation where, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the need for reliable and fact-based journalism has increased but its economic operating environment has significantly weakened.
The aim of the report was to assess the need for support and, if necessary, find one or more forms of support that could be quickly introduced and specifically targeted at journalistic content. The mandate was also to provide a general proposal on longer-term measures to support journalism.
Requests to interview Minister Harakka: Matti Sadeniemi, Special Adviser, tel: +358 40 586 7234
The recording of the press conference is available on the Government's YouTube channel and at vn.fi/live. Photos of the Government Communications Department are available for free use via the Government’s Flickr account.