Direct media subsidies to news media – a Nordic overview

This Nordic factsheet looks at direct subsidies to news media in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden – describing the main regulatory framework, support schemes, and criteria for receiving the most important support. Political processes to modernise subsidies are also briefly described.

In all Nordic countries, privately owned news media can apply for direct subsidies from the state. By providing news media subsidies, governments aim to promote a diversity of news sources, for citizens being able to access a diverse and independent range of news. The overall objective is – together with other media policy measures (indirect support in the form of reduced VAT and public service media financing) – to contribute to strengthening democracy and freedom of expression.

This factsheet focuses on news media. This means that direct state support to, for example, local radio and television stations, cultural magazines, or literature and film, is not included.

After an overview of the legislation governing direct media subsidies follows a brief insight about challenges for media subsidy systems in a new media landscape. Next, the factsheet provides a current picture of the media subsidy schemes in each Nordic country. At the end, lists of links to laws and regulations and other sources are provided by country, plus a link to Nordicom’s statistics on direct media subsidies in the Nordic countries (including time series in local currencies).

Legal framework

Direct media subsidies are regulated by national acts and government ordinances (Table 1).

In the EU countries Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, the subsidy schemes need approval from the EU Commission, while for the non-EU members Norway and Iceland, media subsidies are approved by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA). Funds for direct media subsides are allocated through the state budget, while distribution is administered by authorities or ministries.

Media development creates new challenges

Following the media development, media subsidies have been the subject of recurring investigations and revisions. Traditionally, direct subsidies have applied to printed daily newspapers only, as production or distribution subsidies. Subsidies to minoritylanguage media has also been (and still is) an important component in several countries.

With digitalisation, the subsidy schemes have become more technology neutral. Both printed and digital newspapers receive subsidies, and more news media categories have come to be covered (or may come to be covered according to ongoing media policy proposals). Moreover, several countries have introduced innovation support for media to develop digital news products.

The fundamental changes in the conditions for news media recurrently puts a focus on the issue of media subsidies. People’s media consumption is steadily becoming more and more digital. And the competition with global platforms for both advertising money and audiences puts increasing pressure on domestic news media and their business models. Moreover, for the media to develop their own digital news products requires expertise and is costly, especially for the local and smaller news media.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to accentuating the issue of media subsidies. The media lost large amounts of advertising revenue, at the same time as the crises caused an increased demand for journalism and reliable information. In order to support journalism, Nordic politicians therefore chose to compensate the media for lost advertising revenue through temporary subsidy schemes during spring 2020.*


For more information about media subsidies during the Covid-19 pandemic, see:

Today, how to design functional direct media subsidy schemes in the changing media landscape is high on the media policy agenda. During 2022, several Nordic countries launched proposals for modernising the press and media subsidies: In Denmark, the government and their partner parties presented a new media agreement including modernised media support starting in 2023; in Norway, the government suggested changes in the main subsidy scheme as of 2023; in Sweden, a government investigation proposed a new media support system from 2024 on; and in Finland, new permanent forms of support and their conditions and effects are being examined. In Iceland – which in 2020 introduced direct media subsidies for the first time – the temporary scheme expires at the end of December 2022.

Common in the countries' proposals is a redistribution of support in favour of local media, aiming to promote local and regional journalism, thereby supporting local democracy. Proposals also include a broadening from text-based media to include audio-and video-based media.

Moreover, following the digital development, the criteria for a medium to receive subsidies must be changed, as old criteria have become obsolete. This means that a large part of the work to modernise media subsidies lies in defining functional and transparent criteria upon which media should apply for and be granted subsidies.

The Danish flag.


In Denmark, direct subsidies are available for text-based news media in print and online. They are regulated through the Media Support Act [Lov om mediestøtte] together with the associated ordinance on media subsidies [Bekendtgørelse om mediestøtte]. The current scheme was introduced in 2014, replacing a previous distribution subsidy for printed newspapers.

The media subsidies are administered by the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces. Decisions about distribution are made by the Media Board [Medienævnet], an independent decision-making body within the agency and whose seven members are appointed by the Ministry of Culture. The board members should collectively represent expertise in news reporting, economics, the media market, journalistic development, media consumption, the democratic role of the media, and technical development for the media categories covered by the subsidies.

Current subsidy schemes

The direct subsidies to news media consist of three schemes: editorial production subsidies, innovation and project subsidies, and redevelopment support for media in acute financial difficulties. To be eligible for support, the media must be text-based, have content aimed at a Danish audience, and describe Danish social conditions or have a Danish perspective on events abroad.

In 2021, around EUR 52 million (DKK 387 million) was distributed in direct support to the news media, the majority as editorial production subsidies (see Figure 1).

The dominant production subsidy [redaktionel produktionsstøtte] is based on the media's editorial costs, with a maximum ceiling of 35 per cent of the annual costs, or EUR 2.4 million (DKK 17.5 million), annually. The support is open for both paid and free media.

Among the requirements is that the media must be independent, have an editor-inchief, and have an editorial team with at least three annual workers (staff-hours). At least half of the content must be editorial material within a broad subject area, dealing with current news primarily in politics, society, and culture. Furthermore, at least one-sixth of the content must be independently processed journalistic material. The media must be published at least ten times a year and be available to readers throughout the country. Nationwide news media with more frequent publication (at least four times a week) and a greater proportion of editorial material (75%) can apply for additional support [supplerende tilskud].

The production subsidy is supplemented by two smaller support schemes, of which the innovation and project subsidies [innovationspuljen] consist of establishment subsides for new media and development subsidies for existing media, while the redevelopment support [saneringsstøtte] is designed for media at risk of closing down due to liquidity difficulties. The applications for redevelopment support have been few, and so far, have never been paid out.

New media agreement 2022–2025 focuses on local and regional media

The framework for Denmark's media policy is laid out in political media agreements [medieforlig] between the government and one or more parties in the Danish Parliament [Folketing]. The current media policy agreement, presented in May 2022 and running for the period 2022–2025, includes modernisation of media support as one of the main points.

The agreement includes a decision to launch a media support investigation, in order to review the editorial production subsidies, evaluate the subsidy criteria, and investigate opportunities to strengthen smaller nationwide news media. The investigation is to be presented in 2024.

The agreement also includes a series of adjustments to be implemented as soon as possible. Among other things, the local and regional news media are to be strengthened through a redistribution of the editorial production subsidies. This will be done by raising the ceiling for local and regional media, while lowering the general ceiling, at the same time as the editorial costs for local and regional media are weighted up. In addition, the text requirements are suggested to be lightened up so that audio-and video-based media can also be supported. A bill on amendments to the Media Subsidies Act is planned to be submitted to the Danish Parliament in October 2022.

Finska flaggan.


In Finland, direct press subsidies are limited to news reporting in Swedish (the smaller of Finland's two national languages) and the national minority languages. The support scheme, introduced in 2008, is regulated through the Government Ordinance on Newspaper Subsidies [Valtioneuvoston asetus sanomalehdistön tuesta] and is distributed by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Each year, a total of EUR 500,000 is distributed.

Direct media support has existed since the early 1970s in various forms. Before the current selective support system, Finland had broader newspaper support (distribution subsidies and subsidies for the political party press) totalling EUR 13–14 million annually.

Current subsidy schemes

The Finnish subsidies aim to support printed and digital newspapers published in Swedish, Sámi, Karelian, Romani, and sign languages. Support can also be granted for the production and publication of content in Sámi and Karelian in newspapers published in Finnish or Swedish, as well as to news services in Swedish.

In 2021, subsidies were distributed to four media companies producing news in Swedish.

In 2022, the government proposed a new time-bound state aid to secure five-day newspaper delivery in sparsely populated areas until 31 December 2027. The background to this is a change in the Postal Act reducing postal distribution from five to three days per week. Legal amendments are under preparation.

Proposal for permanent media subsidies for journalism

In 2021, an investigation proposed wider support for media with news and current affairs content. In order to strengthen journalism, the investigation suggested the introduction of three permanent forms of support: editorial production support (time-bound and technology-neutral); development support for establishing or developing news media; as well as support for community media (citizen media). The support would aim to promote journalistic content and a reliable, versatile, and socially important information delivery. In 2022, the investigation was followed up by a report that evaluated the three forms of support and their possible effects.

Islands flagga.


In Iceland, there are two time-limited subsidy schemes for privately owned news media. The largest scheme, introduced in 2021, is a two-year operational subsidy for news-producing media. In addition, a smaller support scheme for local media, introduced in 2020, runs over five years. The purpose of the subsidies is to strengthen Icelandic media and ensure the public's access to news and information. Before 2020, Iceland had no direct media support.

The operating subsidies are administered by the Ministry of Culture and Business Affairs. A committee reviews the applications and allocates the support. The committee consists of a representative from the Supreme Court, an accountant, and a representative from the journalism program at the University of Iceland. The Icelandic Media Commission [Fjölmiðlanefnd] acts an advisory body.

Current subsidy schemes

In 2021, a total of EUR 2.6 million (ISK 394 million) was granted to news media that published news and news-related material.

Operational subsidies can be applied for by printed media, online media, and audioand video-based media that conduct news activities in Icelandic during 2021–2022. The support is regulated in an addendum to the Media Act [Lög um fjölmiðla] and the Regulation on Operational Support for Private Media [Reglugerð um rekstrarstuðning til einkarekinna fjölmiðla]. The provisions expire on 31 December 2022.

The operational support is based on the media's editorial costs, with a maximum ceiling of 25 per cent of the annual costs. Only one application can be submitted per media provider. In order to receive operational support, the media must have at least three full-time positions. Local media must have at least one employee. Printed media must publish at least 20 editions per year, while online, and audio-and visual-based media must distribute news on weekdays 20 weeks per year.

In 2021, 19 private media operations were granted media subsidies. 63 per cent of the total amount went to three of Iceland’s largest media companies: Árvakur hf, Sýn eh, and Torg ehf.

Subsidies to local media outside the capital region is granted according to a regional Action Plan for 2020–2024. In the plan, just under EUR 0.2 million (ISK 25 million) is allocated to local media to be distributed over the entire period. The aim is to strengthen the local media and their role in ensuring public access to information on cultural and social issues, thereby supporting the democratic process and cultural participation. Responsible for the support is the Ministry of Culture and Business Affairs.

An investigation into the conditions of Icelandic media

Iceland's largest subsidy, the two-year operating support, was voted through by the Icelandic Parliament [Althing] in May 2021. The background to this was an investigation in 2018 into the conditions for privately owned media outlets in Iceland. After concluding that changes in the media landscape made it difficult for domestic media to generate income, the investigators proposed launching direct subsidies for private media. In 2019, the investigation was followed up by a bill on an amendment to the Media Act, aiming to support the production and dissemination of news. The bill did not pass in the Icelandic Parliament but was followed by a new bill in 2020 that was approved in 2021.

Norska flaggan


In Norway, direct media subsidies are available for news media regardless of publication platform (with the exception of radio and television). When introducing direct support to newspapers in 1969, Norway was first in line among the Nordic countries.

The media subsidies are enshrined in law in the Media Subsidies Act [Lov om økonomisk støtte til mediene] – which has been in effect since 2021 – and ordinances [forskrifter] for the various subsidy schemes.

Decisions about distribution is made by the Norwegian Media Authority. As for the production subsidies, which is the largest subsidy, the Media Authority's decision is reviewed by a board, whose members are appointed by the Ministry of Culture. For other subsidy schemes, other processes apply.

Current subsidy schemes

The direct subsidies to news media consist of four schemes: production subsidies, innovation support, grants to Sámi newspapers, and distribution support for newspapers published in Finnmark, a sparsely populated area in northern Norway. In 2021, around EUR 42 million (NOK 428.5 million) in direct subsidies was distributed in direct support to the news media, the majority of which were production subsidies (see Figure 4).*


As of 2016, the state also supports newspaper distribution in sparsely populated areas affected by a reduction of postal distribution days per week. Not included in the ordinary media subsidies, this is done through a government procurement of the distribution service. Since 2022, the contract is for approximately EUR 19 million (NOK 190 million) per year. The arrangement applies until June 2023.

To be eligible for subsidies, the media's main aim must be news reporting. It must offer a broad and journalistic content of news, topical material, and social debate to the public, and have an editor-in-chief.

The dominant production subsidies [produksjonsstøtte] is mainly directed to the smallest local newspapers and so-called secondary newspapers, that is, newspapers not being the largest in one location. Calculation of the production subsidies is based on the media’s circulation or reach.

The newspaper must have a certain circulation, depending on the newspaper category (dominant newspapers, second-largest or smallest newspapers, or national nationwide newspapers). However, criteria common for all newspapers are that at least half of the circulation or digital reach must be subscribed, and that they must be published at least once a week. There is a limitation in relation to the media company's financial surplus, and total subsidies may not exceed 40 per cent of the media company's total operating costs.

Government suggests modernised media support starting in 2023

In 2022, the Ministry of Culture and Equality proposed changes to both production and innovation subsidies (in April and September, respectively).

The main changes proposed for the production subsidies relate to the conditions for which media can receive subsidies and to the model for distributing subsidies between eligible media. The ministry also proposes changes in the regulations to clarify the requirements for the content of the media that can receive subsidies. Among the suggestions are that subsidies should be based on the amount of selfproduced content and/or user revenue instead of circulation and the number of issues (depending on media category). The proposal for changes in the innovation support suggests increasing support for small local news media and trade press concerning editorial development projects.

With the new conditions, the government wants to ensure that the support goes to media that have a real need for subsidies and to some extent redistribute the support to the advantage of the smallest media. The changes are proposed to enter into force in 2023.

Svenska flaggan.


In Sweden, press subsidies were introduced in 1971 to help newspapers in a vulnerable market position. Today, there are two overall forms of support: press subsidies intended for newspapers in printed and digital form and media subsidies for general news media regardless of platform. The subsidies are regulated in the Press Subsidies Ordinance [Presstödsförordningen] and Media Subsidies Ordinance [Mediestödsförordningen], respectively.

The subsidies are administered by the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority. Decisions on the distribution of the support lie with the Media Subsidies Council, an independent decision-making body within the Authority. The members are appointed by the government and consist of politicians, researchers, lawyers, and industry experts.

Current press and media subsidies are approved by the European Commission until 2023. A media subsidy inquiry has proposed a modernisation of the support from 2024 onwards.

Current subsidy schemes

During 2021, a total of EUR 102 million (SEK 1,036 million) was paid out in direct press and media subsidies. Press subsidies accounted for roughly 75 per cent and media subsidies for just under 25 per cent.

Press subsidies for newspapers consist of three forms of support: operational subsidies, distribution subsidies, and support for postal distribution in sparsely populated areas.

The operating subsidies, which are the largest form of support, are entitlements, which means that all newspapers have the right to receive the support if they meet certain criteria. Among other things, the coverage rate (proportion of households in the municipality that subscribe) must not exceed 30 per cent. The newspaper must also be published at least once a week and have a subscription paid edition of at least 1,500 copies. Both print and digital subscriptions are counted.

The size of the operating subsidy is determined by how often a newspaper is published and how many subscribers it has. During 2021, EUR 67 million (SEK 678 million) was paid in operational subsidies.

The press subsidies also include two different distribution supports for printed daily newspapers. One aims to support joint distribution of newspapers, while the other supports postal distribution of newspapers in sparsely populated areas. The latter was introduced in 2021 to enable newspaper delivery every weekday in areas affected by less frequent postal delivery. Funds are guaranteed until 2025.

Media subsidies for general news media are open to newspapers, web-based media, radio, and television. The media subsidies include three support schemes: local journalism subsidies aiming to combat so-called white spots or news deserts in sparsely populated areas; innovation and development subsidies for the development of digital services and digital collaboration between media; and, introduced in 2020, editorial subsidies based on the costs for editorial activities. Unlike the press subsidies, which are entitlements, the media subsidies are distributed to the extent there are funds available.

Proposal for a modernised subsidy scheme from 2024 onwards

In June 2022, a media subsidy investigation was presented, focusing on general news media. The investigation proposed a new scheme for press and media subsidies – that is, replacing today’s various forms of subsidies with unified and technology-neutral support. The emphasis, suggests the investigation, shall be on subsidies for local and regional news media. Moreover, the operational support shall no longer be an entitlement; instead, it shall be granted based on need. The current subsidy for distribution and local journalism shall be incorporated into the general editorial support. In addition, a democratic condition shall be introduced. Furthermore, the investigation proposed that the media support shall be regulated by law, supplemented by a regulation. The changes are proposed to be introduced from 2024.

Find more information about direct media subsidies in Nordicom's table database

Download the table Government direct subsidies to newspapers and news media in the Nordic countries, 2000–2021 from Nordicom’s table database (filter Region by ”Nordic” and Media by ”Newspapers”).

The mapping is done in cooperation with the following organisations in Nordicom's statistical network: Statistics Finland, Statistics Iceland and medianorway.

Sources: Links to national documents

Media authorities' information pages on media subsidies, media subsidy laws and ordinances, press releases from ministries, and current media investigations.