NEWS | 13 Mar 2017

Finnish proposal for support to commercial TV news

A Finnish working group appointed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications suggests financial support to commercial TV news broadcasting. They propose a three-year support programme for commercial TV channels with a programme licence to operate a public interest channel.

[This article has been updated in June and September 2017, see text in small font below.]

On March 1, 2017, the working group submitted its final report, Pluralistic news service requires actions, to the Minister of Transport and Communications, Anne Berner.

The group’s task was based on the proposal submitted in June 2016 by a parliamentary working group, which assessed the public service company Yle’s duties and fundings, to form a new working group.

Support for development or production
The new proposal suggests a temporary three-year support programme, either funding specific projects aiming to develop news and current affairs services, or covering a certain percentage of the cost of producing news and current affairs content.

The aim is to ensure that news is broadcast on other broad linear TV channels besides those of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle). Among the commercial channels, only MTV3 currently broadcasts longer daily TV news programmes. Nelonen has only a short tv news service (5 minutes) and online news service today, following a merger with the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat’s editorial office in 2013.

For public interest channels only
To apply for the suggested support, applicants must be licensed as a channel serving the public interest. Such a concession can be applied for by all channels willing to meet free-to-air distribution and content requirements, including daily news programmes. In return, all operators are obligated to distribute the channel for free (must carry).

However, as the programming licences for terrestrial TV operations in 2017–2027 were granted in January this year, there were no applications for licences for channels serving the public interest. But according to the Ministry of Communications, it is still possible to apply for such a licence.

The proposal calls for negotiations
It is the working group’s estimate that EUR 8 million should be reserved annually for supporting the news broadcasting. The final report states that no budgetary funds are reserved for media support at the moment. A possible support programme would first require a political decision in the government discussion on spending limits.

 

Read more:
Pluralist news service requires action. Report of the working group on commercial television news services (summary in English) (PDF)
Press release, Ministry of Transport and Communications March 1, 2017 in English/Finnish/ Swedish

 

June 2017: The Government has proposed in its supplementary budget to provide one million euros in support of news and current affairs on channels serving the public interest. The Ministry of Transport and Communications will draft a Government decree, which will define the criteria, terms and conditions for the support in detail. Read the full press release from the Ministry of Transport and Communications May 31, 2017.

September 2017: In the first 2017 supplementary budget, an allocation of EUR 1 million was made to support news and current affairs on channels serving the public interest (see above). In the Government budget proposal for 2018, a total of EUR 2 million is now proposed for the same purpose. The appropriation is meant to be used to pay discretionary government transfers for providing news and current affairs on public interest TV channels. The aim of the support is to ensure the diversity of news broadcasting and alternative news sources in television broadcasting that reaches the general public. Source: Press release from the Ministry of Transport and Communications Sep 19, 2017

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Proposal for commercial TV support also in Norway: In December 2016, the Norwegian Government proposed financial compensation for a single commercial public service operator, which should provide daily news broadcasts and have its headquarters outside the capital city. The background to this proposal was that the state's contract with TV 2 expired at the end of 2016; and when a new agreement for January 2017-December 2019 was announced, neither TV 2 nor any other player applied for it. On March 7, the Norwegian Committee for Media Diversity (Mediemangfoldsutvalget) presented its final report, which suggested that the Government restrict the support in question to linear TV only.

 

BY: EVA HARRIE