Swedish inquiry suggests platform-neutral media subsidies
The Swedish press subsidies should be replaced with a broader media subsidy. In addition to printed newspapers, the digital media, free media, and news agencies would also be able to receive financial support for news production. This is recommended by the government media inquiry.
The Swedish media inquiry has presented its final report, suggesting that a new media subsidy come into effect on January 1, 2018. The support should be open to all general news media, regardless of type and distribution form.
Thresholds to entering the support system
In order to receive support, a number of basic requirements must be met. At least 60 per cent of the content is to be editorial and at least 20 per cent self-produced, which is slightly stricter than the requirements for today’s press subsidies.
The media should be generally accessible to all, have a publisher, direct themselves to a Swedish audience, and have a publication frequency of at least 45 issues/broadcasts per year.
Moreover, the inquiry suggests a set of assessment criteria: that the journalistic content should be pluralistic, hold high quality, and be based on democratic values.
Lower thresholds for some media
Lower requirements would apply to news media that cater to national minorities, as well as to start-up media as well as news and photo agencies. And additional support should be available to media wanting to create local journalism in insufficiently covered areas, as well as to those wishing to adapt their content to people with disabilities.
Media competence needed for quality assessment
A Media Subsidy Council should be set up to manage the support, and a majority of its members should be nominated by the media industry. The reason for this, according to the inquiry, is that defining journalistic quality will require media-savvy people, and such an assessment must also be kept independent from politics.
As the proposed system allows more media actors to apply for subsidies, it will likely require more money. The inquiry therefore proposes an increase of the support from 576 million to 732 million SEK in 2020.
As for the sums directed to a certain media organization, they should be calculated on its costs for news production instead of on its paid circulation, as is the case today.
Suggestions for further steps
The government investigator also includes a number of “media political sketches” to highlight other current media policy issues. The sketches include, among other things, proposals to invest in media and information literacy, to strengthen the digital infrastructure, and to sharpen penalties for threats to journalists.
Moreover, the investigator suggests an inquiry to identify new financing possibilities for the media, as well as an inquiry regarding a new public service company that would produce news for other channels and in areas where the commercial market is not enough.
Below you can find the final report and a memorandum on media policy conclusions and visions, presented on November 7, 2016 (in Swedish):
More about the inquiry: In March 2015, the Swedish Ministry of Culture and Democracy initiated an inquiry into “A media policy for the future”, aiming to analyse the need for new media policy tools when press subsidies in their current form cease. The inquiry’s proposals should aim to promote opportunities for the public to access journalism that is characterised by diversity, objective news, quality and depth, regardless of where in Sweden one lives.
The inquiry has published a number of reports (in Swedish):
November 2015: An analysis of the Swedish media landscape from a citizen's perspective: "Medieborgarna & medierna" (SOU 2015:94)
March 2016: A memorandum on publicly funded media
April 2016: A research anthology: "Människorna, medierna & marknaden" (SOU 2016:30)
August 2016: A citizen survey conducted by Statistics Sweden
BY: EVA HARRIE