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Government media policy programme needs practical action

The UJF has welcomed the publication by the Ministry of Transport and Communications of a report on the government’s media policy programme, but stresses that the next round of the policy development process needs to focus on practical steps.

The report, issued 28 March, is part of the government’s preparation of a new media policy, intended to further the public’s right to be informed and the generation and availability of journalistic content. The policy programme aims to create ways to ensure the diversity of the Finnish media.

The report was produced as a research project carried out by researchers from the universities of Helsinki and Tampere together with the ministry and a number of media stakeholders.

It examines and makes recommendations on the situation of the Finnish media from a number of angles – basic communication rights, access to media and communications services, media diversity and transparency, and economic development. It also proposes a measurement model for monitoring changes in different areas of Finnish media and communications policy.

The report focuses on a number of issues, or “policy aspects”, intended to be resolved during April and May under the auspices of the ministry, and for which the report proposes a large number of variables and indicators. They concern such matters as media markets and structures, competition with global platforms and the responsibilities of such structures, the public’s scope for obtaining information on the operations of the media, and the ways to prepare media policy.

The ministry will hold hearings throughout the spring involving various media organisations and stakeholders on visions for future media development and the sorts of practical measures and policies needed. There will also be an open forum online hearing.

“It’s good that the public’s right to information is one of the report’s positions”, said UJF president Hanne Aho. “The report also looked at the threats to this fundamental right, including media centralization and the financial development of media houses.”

Aho said that the transformations in the media arena clearly reflect a division of Finnish society. “Some citizens still want to read their news from papers, but reading in digital form is increasing apace. We must ensure that within this transformation there’s sufficient news and current events content for both groups. This is essential in terms of democracy.”

Aho said that there’s now an urgent need for practical measures to ensure the multiplicity of news and current affairs media content. “Attention also needs to be paid to the threats to press freedom, such as by stopping hate speech and coercion.”