In headlines now / 20.08.2018

Press freedom is for you: The union goals for the next parliamentary elections

1. Everyone has a right to information

Finland must regain the global top spot for press freedom. Press freedom isn’t just for journalists. It’s for everyone. It protects public access to information. The Finnish Constitution entitles everyone to access information. Information is the best protection against lies and hatred. Threats against journalists should be included in law as aggravating factors in convictions. Such behaviour undermines democracy. The intimidation and harassment of journalists cannot be counted as misdemeanours. They must be subject to criminal investigation even if it’s employers who report them. That way the workplace gets involved in dealing with them. Social media platforms must be held accountable for any hate content disseminated on them. The authorities must be ensured sufficient resources to enforce the laws pertaining to them. Finnish freedom of expression includes society’s openness, government transparency, and public access to official documents. This must continue to be the case. We must preserve the Finnish media’s exceptionally well-functioning system of self-regulation. It’s precisely this that has curbed the spread of fake news in Finland. Finland should also support those forces that defend freedom of expression around the world. Proper resources must be put into freedom of expression projects in developing countries and our neighbouring region that draw on Finnish know-how.

2. The media’s operational requirements must be ensured

Finnish society must also support the media sector during the transition to digital. Freedom of expression, democracy, and culture require pluralistic domestic journalism. VAT on digital publications must be brought down to the same level as for print publications. The VAT rate on both print and digital newspapers and books must be made the same as in other Nordic countries. VAT is an effective and competitively neutral way to support the media. In Norway, there’s no VAT at all on subscriptions to news publications and periodicals. Direct newspaper subsidies must also be increased to the Nordic level. In Sweden, newspapers received €50-million support in 2017. In Norway, news media receives €32-million in subsidies every year. In Finland, such funding amounts to €0,5 million euros. Funding for local and cultural papers and magazines strengthens media diversity. The granting of new radio licenses must take into account news criteria and locality. The preparation of media policy is adversely scattered across different government ministries. This slows down decision-making. Media policy must be predictable. It must be created as a single entity. The funding system must treat the sector even-handedly. Funding for the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) must be maintained beyond the range of policy vacillations. The present scope of Yle’s tasks must likewise be preserved and shielded from political fervour.

3. Employment legislation for the 2020s

Self-employed people must have negotiating powers concerning employment terms and conditions and pay. Currently, freelancers have to negotiate the terms of their employment with large media houses by themselves. The Union must be able to represent freelancers in negotiations. In Germany unions have agreed among themselves on freelance pay. In Norway, the unions have drawn up a framework agreement. European competition law does not preclude such negotiations. People working in positions akin to employees must be considered to be in an employment relationship. This will add clarity and security to their situation. Social security must be the same for everyone. The Unemployment Allowance Act must be amended so that the accrual of the daily allowance combines self-employment and employment. This would make accepting all employment worthwhile.  The model is called ‘combinatory unemployment insurance’. Creators must receive adequate remuneration for the use of their work. The current copyright act does not secure reasonable contractual terms for creators. Which is why new methods must be produced to improve the situation of creators. The original creator’s inalienable right to remuneration must be protected in the management of intellectual property rights.  Their surrender is now often the precondition for getting work. This is not what our contractual licensing legislation is intended for. Further vocational training in journalism and communications is a fruitful investment. There are professionals in journalism and communications who need further training in making digital media. Their skills must not go to waste.  Resources for journalism training must therefore be shifted from initial to further training. Vocational further training must be made available to people who are unemployed. Waiting periods and other constraints must be done away with. Funds must be made available to bodies that provide further training: colleges, media, and employment and economic development centres (TE Centres). The problem with training is that trainers are often unfamiliar with the media industry. This can be remedied procuring training from within the media sector. Finnish journalism and Finnish people’s trust in our media are first rate globally terms. It’s vitally important for society that this continues to be so.

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