Sweden and Denmark are disbursing tens of millions of euros to bail out media houses amidst the economic devastation of the corona crisis. The aim is to make sure the press and other media can operate and that the public receives solid information. The crisis has seen advertising revenues collapse, threatening the existence of the media.
Finland has yet to announce any aid for the media. Media houses have started sweeping layoffs of journalists, posing a threat to the public’s access to information when the need for it is greater than it has been for decades.
“The situation is alarming. Disseminating correct information is vital to beating corona, but the flow of information is jeopardised as media finances are in dire straits”, said UJF president Hanne Aho. “Getting correct information is a civil right and something that has an impact on security.”
In Sweden, the government has decided to grant €20-million (SEK 200 million) in emergency support for the media. The move was justified by the growing public need for information during the Covid-19 crisis. Likewise, Denmark is providing the media with a €24-million bailout, the grounds for which are that the media is a cornerstone of democracy, and that critical media that produces reliable information is crucially important.
“Sweden and Denmark understand how huge a role the media plays, especially in an emergency like this”, said Aho.
The UJF is demanding a fast track decision on media support. There are different options available. The state could pay direct wage subsidies to media houses or reimburse distribution costs. But Aho pointed out: “care must be taken to ensure that support is given to the production of content and not for paying dividends.”
The union president said that aid must be given now. “Finns have the same rights to information as citizens in other Nordic countries. Under normal circumstances we are anyway in a different league as we do not pay media subsidies, while in other Nordic countries tens of millions are paid in media subsidies each year.”