The UJF Council has issued a stern warning that the status of the media in Finland, as a cornerstone of a free society, is being seriously endangered.Rising distribution costs and VAT are undermining regional and local media in the country, the Council said in a statement issued following its spring conference.It warns that a shrinking revenue base is harming the commercial content of print media. The cutting of the index of the public service Finnish Broadcasting Company and its weakened financial position are also a threat to its content production. The UJF Council wants the incoming government to pay serious attention to a trend within the media industry that affects the nation as a whole. “If the trend continues, powerful international operators will take over the Finnish communications market. Every citizen is entitled to receive information produced by the media of their choice, regardless of place of residence or wealth.”The Council is calling for the operational environment of the media in Finland to be improved by cutting VAT on magazine and newspaper subscriptions and on digital publications to five per cent. It also wants to see measures to ensure that the public’s access to information is not impeded by high distribution costs and a paucity of communications, and that the financial base of the public broadcaster is maintained.Union members recognized for promoting employees’ rights and interestsSylvia Bjon, shop steward at the national daily Hufvudstadsbladet and chief shop steward at the paper’s parent company KSF Media, and Paavo Martikainen, shop steward at the A-lehdet media, house were named shop stewards of the year at the UJF Council gala dinner, held in connection with the Council’s spring conference.Both union officials were commended for their selfless and tenacious work for union members. Sylvia Bjon has negotiated seven statutory employer-employee agreements in the past six years alongside her journalistic work and union activity. Paavo Martikainen has a long record of staunchly defending employees’ rights, including during grueling employer-employee negotiations in 2014.The award for work by member associations went to Ilkka Vanne, Seppo Seppänen and Tuomas Niemi for negotiating the collective agreement for employees in the film and television industry.Honourable mention went to Päivi Vantonen for her work to promote sign language programmes through dialogue between Yle, the public broadcaster, and sign language media professionals.