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06.01.2016

Finland: Report assessing the Finnish media market

LL.D Anette Alén-Savikko

A Working Group for assessing the Finnish media market was set up by the Minister of Transport and Communications, Anne Berner, in the beginning of August 2015. The Working Group was led by professor Anssi Vanjoki, a former Nokia director, while other members included executive Mikael Jungner, a former director of the Finnish Public Service Broadcaster (PSB), Yleisradio (Yle), writer Kalle Isokallio, a former Nokia executive, and journalist Reetta Meriläinen, a former editor in chief of a major Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat. In early December, the Working Group presented its report (2/2015) whereby it generates ideas and proposed action in the field. The Working Group derives its findings from previous reports, international and European material as well as hearings and statements of various stakeholders, as noted in the report (pp. 2-3).

The report promotes a market-driven approach with a focus on consumer choice. It also speaks for technology neutrality while media policy should safeguard a fair competitive environment. This stance is also deemed as a key factor with regard to free speech and media pluralism. In a similar vein, the report calls for uniform regulation, including in the fields of various licenses and copyright, whereas state aid should not be used to counter the changes in the media field. Regional and local newspapers could benefit from a national digital news service and shared database. (2/2015, pp. 2, 5-6 ff., 13-14)

 

The report builds on the notion of digitalization and notes the main changes it has induced in the information and communications sector. In this context, the report refers to globalization and the emergence of a world-wide market for content services and production while social media has also contributed to changes in media-related behaviors. Thereby, the national media market faces both internal and external competition. Alongside these developments, public service broadcasting has been accused of distorting competition. The importance of national media for democracy is, however, acknowledged. Furthermore, the report calls for a level global playing field; as a particular area, utilization of data analytics by national and European media should be possible. (2/2015, pp. 2, 6-8)

 

With regard to specific issues, the report notes that 'must carry' obligation for commercial channels may be removed so as to render such retransmission a contract-based activity. Moreover, the report notes an uneven applicability of advertising regulation in the converged, global environment. Deregulation is called for alongside abolishing sector-specific rules. National legislation should correspond the minimum levels defined in relevant directives (AVMSD). The value added tax for digital media content should also be levelled with print. These latter issues are to be promoted at EU level. Finally, flexibility of the copyright regime is brought to the fore; on one hand, direct contracting should be enabled but on the other hand, centralized acquisition of rights should be possible. Freedom of contract is promoted alongside technology neutrality. Reutilization of Yle content and archives, also by the commercial media, must be enabled. (2/2015, pp. 6-7, 10-12)

 

The report further notes that the Finnish PSB, Yle, must be subjected to increased outsourcing and competitive tendering; compared to the current situation, Yle should act more as a distributor and a national content platform sharing resources and acquiring more content from independent producers. This would be achieved by gradually increasing the portion of acquired content by 2020. Corresponding obligations could be included in the Act on Yleisradio. Moreover, the company should be supervised in a more efficient and independent manner. The report states that not only the governance and supervision but also the tasks of Yle must be defined more clearly. In this regard, the Working Group proposes that the Parliamentary Working Committee, set up at the turn of November 2015, embarks on the mission for clarification. (2/2015, pp. 6, 8-10) During its term until the end of May 2016, the Parliamentary Working Committee assesses PSB, the meaning and financing thereof, as well as the scope of the public service remit.

 

The report (2/2015) concerning the media market was both hailed, analyzed, and criticized by individuals, the media, and by the Union of Journalists in Finland (UJF). With regard to value added taxation, the UJF notes its previous statements tangential to the findings of the report. However, the UJF expressed concerns about copyright and for its part favors regulation of minimum terms for copyright assignments. Moreover, the UJF noted that the traditional press seemed to have been forgotten by the Working Group. In addition, the strong market-driven approach cannot be applied exclusive in the media sector since the media perform democratic functions as well and serve free speech in the society. (UJF news) As regards news coverage and responses from the Yle side, a green light was given to deregulation and cooperation in the media field. In contrast, critical notes were made against decision-making which promotes the interests of producers and private companies – where it should safeguard the public interest.

LL.D Anette Alén-Savikko, Faculty of law/University of Helsinki


Read more

Pätevät pärjäävät – Kotimaisia mediamarkkinoita arvioivan työryhmän raportti. Liikenne- ja viestintäministeriö, raportit ja selvitykset 2/2015 here

 

UJF news: Mediatyöryhmän raportti: here

 

For the UJF in English see here

 

For media coverage around the subject, see e.g.:

http://www.marmai.fi

http://yle.fi/berner

http://yle.fi/mediatyoryhma

http://yle.fi/ylen_kivinen

http://www.mtv.fi

http://www.iltalehti.fi

http://www.hs.fi





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