Finnish Government To Act On PSB Online Content

The European Commission has called for an amendment to Finnish broadcasting laws after the news media industry complained that the public service broadcaster’s online output was distorting competition in the media market.   

The Commission launched an investigation into YLE’s operations in 2017 following a state aid complaint lodged with the Commission by the Finnish Media Association. For several years, YLE has published a large amount of newspaper-type content on its website and in the Uutisvahti mobile application that is not related to public service broadcasting programs, the association said.

“We are very pleased that the Commission has taken action and is calling for an amendment to the Broadcasting Act,” said Jukka Holmberg, chief executive of the Finnish Media Association.

“In the future, the Finnish state and YLE must take great care to ensure that the concerns raised by the Commission are adequately addressed by changing both national legislation and YLE’s practical practices.”

EU state aid rules do not affect the online distribution of radio and TV programs. However, the state aid received by broadcasters must be targeted at audiovisual services, not at competition with newspapers.

“The broadcaster’s large-scale publicly funded provision of textual online content distorts competition in the media market and jeopardizes the future of polyphonic media. The situation in Finland is very different from that in the other Nordic countries, where care has been taken not to use funds intended for broadcasting in a way that is contrary to EU state aid regulations. This can be seen, for example, by studying the online news coverage of Nordic broadcasters. In the future, Finland needs both a high-quality press and YLE, ” Holmberg added.

The large-scale provision of textual online content has been based in part on an inaccurate definition of the public service remit contained in the Broadcasting Act. There is no market failure for online journalism, so there is no justification for providing it as a public service.

“The amendment to the law must ensure that the provision of YLE’s textual journalistic online content is substantially limited. This is of paramount importance to safeguard the operating conditions of commercial media in the future. We will closely monitor the measures taken by the Finnish state and YLE to remedy the shortcomings identified by the European Commission, ” Holmberg added.