Parliament will vote on content restrictions on Yle’s text

Parliament will vote on content restrictions on Yle's text

In the near future, Parliament will vote on the government’s proposal that the state-owned Broadcasting Corporation should, as a rule, publish only textual material that supports video or audio content.

The Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Communications published its report on the bill on Tuesday and gave the green light to the progress of the bill in the parliamentary vote.

The amendment has been discussed in committee since December 2020 and is due to a complaint made by the Finnish Media Association (Finnmedia) to the European Commission in 2017.

The association representing the commercial media argued that Yle effectively publishes an online magazine every day, thus eating up the commercial news market. The complaint called on the Commission to decide whether Yle’s textual content complied with EU public finance rules.

In 2020, the Finnish government proposed an amendment to the Broadcasting Act, according to which Yle should only publish textual content if it is linked to audio or video material. The Committee on Transport and Communications has now approved these proposals.

The committee also supported several exceptions to the proposal. Restrictions on textual content would therefore not apply to news, official newsletters and minority language services, as well as cultural and educational content.

The anti-change citizens’ initiative collected the required 50,000 signatures last year and advanced to the parliamentary debate. However, the Committee on Transport and Communications has suggested that Parliament reject this initiative.

Finnmedia: The limit is needed

Jukka HolmbergThe CEO of the Finnish Media Association, the organization that lodged a complaint with the European Commission in 2017, told Yle on Tuesday that it was satisfied "important and necessary" A line is drawn between the press and broadcasting.

"It was necessary because the European Commission considered that the Broadcasting Corporation had entered a restricted area for state-funded media and must now return to the permitted area." Holmberg said.

He added that the proposed amendment to the law also clearly defines how commercial outlets can generate revenue in the future without affecting state-funded media.

Jukka Holmberg, CEO of the Media Association.Berislav Jurišić / Yle

Holmberg did not want to give a definite answer to the question of whether Finnmedia intends to file other petitions with the EU Commission. The current proposals must first be approved by parliament and put into effect, he said, and then the union will look at how Yle is complying with the changes.

"We can then assess these additional possibilities," Holmberg said.

Yle’s CEO: No major changes for the public

Yle’s CEO Merja Ylä-Anttila said that it was important for the committee ‘s report to emphasize the definition of textual content as a public service remit.

Ylä-Anttila also drew attention to the fact that the accessibility of Yle’s content has been considered important in the committee’s work.

"In other words, people with sensory disabilities should be informed about things in the same way as everyone else, and that is important. This [report] notes that this needs to be monitored. I think that’s a very good thing," Ylä-Anttila said.

Merja Ylä-Anttila
Yle’s CEO Merja Ylä-Anttila.Berislav Jurišić / Yle

Yle’s Supervisory Board, whose members are elected by Parliament, is responsible for supervision.

Ylä-Anttila does not believe that the future amendment to the law will be very significant for the public, even if it is approved according to the proposal, because Yle had anticipated the change and exported digital content in the direction required by the change. .

In practice, this means that Yle already publishes news content online, along with related video or audio packages.

"This has already been done and is still pending the entry into force of the law." He said he added that if Parliament approves the bill, he hopes all parties will pass the resolution.

Researcher: “No winners”

Marko Ala-FossiLecturer in Journalism at the University of Tampere, has been strongly involved in the legal process to amend the Broadcasting Act.

"There are no winners here. The Finnish people do not win, YLE does not win, the Media Association does not win, not even Parliament wins. Nobody gets to the top here," Ala-Fossi said, adding that the bill is unlikely to achieve the goals set in Finnmedia’s complaint that initiated the process.

"It is very difficult to see how defining or restricting the format of Yle’s online content could improve the profitability or return of commercial online media. These things have very little to do with each other," he said.

Ala-Fossi added that from Yle’s point of view, the bill does not mean very drastic changes if Parliament approves the draft in its current form.

However, he raised the question of whether an amendment to the law could restrict citizens ’right to information, as the law regulates how Yle should publish content online.

"This limits YLE’s own independent decision-making power over how it does its journalism;" Ala-Fossi said.

He added that at this stage it is still difficult to predict exactly how the change in the law will become visible to the average citizen, but he considered it possible that the changes will go unnoticed.

Ala-Fossi therefore wondered whose interest the change in the law would ultimately serve. He considered it possible that the changes could encourage the commercial media to complain more in the future, as it has now become apparent in practice that the complaints will lead to changes in the law.

Sanoma also lodged a complaint

Last spring, Finland’s largest commercial media company, Sanoma, complained to the EU Commission about the content of Yle Areena’s and Yle’s e-learning and asked the Commission to find out whether Finnish legislation complies with EU state funding regulations.

Sanoma’s appeal is not related to the amendment to the Yle Act before Parliament.

Source: The Nordic Page

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