Although the media sector (and also the telecommunications sector) has been liberalised in Finland in the same manner as in the other EU member states, the public broadcasting company (YLE, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, FBC) has maintained its position as the bastion of “public service”. The organisational reforms both of the television channels and radio channels have aimed at better division of labour that also allows the production and diffusion of high quality cultural programmes. Organisational reforms have also been made to accommodate digital radio programmes and the imminent switch to digital TV broadcasts. These reforms will favour more efficient use of the old stock of artistic and cultural assets of the FBC and better provision of new cultural programmes. The FBC has recently opened up an extensive part of its “programme heritage” to audiences via the Internet; and it has been diversifying its cultural and art programmes with the channels made possible by digitalisation. The adding of “cultural news” to the standard programmes of YLE’s television and radio programmes was the first step in this development.
Otherwise, the concentration of the media seems to continue. SanomaWSOY, by far the largest Finnish media company, increased its turnover through international acquisition to 2.9 billion EUR in 2007; the Swedish media giant Bonnier has increased its ownership in the Finnish media (acquisition of the commercial channel MTV3) and in book publishing (acquisition of one of the major Finnish publishing houses). The counterbalance in the public sector is still the Finnish Broadcasting Company, but its turnover in 2006 was only 384 million EUR. The second largest media company Alma Media has a turnover of about 300 million EUR after having sold its television activities to Swedish companies Bonnier and Proventus. There are also some further signs of concentration taking place in the wholesale and retail of books and in cinema and video distribution.
These concentration processes have been monitored by the Finnish competition authorities, of which the executive authority, the Finnish Competition Authority, operates under the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. Its objective is to protect sound and effective economic competition and to increase economic efficiency by promoting competition and abolishing competition restraints. The Market Court is the higher legal instant in competition cases. The Competition Authority has investigated several merges and potential monopoly / trust cases in different sectors of the media and culture industries.
It is difficult to assess how media concentration will affect the quality and diversity of cultural contents. It is assumed that media concentration, commercialisation and homogenisation of content supply go hand in hand. Afternoon papers (or more generally the “yellow press”) and commercial radio have been identified in Finland as examples of this development. On the other hand, e.g. in book production, concentration and the birth of new vigorous small publishing companies have gone hand-in-hand.
Some studies have opened up a new perspective in the issue of media pluralism and content diversity. They have pointed out that in the case of publicly supported media the diminishing public support leads to “mainstreaming” of production, that is, maintaining good standard quality, but at the same time optimising audience appeal without risk taking. This trend has been observed in theatre repertoires, but it has been argued that it also prevails in feature film production.
If the share of domestic products in the media and culture industries is considered as a measure of content diversity, Finland can display a reasonably good account, as the following figures demonstrate:
Table 6: Share (%) of domestic products in different sectors of culture industries in 2007/2008
|SECTOR||Share in %|
|Newspapers (share of domestic single / subscribed copies sold)||99.9|
|Journals (share of domestic single / subscribed copies sold)||98|
|Literature (share of domestic literature of total titles published)||82|
|Television (share of domestic titles of total programmed broadcasts)||50|
|Phonograms (share of domestic phonograms of total phonogram sales)||59|
|Cinema (share of domestic film audiences of total cinema audiences)||23|
|Video (share of domestic units of sales / rental on distribution level )||15|
Source: Statistics Finland, Kulttuuritilastot / Cultural Statistics 2009.