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Finland: Finns still avid newspaper readers

The media crisis and the upheavals in the media landscape are a subject of constant debate in Finland. Two controversial pieces of tax legislation were discussed particularly heatedly: the introduction of VAT for print products in 2012, initially 9, now 10 percent, and a year later the so-called Yle tax, named after Finland's radio and television broadcaster, which replaced the television license fee based on ownership of a TV receiver. The newspaper publishers hold the introduction of VAT partly responsible for the decline in circulations, and even politicians in the governing party are now demanding that the rate at least be reduced.

Media company Sanoma in Helsinki.
(© picture-alliance/dpa)

Despite the decline in circulation the Finns continue to be avid newspaper readers, with print runs of 366 per 1,000 inhabitants. This puts Finland in third place internationally for newspaper readership.

The Finnish media landscape is characterised by a high level of concentration. Two media concerns, Sanoma and Alma Media, control the majority of dailies, and both also have interests in television, radio and the Internet. By far the most influential and highest-circulation newspaper is Helsingin Sanomat, published by the Sanoma concern. Alongside Finnish newspapers there are also a number of Swedish newspapers for the Swedish minority.

In recent years publishers have increasingly worked together in order to cut costs, the most recent example being a cooperation agreement between twelve regional newspapers in 2014, which provides for the generation of press material that can be used for the print media and the Internet simultaneously. In addition the publishers have significantly expanded their Internet activities and have recorded a big increase in revenues from Internet advertising. Many of them are also charging for access to some or all of their coverage. As publishers and private broadcasters strengthen their position on the Internet, criticism is growing of the tax-financed public broadcaster Yle, which provides free news and films and hence competition for private media companies.

Television came to Finland in the mid-1950s and today transmission is exclusively digital. Right from the start there was a mixture of public and private radio, although the advertising-financed programmes of the MTV station initially received only a few hours of airtime on the channels of the public broadcaster Yle. It was not until 1993 that MTV received its own channel. Today there is a broad spectrum of public and private channels, but according to surveys the Yle channels are watched by more than 40 percent of viewers.

Press Freedom Index:

Reporters without Borders: 1st place (2015)
Freedom House: 4th place (2014)

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