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Sweden: digital is better

In recent years Sweden has seen the closure of one newspaper after another as the print media contend with declining circulations. The consequence has been major job losses. The publishing concern Mittmedia, for instance, announced in December 2012 that 150 jobs would be cut, while Dagens Nyheter had to let eighty staff go in spring 2013. Svenska Dagbladet reduced its editorial staff by fifteen in December of that year. And in June 2014 Sydsvenskan and Helsingborg Dagblad announced they would have to shed up to 180 positions.

Advertisement for Aftonbladet on the building of the Ministry of the Environment in Stockholm.
(Flickr, Arjan Richter, CC BY 2.0)

Parallel online services are advancing in leaps and bounds, increasingly charging for access to content. Whereas the print run of Aftonbladet fell from 180,000 to 142,000 between 2013 and August 2014, the sale of digital subscriptions increased sharply over the same period - from 125,000 to 183,000. Several newspapers are therefore putting major efforts into expanding their digital presence, especially in apps for smartphones or tablets. Television and radio are also playing an increasingly active role in this segment. So far, however, no major media organisation has gone over entirely to online services.

Thus much has changed in Sweden, a country that in 1776 became one of the first world-wide to enshrine freedom of the press in its constitution. Press freedom is a fundamental element of freedom of opinion, which has traditionally been a strongly espoused value in Sweden.

Sweden's media landscape is still characterised by a relatively prominent role for the public broadcasters: Sveriges Television and Sveriges Radio. Sveriges Radio broadcasts not only in Swedish but also in the languages of Sweden's minorities as well as in seven other languages. Both are financed via licensing fees and do not carry any advertising. The control structures are designed to keep political influence to a minimum. However, the rise of private television and radio - especially TV3, TV4 and Canal+ - since the early 1990s has also had a strong impact on the programming of public broadcasters, which have copied formats from private TV, such as soaps or competition shows.

The public debate is mainly conducted in the public broadcasting media and the major daily newspapers. After various acquisitions and concentration processes in the 1990s and 2000s the newspaper market is now dominated by the Norwegian Schibstedt concern and the Swedish Bonnier media.

Press Freedom Index:

Reporters without Borders: 5th place (2015)
Freedom House: 1st place (2014)

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