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Finland – (C1) Supervising the watchdog “control of the controllers

Score in short:

Organized media criticism in general is seen as lacking in Finland.

Score in detail:

Public discussion about the role of the media as such is not difficult to find even in the media themselves. Recent events in Finland have also generated public debate on the role and performance of the media. The reporting of violent crimes and crises, for instance, has initiated debate on journalistic ethics and a proper code-of-conduct. The political campaign funding entanglements and frequent sex scandals around notable politicians have also intensified the debate on the increasing power of the media, and strained the relations between the politicians and the media. occasional media criticism is aired by civil society organizations, individual politicians, and other actors. A number of books have recently been published in Finland about “the power of the media” (e.g., Uimonen 2009; Kunelius et al. 2010). In this sense, media criticism and public debate do exist and they even seem to have become more prominent recently.

More institutionalized arenas for media criticism and the evaluation of media performance include the weekly professional journal Journalisti, published by the Union of Journalists, and the annual Yearbook of Journalism Critique, which features longer articles on topical issues by both researchers and journalists. Universities have also launched research projects and organized seminars that aim to bring together academic and professional perspectives on the media.

Many of the respondents suggested, however, that academic critiques are often perceived to be too detached from the realities of news journalism and thus have only limited value from the point of view of journalists. Blogs and websites that discuss media performance exist, but none of them have gained wider significance. Most of the respondents failed to name any notable media blogs in Finland. There are also some television and radio programs dedicated to the media criticism, mainly on public service channels. Their focus is more on journalistic self-reflection, and they rarely feature outside observers.

Some respondents noted that specialized forums for “media criticism” can seem somewhat contrived. Instead, it was suggested that good media criticism needs to be spontaneous and issue-driven, rather than institutionalized or too organized. on the other hand, it was also suggested that journalists in general are not very open to external evaluation. This is accentuated by small professional circles, which seems generate a culture in which journalists are reluctant to criticize each other. The flipside of the strong professional ethos thus seems to be somewhat inward-looking and closed professional circles.