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Finland – (F6) Company rules against external influence on newsroom / editorial staff

Score in short:

Direct influence by external parties on newsroom decisions is not seen as a major problem.

Score in detail:

All editors-in-chief interviewed insisted that there is no interference by individual advertisers or any other external parties. Many of the editors-in-chief acknowledged that they are regularly contacted by external lobbyists, but that any attempts to influence journalistic decisions are categorically rejected. In line with the previous indicator, most interviewees considered the level of journalistic autonomy and integrity to be fairly high. Strong professionalism was also seen as the most effective safeguard against external influence.

The leading news media all have multiple income streams and a multitude of advertisers, none of which are in a dominant position. Many editors-in-chief also maintained that a strong economic position in part ensures that no single external party can exert influence. It was suggested by some respondents, however, that the degree of external influence may be higher on the local level and in smaller media organizations, which rely more heavily on few major local advertisers. The editorin-chief of the local newspaper examined acknowledged that tensions occasionally emerge between the editors and local advertisers or authorities, but it was denied that external parties would succeed in directly influencing editorial decisions.

Sponsoring agreements and various forms of product placement have recently become more common in commercial television. Their influence on the contents of current affairs or news programming was strongly denied, although it may be problematic to strictly define current affairs. In case of newspapers, the editors-inchief insisted that even those sections that contain product reviews are produced entirely on journalistic criteria.

As noted above, the independence of the public service company from any external parties is emphasized on all levels of the public service remit and internal company values (see indicator F5). The government sets the level of the license fee, in line with the criteria set for fulfilling the public service mandate. Thus far, decisions on the level of funding have been made on a long-term basis, but the proposed transition to direct budget funding has raised some concerns that the level of funding will become more susceptible to changes from one year to another.