Eliminate all forms of selective media support

In December 2020, the Media Support Board rejected NewsVoice’s request for media support.

The test balloon rose and withstood the pressure because no one cares.

The traditional journalistic support with the operational and developmental support provided in 1965 went and went to both right-wing and extreme left-wing pro-government and regime-critical newspapers. Regardless of ethical or linguistic level, support is given to those newspapers that fulfill a number of predictable and quantifiable requirements as circulation.

Support for the press can be questioned as a way for the state to subtly control opinion formation. But the support was nevertheless blind to the content itself.

With support for new media, a different arrangement is offered.

‘High-quality editorial content’

Just like when it comes to clicking on support, there are requirements for the number of users. However, the government media support decree states that the purpose of media support is to promote “a variety of public news media with high-quality editorial content”.

The Media Support Committee does not consider NewsVoice to meet quality requirements. According to the council, “articles with content that do not appear to be based on science or facts.” Examples include “Articles with an anti-vaccine message.” The committee accuses the newspaper of explaining that it is releasing a book “outside the thinking of traditional systems.”

Since the journal consists in part of “articles characterized by an unscientific approach”, the Board considers that it does not maintain sufficient “high quality” to receive support.

The Press, Radio and Television Authority, which issued regulations on how to implement the Media Support Act, now wants to amend the writing. In the proposal submitted for consultation, the authority tries to explain what the government means by “high quality”.

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The authority defines “high quality” as the medium “characterized by regular, responsible news dissemination.” Taking responsibility, in turn, means that the news outlet “does not contribute to the dissemination of incorrect or tampered information.” He does not advocate crime and “abstain from publications that mislead science and solid knowledge.”

Strange sight

It is a strange vision of development and science. It is precisely by interrogating knowledge and results that they are developed, phased out or enhanced. Solid facts that are not questioned easily turn into beliefs or beliefs that stifle innovation.

Free debate where opinions, values ​​and outcomes can be questioned is especially important in stressful situations such as during the pandemic. It should be allowed to express criticism of vaccination and the Swedish “epidemic strategy”, in addition to preserving the right to transparency in order to obtain the necessary support among the population to slow the spread of infection.

Defining “ingrained knowledge” and what should be considered “misleading” is not something that should be left to a government agency.

Certainly not a constitutional right to receive support. Anyone who does not agree to the regulations can waive their freedom of expression but is not deprived of it.

But the question is more complicated than that. The authorities treating a newspaper differently because of its content conflicts with the freedom of incorporation contained in the Press Freedom Decree. Rewarding those who meet state standards negatively discriminate against others.

Media associated with self-regulation is given a sour cream from the fact that they are considered by definition to maintain an acceptable ethical standard. Others have to show that they follow the rules of advertising.

In addition to the requirement that “established knowledge” not be questioned, in order to receive a grant the media must also “follow good ethical media practices”. Instead of formulating its own moral codes, the Swedish Press, Radio and Television Agency integrates a self-regulatory system with the Public Media Ombudsman (MO) in the state review. Media associated with self-regulation is given a sour cream from the fact that they are considered by definition to maintain an acceptable ethical standard. Others have to show that they follow the rules of advertising.

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Linking self-regulation and the exercise of power reduces confidence that the authority is able to fulfill the requirements of objectivity, impartiality and equal treatment. At the same time, there is the danger of confidence in media self-regulation as a truly independent activity. Situations can arise when a media support board takes on the role of a review board to interpret what is considered good journalistic practice.

Government control with media support is just the beginning. The next balloon comes from the government, which wants to arrange press support in the same regulations as media support.

In order to guarantee freedom of expression, adhere to the principles of the Freedom of the Press Regulations and not make testing of morality, quality and truth a matter for the exercise of formal authority, all forms of selective support should be abolished. The alternative is to take general measures to stimulate and facilitate all activities that fall within the principles of freedom of expression.

Niels FunkFree speech expert

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