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New 'YLE tax' in 2013 draws mixed reactions

Parties in parliament have approved the idea of a public broadcasting tax to fund the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE. The Social Democratic Party was the last to give the green light to the plan. The editor of the daily Helsingin Sanomat was quick to attack the plan.

Yleisradion Iso Paja Helsingin Pasilassa.
Yleisradion keskus Iso Paja Helsingin Pasilassa. Image: Seppo Sarkkinen / Yle

On Thursday the opposition Finns Party gave its backing to the 'YLE-tax' plan, and the Social Democrats have done so Friday, clearing the way for passage.

The new tax will be calculated according to income, ranging between 50 and 140 euros per person. Such a change would significantly benefit low-income individuals and those who live alone.

Under the current system, each household where TV broadcasts can be watched (on any kind of device) must pay the same annual fee, regardless of income or how many people live there.

The TV fee is 244.90 euros this year, and will edge up to 252.25 euros next year -- which will likely be the last year it is levied.

Broadcaster welcomes change

YLE's Director General Lauri Kivinen on Friday welcomed the news of political agreement on the YLE tax model.

According to Kivinen, the financing model is a recognition of YLE's role as a major cultural institution and forum for social debate.

"Our hope has been for not only continuity, but also the preservation of our independence, which now seems to have happened. We are accountable to all the Finns, to our whole audience," Kivinen stressed.

He took the stand that the method of sourcing financing for the company is fair.

"Currently, about a quarter of households do not pay for YLE services, even though they all use them. This reform will reduce the average payment by more than 80 euros per household since there are more paying. The payment for people living alone will fall by half and low-income people will not be obligated to pay," Kivinen explained.

Kivinen also expressed satisfaction at the level of financing that will be available for YLE operations. He said that company budget deficits in recent years had forced the company to make savings where cuts should not have been made.

"For example, these have been in domestically-produced programming acquisition, IT investment, broadcast rights for sports events, and in personnel."

HS editor: Too costly

Reactions to the new tax have been mostly positive. One critical voice on Friday was the editor of the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Mikael Pentikäinen, who accused the government of favouring YLE while treating print media badly. He said that the half-a-billion euros expected to be gathered annually through the tax was too much for public broadcasting.

Information about current TV fees

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