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Merja Ylä-Anttila: Trust, interaction and understanding the Finns are key to Yle’s future

Merja Ylä-Anttila. Tummahiuksinen, silmälasipäinen nainen
CEO Merja Ylä-Anttila. Merja Ylä-Anttila. Tummahiuksinen, silmälasipäinen nainen Picture by: Yle Merja Ylä-Anttila

We live in an age where more or less all institutions are being challenged. Past successes and long traditions are not enough to earn us trust and valuation.

Public service broadcasters’ tasks and funding are under pressure across Europe, and the same holds true for the Nordic countries. At the same time, “fake news” and disinformation call the role and significance of reliable media into question.

I believe, however, that reliable media will regain its status, and we are already seeing tentative signals of audiences returning to quality media. According to a recent survey by Finnmedia, people’s trust in domestic media has increased across age groups, including young people.

Moreover, according to the recent Yle’s value for Finns survey (Taloustutkimus 10/2018), a majority of Finns believe that Yle has been very successful in taking care of its public service remit. Satisfaction with the Yle tax reached an all-time high for the seven years the survey has been carried out. As many as 78 per cent of respondents feel that Yle’s programmes and service give very good or at least fairly good value for the Yle tax.

However that may be, we have to earn that trust every day and that work is based on genuine interaction with the public.

Yle’s goals for 2019 express our ambition to serve all Finns. In the current challenging climate for media, it befits a public service broadcaster to build understanding and reduce confusion.

As a media company for the people, we create content for people of all ages.

The key to building trust is the feeling that we do listen and we do care. We are interested in what is happening in Finland and how people living here are faring: our worries and fears, as well as our joys and inspirations. We want to be more present wherever Finns are – to join them in real-life happenings. That is why we have live broadcasts and are increasing our presence at events all over Finland.

Today, the new trust is built on credible competence, compassion and closeness.

Interaction is more than talking and listening; often it includes giving commentary on complex issues, responding to comments and questions, and being present on social media when the article or item has been published and the journalist is actually off the clock. It is a new form of “journalism as a service”, where the public expects the journalist and management to reply and comment. Although often refreshing and rewarding, it can also be tedious and exhausting.

When an increasing part of the job is not fixed to a time or place, we should all make a point of learning to manage ourselves and define the limits for our social media presence. Supervisors are always there for you, both to encourage and inspire and to put on the brakes, when needed. The key points for next year include improving the working culture and leadership at Yle.

In a setting of fragmented information and an increasingly complex world, quality media outlets have to become better at explaining and evaluating the changing world and increasing people’s understanding of the world. That is our basic mission. By means of documentaries, factual programming and drama, we are also able to depict and describe life in Finland today.

Nevertheless, our age-old task as watchdog keeping an eye on the powers that be is still there. The watchdog just has to navigate in a digital world, where people spend a lot of their time and where power is carried out in ways that few are aware of.

In 2019, Yle strives to be even more significant in the lives of every Finn, and therefore, we are focusing on increasing our understanding of what Finns need. There are already more than one million Yle IDs, making programmes and other content on Yle Areena easier to find and suggesting customised content to users.

People under 30 use media in a very different way than other age groups. They are also the toughest target group for all media companies. I have called on the assistance of young creators at Yle to form a steering group for solving issues like social bubbles, methods for new journalism, and challenges to democracy. We want to learn about young people’s media consumption and find the right content and platforms to attract them.

It is a daunting task, but there is no way around it. The young are the future of our society and welfare, and Yle needs them today in order to genuinely serve all Finns and to secure its future.

Merja Ylä-Anttila