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Gov't aims to limit Yle web publications

The public broadcaster would primarily be allowed to publish text content if linked to audio or video publications.

Yle's broadcast tower in Helsinki's Pasila district. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

The government has proposed that the state-owned Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) should generally only be allowed to publish text material to support video or audio broadcasts or releases.

The proposal was sent out for comment by various bodies and the public on Tuesday.

The plan stems back to a complaint filed by the Finnish Media Federation (Finnmedia) with the European Commission three years ago.

Commercial media wants less competition

"The complaint focuses on question of how much online publication-type content Yle can have. There was a desire to have space for commercial media to offer lifestyle-type articles," says Yle's CEO, Merja Ylä-Anttila.

In effect, commercial media wanted less competition between its own web content and that produced by public-service broadcaster Yle. If the bill is approved, Yle would primarily be allowed to publish text content if it is linked to audio or video publications.

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Merja Ylä-Anttila has been CEO since April 2018. Image: Kimmo Räisänen / Yle

"On the other hand, we now publish fewer purely online articles. This kind of thing can be seen from the standpoint of reform and strengthening," said Ylä-Anttila.

She notes that the media field has changed over the past three years in that many newspapers and magazines also publish video and audio content along with their articles.

"The world is not the same as it was when the complaint was filed," Ylä-Anttila said.

Ylä-Anttila herself came to Yle two years ago from Finland's biggest commercial broadcaster, MTV, after the complaint was filed.

Many exceptions, including language services

The draft bill on changes to the Act on Yleisradio, which dates back to 1993, includes many exceptions. The restrictions on text content would not apply to material that Yle publishes from the Finnish News Agency STT, breaking news situations, official bulletins and minority language services as well as cultural and educational content.

Ylä-Anttila says she is satisfied with these exceptions.

"Of course we proceed according to guidelines set down by our owner, but Yle has a major task in Finnish communications," Ylä-Anttila said. "If we think, for instance, about the arrival of coronavirus in Finland, our online news played an important role."

Yle, which is overseen by the Finnish Parliament and funded by an Yle tax, reaches an estimated 96 percent of Finns each week.

The bill is open for comment until the end of August and will likely be taken up by lawmakers this autumn.

"I'd imagine that the law will take effect next year," says Ylä-Anttila.