YLE’s text-based online content and the Swedish-language newspapers in Finland

Yleisradio Oy, known as YLE, is Finland’s public service broadcaster fully funded through tax revenue. By law, YLE shall treat Finnish- and Swedish-speaking citizens on equal grounds; the latter group is served by Svenska YLE.

The Act on Yleisradio Oy (1380/1993) governing YLE’s activities is currently being amended to address concerns relating to the Act’s compliance with EU state aid rules. The draft Government Proposal for amending the Act published in June 2020 would restrict YLE’s ability to publish such text-based content that is not related to the audio or audiovisual content broadcast by YLE. The draft Government Proposal includes, however, an exception whereby YLE would be entitled to continue publishing text-based Swedish-language regional news content despite these new restrictions.

In Avance Insight 03/2020, we study the effect that YLE’s publishing of text-based online regional news content has on Swedish-language newspapers in Finland. Based on the results of a representative consumer survey conducted in November 2020, we make the following observations:

  • The private market currently provides an abundance of Swedish-language regional news content, which is accessed on a weekly basis by 90% of the relevant population.
  • YLE’s and the newspapers’ online regional news content are:
    • largely consumed by the same individuals,
    • quite similar and close substitutes to each other, and
    • in the same economic market.
  • Furthermore, for a relatively large share of individuals, the availability of YLE’s online regional news content was a contributing factor in a recent decision to discontinue a newspaper subscription.

Based on these observations, it would appear that there are no grounds for YLE to provide Swedish-language text-based regional news content as a public service, as there already exists an ample supply of corresponding content offered by private newspapers. Moreover, YLE’s current provision of such content is likely to distort a well-functioning private market and, over time, to unnecessarily displace private provision. Rather than solving a non-existent market failure, YLE would in effect constitute one.

A full copy (in Finnish) can be downloaded here.