1 June 2006

Concentration of media ownership in Finland.

Yesterday the new radio licences were announced in Finland and it raised some questions. I must take a closer look at this when I get there next week but now looking at it online, the first thing that seems obvious is that who is broadcasting in radio does not seem to be very important. I say this because I cannot find too much information and speculation about any of this online.

The biggest newspaper corporation Sanoma WSOY got two national licences which to me seem a lot. One was more or less sure shot for them but two was quite unexpected to me. The company is the last big media owner in, or should I say from, Finland. They own the biggest newspaper and one terrestrial TV channel. I am usually the first to talk for keeping some media ownership in country because in recent years we have lost almost all of it but this concentration of Finnish media ownership to a one company and at the end of it all to a one tycoon, Aatos Erkko, the richest man in the country with a fortune of €192 million, is not healthy.

The fact, that there seems to be very little interest in this is probably because radio generally is not seen as the most interesting thing by many people, regardless of how much they would listen to it, but also because of who decides the news. It all comes down to media gate keeping. I was really looking forward to hearing the new station that we were predicting to them and quite frankly I am not going to say much as one day I may apply a job with them, but two stations just make it look like the political end bent in front of the big bucks. And if he sells the company one day, which he is free to do, we will not have any commercial media owned by Finns.

The same company had earlier bought a local radio station, Radio Helsinki, and the speculation was that was their way to apply new licences as an old permit holder but now Radio Helsinki, the only real local station for the nation’s capital got a regional frequency and Metro FM, a rather nominal regional station was decreased into a local one.

Also Radio City, the oldest commercial station in country, lost their licence after twenty-odd years of broadcasting, together with Sävel Radio, which recently was bought by a big media corporation, which then was taken over by Bonnier, a Scandinavian media corporation, so I can imagine they are going to be upset. Rumours said that City, which I was lucky to get in my CV, would have lost their licence anyway as they have been broadcasting on another stations frequency (it’s a long story) but Sävel Radio was a surprise to me. Minister of Traffic and Communication Susanna Huovinen says that the audience that they served is better catered by local radio stations. To me that was another mad statement. Really – what local radio stations? At least in the capital area there is not really local radio to mention, especially for this music style, which is the one for more mature audiences, which covers most people in the country. There is another station that does, but it is not a local one and I feel that a competition would have been a good thing for these two.

It also is interesting that besides the lack of local stations in Helsinki, there is still not a single Urban station in a country. Maybe I join the race for the next round in six years.

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