Leijonborg calls for transformation of Swedish media

Government money should be available to fund quality television programmes, regardless of whether they are made by state-owned SVT or by private production companies, Lars Leijonborg has said.

The Liberal leader has called for wide ranging media reforms including the scrapping of press subsidies. He says changes are necessary to keep up with a changing media landscape.

An advertising-financed national radio channel with a news focus should be established, Leijonborg argued in an article in Dagens Nyheter on Tuesday.

Leijonborg, who is also education minister, said that the press subsidies, which usually go to regional newspapers, are “increasingly unreasonable”, with the media landscape changing:

“The big media owners – Bonniers, the state and Schibsted – are competing in certain sectors both with small national players and with large international conglomerates.

“From being a sector with few, large and well-established players, there is now room for large numbers of entrepreneurs. The state should make these developments easier, not limit them,”

The scrapping of press subsidies, which cost half a billion kronor a year, would finance the abolition of advertising tax, Leijonborg said.

But culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, a member of the Moderate Party, mounted a strong defence of press subsidies. Writing in the newspaper Journalisten, she said that the government views the hand-outs as “an important instrument for [ensuring] diversity on the media market].

Barbro Fischerström, head of press industry organization Tidningsutgivarna (TU), said that she was all in favour of abolishing advertising tax.

“The main reason is that it is such an unfair tax, as it affects such a small section of the advertising-funded media,” she said.

The media industry is divided over the issue of press subsidies, Fischerström added, saying that TU would therefore not take a stand on the issue.

Leijonborg also tackled the issue of the public service broadcasters. He said that television company SVT and Sveriges Radio should remain separate, and should be financed by a television licence fee “as long as this is practical.” Sveriges Radio should be subject to competition from a national ad-financed news station.

Adelsohn Liljeroth said that proposals for a new national radio franchise would be presented by the autumn.

“Until then, discussions are continuing within the Alliance. The process has started, but nothing is decided,” she said.