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Pay-day for extreme-right paper puts subsidies under fire

Paul O'Mahony · 24 Apr 2010, 13:57

Published: 24 Apr 2010 13:57 GMT+02:00

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Opinion has been split on how best to handle state press subsidies ever since the Press Subsidies Council (Presstödsnämnden) agreed on Wednesday to award 2.3 million kronor ($321,000) in operational support to Nationell Idag ('National Today'), a weekly newspaper run by the extreme right-wing National Democrat party.

Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, herself formerly a delegate on the subsidies council, said a review was needed of guidelines prohibiting the council from taking a publication's political views into consideration.

"Even if this is about freedom of expression, that's not the same thing as using taxpayers' money to support this type of media," Adelsohn Liljeroth told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio.

But the minister's view was countered by Jan Strid, a media professor at Gothenburg University.

"What opinions should we pay for then? This is one small way of restricting the liberty of the press, which is under enough threat today as things stand. Either we change the press support system and get rid of it completely or we give it to everybody," he told Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.

Strid was also critical of Fokus magazine's editor-in-chief Martin Ahlquist, who "must have known" before stepping down from his post on the council in protest that existing regulations prevented the council from taking a political stand.

Madeleine Sjöstedt, the Liberal Party head of Stockholm's Culture and Sports Division, exhorted the culture minster to abolish Sweden's system of press subsidies.

"I call on culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth (Moderate) to go to the ministry and draft new legislation abolishing press subsidies, rather than distancing herself from those whose job it is to put her decisions into practice," Sjöstedt said in a statement.

"Press subsidies should have ended a long time ago. They've served their purpose. It's almost ridiculously out of step with the times to believe, in our digitalized age, that citizens require a daily paper from each of the blocs in every town," she added.

The European Commission gave Sweden a rap on the knuckles last June for maintaining a system of press subsidies that "distorts competition", calling on the country to gradually cut back its support for large circulation metropolitan newspapers.

"The commission recognises the importance of media pluralism for the cultural, democratic and public debate in member states and the importance of newspapers in this context," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said at the time.

"However, running a newspaper is also a commercial activity and the commission has a duty to prevent undue distortions of competition and trade resulting from public subsidies," she added.

In its decision on Wednesday, the Press Subsidies Council ruled that Nationell Idag fulfilled the criteria necessary to qualify for operational press subsidies. For example, the council found that the newspaper publishes more than 1,500 copies, is primarily sold to subscribers, and publishes at least 1,000 column metres of editorial material per year.

Story continues below…

Nationell Idag was granted 699,583 kronor for August to December last year, as well as 1.679 million kronor for 2010.

The decision did not enjoy unanimous support, with one of the nine council representatives present calling for a further examination of whether Nationell Idag can be considered a "general newspaper that has the publication of regular general news as its primary function."

On its website the Press Subsidies Council explains that it is "a governmental organisation whose task is to safeguard the diversity of the daily newspaper market. It carries out its function by distributing the state's subsidy to the daily press."

The council disburses operational subsidies totalling 483 million kronor a year to around 80 newspapers.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

19:51 April 24, 2010 by Jan M
German neo-Nazis have long found sanctuary in Sweden. Why is this news? If it's shocking and Sweden doesn't want this sort of publicity it needs to do some spring cleaning.
21:27 April 24, 2010 by betakappa
Is there some place we as tax payers can see the different subsidies doled out by the govt.? Why to subsidize any paper? If it is worth reading, people will pay to buy it and advertise in it. If it can't operate profitably, it shouldn't be there.
01:07 April 25, 2010 by cbeynch
The story says the paper is "openly racist". When I go on its website I note quite the opposite. Maybe I'm missing something, but where in Nationaldemokraternas manifesto does it give a hint of "racism"? Help me out here. I'm curious about this party. But if I read it correctly they are actually pro-multiculturalism. What am I missing? Steer me to something specific they did or said that can be considered "racist"?
01:21 April 25, 2010 by Cornelius Hamelberg

Same thing here. Are we missing something? Perhaps our reading glasses? Anyway I had mine on when I read the news that Sweden received 102 280 new immigrants last year.

Just imagine if they could all vote for Fredrik Reinfeldt who is being so generous to them all! Needless to say, not many of them will be voting for the NDs when they become eligible to cast their precious ballots.

03:41 April 25, 2010 by inmylife
Haha communist papers like Proletären etc get this financial support as well. If a paper qualifies for this then I don't see why it shouldn't get this support. That goes for communist papers, nationalist and national socialist papers.
07:20 April 25, 2010 by Bostonexpat
@ cbeynch

I had the same issue but then went to their website/ Q&A section -first question- ND states that they are against integration, being Swedish is something that you're born into and the classic (I thought this one was almost funny) you are not Swedish just because you speak Swedish and dance around the maypole. I consider that at a minimum a hint of racist.

And to think I believed that I, as a foreigner, was living here the "right" way via speaking Swedish and fully delving into the community and Sweden:)...per ND, I'm not wanted here..

Despite NDs stance, I have to say if 1 newspaper gets a kr, then all papers need to get access to the pot of money
10:23 April 25, 2010 by Elton John
cbeynch: Are you joking? Where does it say in the manifesto that they are pro-multiculturalism? Search for "etniskt homogen nation" on nd.se...
12:24 April 25, 2010 by krrodman
In my opinion the government should not involve itself in promoting and/or censoring the news. Every newspaper should stand on its own merits.

That said, once the government gets involved , it have no choice but to support all legal news outlets. The fact that Nationell Idag is racist or offensive is irrelevant. It is legal and legitimate.

Do you really want the government deciding which newspapers deserve financial support? We all know how that will end. The newspapers that support the party in power will get the money. The newspapers that promote contrary views will get shut out. It is the sure road to government abuse and totalitarianism.
09:03 April 28, 2010 by stenhuggaren
followed Elton's advice -

Nationaldemokraterna har både visionen för ett fungerande samhälle, som bygger på ett etniskt homogent folkhem

Vi strävar efter att bygga etniskt homogena förskolor, vi har föreslagit separata skolor för svenskar och andra etniska grupper

but have no problem with criticising Israelis who they accuse of wanting the same thing - http://www.nationellidag.se/visa/default.asp?notisID=6839&q=etniskt+homogen&x=0

They are planning to open an "ethnic Swedish" pre-school in Södertälje next year - they won't be allowed of course and will no doubt, like Beynch above, blame the "hysterical" opposition on the "politically correct".
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