Biggest Newspaper Monopolises the Market in Finland

The main national newspaper here, called Helsingin Sanomat or HS for short, dominates information with unsatisfactory results that flow over and weaken our economy. It has a virtual monopoly on national news – political, social, and cultural.

The owners and the journalists have enjoyed working for decades on a newspaper that has no real competition. There was one once – an extreme right-wing rag that was read avidly by like-minded people who had money or behaved like they did. It was so awful that it was shut down and now it lives on as a digital turd… It bears the unhappy name of “New Finland”!

This situation means that HS is alive and kicking in its own small bubble called Finland. The folk there tend to concentrate on a few original articles on national matters – political, social and business, and economic matters with a lot of translated “copy & paste” materials from the international media. Few Finns ever read foreign newspapers because subscriptions are expensive and not written in Finnish… 

For readers’ titillation, (no better word can be used), HS also covers self-help, physical exercises, crime, food, housing, obituaries and sport. They have a steal grip on advertising for cars, retail, finance, investment and culture in the widest (wildest) sense. They own many specialist monthly magazines that also feed the daily newspaper to make it a fat paper bundle almost every day of the year.

But many readers have noted that the quality and depth has suffered as it fights for a place in a declining market for serious newspapers. It has become a bit like the yellow pages so typical of Murdoch’s empire…

Social media, television and streaming media have replaced our former well-developed reading habits. Young people now glance at the news on their smart phones that induces a dumbing down and simplification of important matters that impact their lives. HS has followed this downward trend and embellishes its pages with big photos, self-help advice, and trashy articles of the worse kind. Much of it is journalism done on the cheap…

We are now fed with meaningless and worthless stories about ministers and senior civil servants who like to party, drink a glass or two, or otherwise behave badly. An election is coming and we are told stories about why we should vote for people who are “seen on TV”, as well-known entrepreneurs, sportsmen, announcers, singers or fashion models, as if this is a solid reason for voting for them.

Our politics have been downgraded to fast sound bits, with the more challenging topics being poorly summarised when they really require well-informed journalists to open up with care the complexity of these important subjects for readers. These topics include government finances, education, subsidies and benefits, healthcare, and care of the aged, trade, infrastructure and security. 

HS also feeds us stories about economic austerity from bank economists who have never accepted austerity for their elevated salaries. Bankers are asked for investment advice and about housing loans, the mainstay of bankers balance sheets. These are the people talk their own book without a shred of warning from this newspaper.

It is the same with the pensions and healthcare – we are fed a continuous series of articles where  the CEOs of the  big pension companies and the heads of big private healthcare companies spout on about the virtues of their bodies. There is no caveat emptor to be seen from this newspaper. 

… and if you want to buy a car, just read their articles that appear twice a week about the next wonderful car that costs €60 000 to €200 000. The newspaper fails to mention that their “journalists” get free trips to “inspect” these cars. In addition, HS fills its pages with whole page car adverts. Green reporting here is soundly forgotten, as is any critical article about the largest forestry companies, fossil fuel companies or about our massive retail cartel where two giants, Kesko and S-Group, have cornered the market with an 84% share! They are everywhere and pluck massive profits for their owners. They too advertise themselves in the same media! 

All of these relationships represent a comfortable symbiosis that is incredible but true in a country that prides itself on competition and free trade.

In past articles, FinnishNews has reported that Finland would get a gold medal for the maintenance of cartels and virtual monopolies, but as most economists know these models usually end up badly, something that we have seen over the past decades. Finland’s economic performance has been weak and productivity low and now we know one of the reasons. 

The theory for competition to work well says that consumers need the right to switch a service provider, but when there are none or very few in many parts of the economy, then is is best to assume that productivity is lower and costs higher for consumers! Paul Klemperer, one of the pioneers of such models, has argued that antitrust authorities should try to ensure that this situation should not exist where one or two big companies can monopolise their market.

Photos and graphics: Wikipedia

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