Finland may be the happiest country in the world but one thing that many people do not feel happy about is the “Mighty Media Companies” here.
The media scene is like banking, construction, retail shops, dairy products, etc., – there are two family controlled companies, à la Murdoch.
We gasp for competition because these two pump out colourful stories so fast that they are guaranteed to attract your attention. Like Facebook and Google, they feed off clicks and advertising… the stream is never ending and always rather conflicted.
The biggest one specialises in pretending to be leftie in the eyes of neo-liberals, while also showing right-wing colours by demanding lower taxes and denouncing big government, except, of course, when they want the public sector to cover the losses.
This second media company concentrates on articles that tend to end up sounding like right-wing company-loving talk shows, with lots of men in pinstripe suits, white shirts and silk ties talking about the virtues of investing in stocks and buying SUVs and Teslas.
There is nothing wrong with their newspapers so long as you know what they are up to. In any case we don’t have any alternative because no other media company anywhere in the world covers Finland, Finnish politics and business here. We are just too small to be noticed.
Thus readers must translate most of the articles based on the writer’s reputation as seen from past articles. It can sometimes be quite hard to discern the meaning of an article. It is a bit like trying to solve that quantum problem of Schrödinger’s cat that can be in two states at the same time. It can be tricky to get the meaning right, especially when they appear to be sitting on the fence.
Let’s look at recent examples.
The Corona Pandemic is great news and this has been headline stuff for 12 months now. One day they are complaining about lock-downs that are coming and not yet in place, and then the following week they are complaining about the slow progress the government is making about imposing the lockdowns as infection rates rise. Then in the middle of the third week they start to complain that the government has no exit strategy even though infection rates are still rising!
Since both papers are owned and run by the bold and beautiful wealthy males, they have a problem with the present government that is run by a female Social Democrat Prime Minister. The problem in addition to the fact that she is a leftie (in their eyes), and a female, is that she is super intelligent and systematic. She can out-perform any male politician and most people agree that we have one of the best PM’s in modern history who has managed this pandemic very well. We have one of the lowest infection and death rates in Europe and our economy has performed relatively less worse than our peers. Since the papers cannot be seen to be too critical, the newspapers are busy posting nice photos of the opposition leaders and their photogenic colleagues.
A third problem is that you have to be sensitive to what they don’t write about unless they really have to, and then they try hard to turn the story into something about heroic attempts to change the course of history. Two of the best ones have been about the two big fossil fuel companies – Neste and Fortum. Both are on the stock exchange and both have the government as a strategic shareholder. Neste lives off fossil fuels and bio-fuels from “sustainably” farmed palm oil. Fortum relies on traditional coal and gas, plus an increasing share of renewables. The problem here is that Neste’s palm oil bio-fuels are anything but renewables. Huge plantations in Asia replace tropical forests and arable land… that can never be described as sustainable. Fortum purchased Uniper AG in Germany a few years ago – they were a huge fossil fuel spin-off from EON. Uniper was bigger than Fortum and the acquisition has proved to be an environmental and image disaster. In their rush to make money with fossil fuels in filthy places like Russia, Fortum forget to understand the meaning of CleanTech and Renewable Energy. Todays’ newspapers from the big boys have pictures of the new CEO at Fortum who is now “heroically taming the beast” by firing the “unmanageable” CEO and CFO of Uniper… Three years later the newspapers are implicitly admitting that this was not such a great deal, but they never admit that explicitly – they were just silent three years ago.
Graphic: HUS Helsinki