FinnishNews/NordicWeek works mainly on a Pro Bono basis. Many of the articles and columns that are published here are from experienced and mainly older people who are motivated to write without being paid because they believe that it is important to publish such stories. Some articles and columns come from foreign media companies and think tanks that are written by professional paid staff or by their pro bono members.
There has been no lack of interesting articles and we have seen increasing numbers of readers from around the world. The number of readers stretches out to near 300 000. There appears to be great interest in reading about the Nordics and in seeing our Nordic perspective on important events and topics. We cannot do more than what is possible based on our current resources, but after almost 4 years progress has been satisfactory.
However, it is a sad fact for democracy that the media around the world is being strangled by Google, Facebook and other giant tech companies that scrape articles from the media companies without payment while grabbing advertising revenues from the same media companies. The result is a spectacular fall in subscriptions and advertising revenues for the media companies.
In order to combat this loss of revenue the media companies have been forced to layoff staff and employ them again as freelance journalists at lower wages.
A recent survey in Finland of freelance journalists wages has revealed that the average annual wage is around €25,000. This figure is around 30% lower than the average annual wage in Finland of around €36,000. Even though freelance journalists have seen some improvement in recent years, many of them have noted that they are asked to write longer articles, or they are asked to write commercially orientated articles.
A free and independent media is an essential element of democracy and well-being. We are on a dangerous path if media companies are not able to employ a sufficient number of professional journalists because media companies have seen their revenues fall.
It is worrying to see how some nationalistic right-wing parties in some EU countries are trying to limit the free press. It is also of great concern that a number of press oligarchs in the UK and the US are using their media outlets to spread salacious news and lies to the population at large. The deliberate publishing of wrong information about Brexit by a number of national newspapers in the UK has reached new heights.
There appears to be very little difference between certain oligarchs and political leaders in the East and West.
What should we be doing when coming face-to-face with the big tech companies and with these oligarchs? Two lines of action are necessary:
- The EU must take action to limit the lobbying power of these people. It is imperative that all lobby should be limited and 100% transparent, which is far from what happens today.
- The EU must set standards for what can be published by the intake companies and by the major media companies. Non-compliance would mean hefty fines. If the Washington Post , the New York Times and many other serious bodies can verify each one of Trump’s claims, then they should be no problem for fact checking claims made by the big tech companies and the major media companies in the EU.
A truthful, free and independent press are an essential element of democracy and should not be devalued.