Should govements prop up the media?
The media are facing a paradox amid the corona crisis: although more and more people are using them to stay up to date on the pandemic, media companies are suffering massive losses due to cancelled advertising. A number of governments are planning bailout programmes. But commentators are not convinced that this will be enough.
Palliative measures for the press
The Portuguese government is trying to counter the media crisis by bringing forward purchases of advertising to the tune of 15 million euros. Jornal Económico doubts this will achieve anything:
“What good is institutional advertising in newspapers that don't sell at newsstands? It would be much more effective to bet on readers and offer them cheap subscriptions and more competitive prices. We have fallen back on the old parable of giving fish away instead of teaching people how to catch it. In the end the ones that suffer will be the journalist who has no work and the reader who doesn't have a strong press. ... Receiving money from the government is just a palliative measure for a death that has already been announced, in this case that of journalism itself.”
Hands off government money
The Romanian government has announced plans for a coronavirus information campaign that is to last until the end of August, as a way to prop up the media through advertising. Libertatea sees press freedom under threat:
“Our press will receive money to ensure its survival because the government of [Ludovic] Orban has approved an information campaign worth 200 million lei [around 40 million euros] that will run for the next four months. As a support measure for the press, whose advertising revenues have collapsed. In this situation it's hard to imagine that this press will still have the courage to criticise Orban or [President Klaus] Iohanni or any minister. ... Sooner or later the pandemic will be over, local and parliamentary elections will be held, and the press will not forget this help.”
We cannot allow our independence to be doubted
The government in Tallinn has decided to subsidise the delivery of newspapers in the corona crisis - attracting strong criticism from the far-right Minister of the Interior Mart Helme. A number of media companies are also demanding that the government buy advertising space to the tune of one million euros a month for the rest of the year. After the newspaper Postimees was accused of being too soft on the government, it is now distancing itself from the initiative:
“Postimees has not promised anything to Mart Helme or anyone else. But in view of the statements coming from him and a number of other people it seems we have made an important decision: Postimees is not part of the initiative by the media companies to secure special funding, but we are making use of the general state support measures. We do not want doubt cast on our journalistic independence. We do not want the money.”