Should governments prop up the media?

The media are facing a paradoxical situation in the coronavirus 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 not all journalists are convinced by the plans.

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Le Temps (CH) /

Journalism is essential for society

Top priority must be given to ensuring the survival of the media, urges Dominique Diserens, general secretary of the Swiss journalists' association impressum, in Le Temps:

“The press must first be treated in the intensive care unit, so that it can later be rehabilitated. With this emergency aid there must be no redundancies. We must also not forget the freelance and independent journalists who are grappling with the coronavirus crisis. A specific fund would be welcome as part of the emergency response. ... The tourism and aviation sectors are receiving massive support from the state because of their importance for society. Why should it be any different for the media and journalism, which are essential to our democracy? We must come to their aid!”

Contrepoints (FR) /

No millions for billionaires

France's aid package for the media is a joke, Contrepoints scoffs:

“Thanks to this judicious state aid, we can finally guarantee that all newspapers that are in favour of this magic money will survive, while the others will just have to rely on their readers. ... This is the glory of France, dear readers, this moral rape in the name of a non-existent plurality of the press and the survival of journalistic wrecks owned by billionaires who are bailed out with public money. ... This rescue package of 483 million euros comes on top of the 840 million euros in direct and indirect annual aid. ... It would be a real shame to go without all that, dear readers.”

O Jornal Económico (PT) /

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.”

Libertatea (RO) /

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.”

Postimees (EE) /

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.”