Research Papers

State Support for the Press - theory and practice


This article compares the subsidy schemes of the daily press notably in Austria, France, Norway, Sweden. In the four countries under study, financial subsidy schemes to daily newspapers seek to balance the objective of promoting economic competitiveness in the national media grid with the wider objective of securing plurality of titles and diversity of views. This article locates financial subsidies within a broader framework of press regulation, looks into the instruments of public press intervention in the four countries and critically examines the results to safeguard economic competition and press diversity. In contrast to the Anglo-Saxon minimalist approach to press regulation which rejects the interventionist approach to providing cash-injections to newspapers in need, the continental-style authorities in Austria, France, Norway and Sweden adhere to a public policy of granting subsidies to their press, according to which the democratic and political function, namely to guarantee that citizens have access to information, are accurately informed, and actively take part in the political process, is promoted. However, both public austerity programmes, increased commercial competition, shifting audience tastes of newspaper readers, and the inherent weaknesses of the current instruments have forced all four countries to rethink their subsidy schemes. This article argues that government policies that aim at engendering economic opportunity and prosperity of daily newspapers, editorial pluralism and diversity of opinion need to adequately and effectively respond to these pressures of changing market conditions which not only endanger the normal functioning of the press market but also a public service culture of newspapers.

List of Contents

Session 1: Introducing models of public press support

  • Models of public press regulation
  • Explanations for public press regulation
  • Defining press subsidies

Session 2: Experiences from current subsidy schemes

  • Direct and indirect press subsidies, with a focus on Austria, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom

Session 3: Surrounding settings of press subsidy schemes

  • Subsidies and changing markets
  • The politics of subsidy
  • Subsidies - guardian of diversity?
  • Subsidies and the economics of the press

Session 4: Conclusion

About the author

Paul Murschetz ( graduated from the Vienna School of Economics and Business Administration (commerce) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (media and communications). Paul is assistant head of PUBLIC VOICE Lab, Internet Service Provider for Culture and the Arts and research laboratory in new media and the Internet. He is PVL's current project leader for the EC-funded ESPRIT project TRIMEDIA, researching into convergence of television, radio, and on-line media. He has also lectured media studies at Salzburg University, Austria.

Publication details
Author: Paul Murschetz
Published: September 1999
Price: € 13
Contact address: PUBLIC VOICE Lab, Operngasse 24, A-1040 Vienna
Tel: +43 1 585 22 80
Fax: +43 1 585 22 80 99
The author's report is currently promoted by the International Press Institute.

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