Norway: Government presents Coronavirus aid package for media
The Norwegian government presented on May 12 a proposal for a media aid package to address the financial situation of the country’s media during the coronavirus crisis. The Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ) welcomed the package but warned that the initial amount of 300 million NOK (27 million euros) will not be enough to save the whole industry and maintain the media plurality in the country.
The package is estimated to cover up to 60 per cent of the financial loss suffered by the media industry due to the pandemic. It can be used by national media organisations which have a turnover drop of at least 20 per cent from 1 March until June 15 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Local and regional media will also receive support in the package if they report economic losses above 15 per cent.
The maximum amount each media could be granted is of 15 million NOK (around 1,4 million€) and it will be reduced when the media has made layoffs or if they were supported by other emergency packages.
The president of the Norwegian Union of Journalist (NJ), Hege Iren Frantzen, said the union is “satisfied that the government presents a special emergency package to the media”,a package that the union has been asking “for a long time now.”
“This is important money for the media houses struggling financially during the pandemic. At the same time, we fear that NOK 300 million is too little to maintain the media diversity, of which the Minister himself has emphasized the importance,” Hege Iren Frantzen added.
The package also includes VAT exemptions for digital media like professional journals, magazines/periodicals with news and analysis. This exemption will be permanent from July 1st and is estimated worth 25 million NOK annually.
For many weeks, the journalist union and media organisations asked for the state’s support. Initially, they asked for a total of NOK 1.3 billion NOK, over four times the proposed amount.
Despite falling far short of its initial proposed level of support, the NJ welcomed the government’s package saying that “it will help to keep journalists working and the public informed during the pandemic.” The plan will be submitted for consultation and the parliament will vote over it late June.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We welcome the fact that the government is starting to take support actions for the media. We call on the Norwegian government to do whatever it takes to protect the media, its plurality and journalists’ jobs and consult with the NJ on further support actions for journalists.”