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Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE: Might is not right - Treat all registered parties equally

Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE: Might is not right - Treat all registered parties equally
  
  

 

Why this is important

Democracy in Europe is sacred. It builds on the principle of fair and equal treatment and also equal rights to all, small and large. Yet in Finland irrespective of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, recommendations from 2011 to give equal treatment to parties in elections, the Finnish Broadcasting company YLE has just now chosen to, once again, break the Finnish law that stipulates that clearly it should do otherwise.

The seventh paragraph in the YLE broadcasting company Act, states “the programme function of the public service of YLE is especially to support democracy”. Equal treatment in equal situations is a hallmark of democracy. As it is now, the voters have no possibility of comparing the parliamentary parties in power and their goals to those of the challenging parties.

YLE, in the coming EU Parliamentary Election 2014, will, again, give domination of airtime to Parties that have seats in the Finnish parliament, but registered parties that do not yet have seat are left out in the cold with miniscule slots and no possibility to meet the established parties one-on-one. In doing so, national broadcaster YLE is giving out a message that it is OK to discriminate against the new ideas that are blossoming to replace the old and outdated ideas of "might is right" or "money talks". Well, it isn't!

If allowed to continue, this practise gives us, the voters in Finland, only a partial picture of what views there are on offer. State funded censorship is not right.

Grass-root movements stay just that,grass-root, if they are not given a chance to be heard. The Arab Spring would never have become the movement it is, had there not been media coverage to tell the eyes and ears of the world what is going on.

Please join me, my European friends of democracy and equal rights in sending a clear and sounding message to the YLE board that we as Europeans, can not and will not tolerate that the human rights of Finns are not respected in the political arena and on YLE tax-payer airtime!



BACKGROUND
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This is long, please bare with me :)

In 2011 ODIHR gave the following recommendation:
"In line with its public service mission and in the interest of on-going promotion of vigorous democracy, the YLE should further continue developing modalities of access in a fair and non- discriminatory manner for all political parties running in the elections, allowing sufficient time and opportunity also for smaller and new parties to present their views."

Source: P.16, Parliamentary elections, 17 April 2011,OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report

The publicity
The publicity governed by the the state is reserved to those registered parties which already have seats in the Parliament and it discriminates those parties, which are not yet represented in the Parliament.

According to the Finnish Parties Act associations and institutions of the state have to give equal opportunities to all political parties and treat them on similar grounds. This also concerns the Finnish broadcasting company (YLE), which is owned by the state. According to the second subsection of the tenth paragraph in the Parties Act the broadcasting company can take programmatic aspects into consideration while putting the first subsection into practise in its´ election programs.

In some previous elections YLE has interpreted the Parties Act in such a way that there has not been any legal need to include the parties outside of the Parliament in the same televised election debates with those parties, which already have seats in the Parliament. This interpretation has been accepted by the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice. By doing this they have abandoned a forty years long practice, which meant that all parties participating in the general election got the possibility of being compared by the voters and of demonstrating their goals and also to participate in the same election debate on TV arranged by the national broadcasting company YLE.

Taking programmatic aspects into consideration cannot mean that some of the registered parties participating in the election are completely excluded from a debate with the parties, which are now represented in the Parliament. Programmatic aspects could be taken into consideration by for instance allotting the debating parties into smaller groups which will take part in the debates at any one time.

Also YLE national broadcasting company runs five radio channels that are publicly funded. None of the channels reserve equal air time to the new parties either. And yet, they are also bound to do so under the Parties Act.

Furthermore the procedure is also in conflict with the seventh paragraph in the YLE broadcasting company Act, according to which “the programme function of the public service of YLE is especially to support democracy”. Equal treatment in equal situations is a hallmark of democracy. As it is now, the voters have no possibility of comparing the parliamentary parties in power and their goals to those of the challenging parties.

The procedure adopted by the national broadcasting company YLE, which discriminates new parties, is, we maintain, illegal, and a representation of structural corruption that has its roots in that the decision makers of the YLE are also the key politicians in the governing parties.

In close accordance to the YLE way of acting, the largest commercial television and radio broadcasters have adopted similar modus operandi: they also neglect to invite the challenging parties into their election debates. Yet they reserve several slots for the parties inside the parliament. So it can be seen that the way YLE behaves directly and indirectly enforces a systemic malice.

The Finnish press is also very centrally owned and run. The major dailies in Southern Finland neglect to cover the new parties. Where previously all the parties' billboards were displayed and analysed, now only the established parties get any real exposure in the major printed media. The small parties are either totally neglected or obscured to practical oblivion.

The obscuring of the new parties takes place in many other ways as well. The polls that YLE orders and that are made to order on a monthly basis always neglect to mention the new parties that stand outside of parliament (they are named merely “others”). In this way it is lead to believe, that only the parties already within parliament are the only relevant and real parties.

Funding
The parties within parliament receive a party allowance of 40 million Euros from the state budget. In a country of five million inhabitants that is a noticeable sum. Party allowance is paid pro rata according to the number of members of parliament a party has, in other words 200,000 Euros per MP. The parties outside of parliament receive no funding. Not even after tens of years have gone from their incorporation.

It has recently surfaced that a large number of entities receiving governmental funding (trusts, associations etc ) have funded with substantial amounts, alongside large corporations, the electoral work of primarily the three largest parliament parties over the last decades. The MPs of said parties have been governing and channeling these monies. Some parts of these fundings are even under police investigations and charges are being or have been pressed against the alleged culprits of these bribes.

Biases even in the past
Greco (the anti corruption commission) has previously recommended that Finland restructure its biased system of party funding, so that it would not be directed only towards the so called established parties. Yet, changes in the voting system now under parliamentary discussion will only further obstruct access to parliament for new political forces. In 2015 it is presumed that there will be a 3% country wide vote percentage requirement for a party to gain a single seat, even if they were to receive a crushing victory in one electorate region. Also alliances between parties will be prohibited.


In summary

When taking into account the party allowances in relation with the government owned and the privately owned media, we stand in a situation where practically all and any free of cost media is channeled to the sole benefit of the established parties, the governing parties, that is. In order for an election to be free in a true sense of the word and in order for the voters to have true choice between parties, the participating parties (who all are registered and have acquired 5000 electoral signatures for establishment) should be guaranteed a fair and equal means of bringing forward their proposals and their train of thought. None of the parties have one single vote before the election. Then why should some parties have first right to tax payer funded media publicity?

Together we can win YLE, please join me in signing this important petition!
Posted January 16, 2014
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