On Tuesday 9 May, parliament started the debate on the future of press subsidies. PM Xavier Bettel has reassured that subsidies would not be reduced, but adapted and reformed.
By 2021, these subsidies would amount to €38 million per year. This includes the recently agreed subsidies with CLT-UFA and RTL.
“In order to guarantee media independence and pluralism, the state must intervene," he said.
Currently, 10 print outlets get €7.4 million a year, of which Editpress gets 50%, and the Saint-Paul Group receives 25%. Editpress owns Tageblatt, Le Quotidien and Revue. The current new budget for online reporting foresees a total of €450,000 for websites.
The head of the DP parliamentary group, Eugène Berger, has criticised that a quarter of the total budget for the media is destined to go to one company alone, namely RTL. After all, this company is making significant earnings and its priorities are its economic interests (even though RTL has signed a public service mission agreement with the government--one of the reasons it receives such high subsidies).
Berger regretted that this debate is only taking place after the contract is signed.
Difficult selection criteria
Because press state aid is not supposed to constitute meddling or influencing in the work of the media, establishing the right criteria for the allocation of the subsidies is crucial. Here the MPs were rather vague on concrete proposals.
Yves Cruchten from the LSAP cautiously suggested that studies should be undertaken to “measure the impact if subsidies were changed”.
Diane Adehm (CSV) proposed a common legal basis for all media outlets. Some criteria could be the themes covered, the periodicity of a publication, the proportion of advertisements or language criteria.
The ADR has distanced itself from the current model, arguing that it did not encourage a pluralism of opinions.
However, the debate is only starting (it will continue in parliamentary committees) and further concrete proposals were not made. Whether quality or quantity (or how they will be measured) will be part of the criteria has not been discussed.
Support for regional media
Regional media outlets will get new support, announced the PM. By the end of the year, the TV channel Nordliicht TV and Ara Radio should sign a new agreement with the state on subsidies.
Claude Adam from the Greens, as well as other MPs from the LSAP and Déi Lénk, advocate the creation of a public service TV channel, but the prime minister has opposed it on the grounds of it being too onerous.
Several MPs debated the issue of fake news and all agreed that action must be taken. Bettel announced a national strategy to educate young people and adults about fake news and an action programme for media education.