PM and minister for media Xavier Bettel, seen here addressing journalists and publishers in January 2018, says that supporting a diverse, pluralistic and independent media landscape over the long term is imperative for any democratic state.
Photo: Mike Zenari (archives)
The government on Wednesday approved a bill that will reform the way state aid is distributed to Luxembourg media houses.
Luxembourg’s archaic press aid law is set to undergo its most significant change since it was first introduced in 1976 under the DP-LSAP coalition government of Gaston Thorn. The law was originally designed to ensure “plurality” of the press in Luxembourg and has been amended several times, most recently in 2017 when new legislation allowed subsidies to be claimed for online media output.
But the new law significantly changes the way the state aid are calculated. Under the old rules, publishers received a proportion of the state aid package that was linked to the number of pages they printed. The new law will provide aid for editorial content and aid for innovation. Each publisher will receive an annual amount of €30,000 per full-time accredited professional journalist under contract. The innovation aid includes a flat-rate amount of €200,000.
“This is an investment in journalism through the promotion of journalists, which is a real paradigm shift,” said prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP), who is in charge of the communications and media portfolio. “Today, more than ever, the work of journalists is of crucial importance to combat the phenomena of misinformation and misinformation and feed critical debate.” Bettel acknowledged that with the media is currently facing economic, social and technological challenges. “Supporting a diverse, pluralistic and independent media landscape over the long term is imperative for any democratic state.”
The scheme also provides new aid for startups that are not yet eligible to benefit from the main scheme, and includes aid for “citizen media”, which the government says recognises “their function as media and social actors, complementary to other media.”
Quality not quantity
Mike Koedinger, CEO of Delano publisher Maison Moderne, said that the bill reflects the will to modernise Luxembourg announced by Bettel’s first government in 2013. “It will end online media discrimination and enable all media companies to evolve their offerings to better meet readers’ expectations. They look more closely at daily news on their mobile phones and take valuable time on weekends to read the print media, whether monthly or weekly. It is also a nice recognition for independent and quality journalism to take as a criterion the number of journalists employed rather than the number of articles produced. It is to promote quality instead of quantity.”
Crucially, eligibility criteria are extended beyond the three official languages of the country and monthly and free publications will also be eligible for aid under the new scheme. The government says the project also aims to promote transparency, training, media education and accessibility for people with disabilities.
“This project was developed in discussion with all stakeholders, all involved in exchanges with the minister of media since spring 2014,” Koedinger explained. “The professional information industry, essential to maintaining democracy, has been in crisis for at least a decade. This new legislation could come at a crucial time to prevent further daily and weekly newspaper closures.”