Stockholm 10 maj 2012
Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, Kulturminister
Invigningsanförande vid EBU:s radiokonferens Radio Assembly
Det talade ordet gäller.
Before I start, thank you (Mats and Cilla), for bringing up the shocking tragedy in Norway. Only two weeks ago, I had the honour to be a part of that mighty demonstration of solidarity in Oslo. 40 000 people united in support for the victims, in protest against evil. But I shall return to this.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends of Radio.
On behalf of the Swedish Government, I am both honoured and delighted to welcome you all to Stockholm.
Your meeting here is to discuss issues of great importance. Public service broadcasting, and in particular public service radio, plays a fundamental role in terms of freedom of expression, media diversity and democracy.
These issues deeply interest and affect us all. Not least myself. Not only as the Minister for Culture and the Media. Not only as a former journalist. But as an ordinary citizen - and a radio listener.
Despite lifelong partial deafness, I have always loved radio. Sveriges Radio - Radio Sweden - has been a daily and trusted companion. A theatre of words, and a window to the world.
You can close your eyes, and see.
So I think I speak for many Swedes, when I talk of the real affection and confidence we have for this service.
And public service broadcasting depends on public confidence.
I believe that it commands such confidence because the Swedish people feel they can rely on what they hear.
That the facts are correct. That the information is objective. That different participants are given a fair chance to have their say.
That they feel the programmes add to their understanding of changes in society, and changes in the wider world. That they provide real alternatives to flashy headlines, celebrities' private lives, or light entertainment.
The strong position public service broadcasting has in Sweden is extremely high, even by European standards. Eurobarometer 76, habits with media in the EU, reflects this.
No doubt representatives of Radio Sweden - who can be rightly proud of this - may mention this during the conference, but remember - we can be a quiet and modest lot..
Such confidence has been built up over a long period of time. Researchers such as Lennart Weibull report that public confidence is closely linked to how news and facts are valued. The contents of public service media mean they are seen as important social institutions.
Increased competition means public service broadcasters have to innovate and improve. This too increases public confidence still further.
Another reason for such levels of public confidence can be that Radio Sweden is present throughout the country. It has strong coverage of local issues. Listeners can also take part and influence programme content. These opportunities are growing thanks to social media and the internet.
This great confidence is then naturally reflected in the political sphere. Public service broadcasters enjoy strong support from all parties. There is a broad consensus in Sweden that broadcasters should have generous public funding - and that politicians should not interfere in programme content.
We politicians are proud too. Swedish media policy is clearly based on freedom of expression and freedom of the press - something that dates back in Swedish law to as early as 1766.
Of course boasting is something of a sin in Sweden. But if there is anything I could flag for politicians in other countries, then it is our strong defence of freedom of expression.
For there we cannot deny the troubling signs of a trend in quite the opposite direction. Not only worldwide, but even in Europe itself.
There have always been political forces that want to restrict freedom, limit openness and reduce tolerance.
So freedom cannot be taken for granted, even when we have it. Freedom needs to be constantly explained, upheld, defended - and won anew.
There is a battle of wills going on in the world. A battle between those who want more open and more tolerant societies, and those who see those wishes as a threat.
Between those who want to open the door, and those who wish to limit such freedom, and lock it shut. In the international arena, we must - and will - stand firm for people's freedom, for their right to express themselves, and for the right to share information. And we must, ladies and gentlemen, lead by example. As a journalist by training, and as a politician by conviction, I know the freedom of the journalist's mission must never be compromised.
Scrutiny by a free media reveals irregularities and prevents abuses of power.
So we have the Swedish principle of public access to documents held by Swedish authorities, and transparent decision-making processes. My most important duty as Minister for Culture and the Media is to protect the freedom of expression, the freedom of culture and the freedom of the press.
These freedoms have, sometimes, been threatened in our country. But thanks to brave and independent journalists and publishers, the freedom of expression has always prevailed.
As a matter of principle, we consider that the state should not control the content of free media. This applies to commercial and public service media alike. Public Service should, of course, have a clear mandate and assignment. But we should not - must not - interfere in the design of individual programmes. My Government has strengthened this independence. It is vital we have professional boards of governors, with members appointed on the basis of their expertise - not their politics.
Public service broadcasting even enjoys strong support from other media companies that compete with public service for viewers and listeners.
Once many called the very existence public service broadcasting into question. Now there is acceptance and appreciation. Critical voices are mainly about the remaining commercial funding of some television programmes.
To fully understand the conditions other actors operate in, I should underline that the conditions for public service broadcasters differ from those of commercial actors, who have to raise their own revenue.
The mandate to broadcast in service to the public means a great responsibility. Public service broadcasters are major players in the media market with good, stable, long-term funding. They neither have a commercial task, nor any assignment to compete with other media enterprises.
Given their strong position, they should therefore work to increase diversity and freedom of choice in the media market still further. And they should work in a way that leaves proper opportunities and space for other actors to operate and grow in the market.
As Minister for Media, I obviously have to see the whole picture.
My responsibility is to pursue a policy that strikes a balance between companies working under completely different conditions. I would like to see this perspective inform the debate on public value testing. Once again: we have no opinions on programme content, and nor should we. Media policy remains about protecting the freedom of expression and promoting diversity.
SR and SVT can and should broadcast whatever programmes they like. We protect their independence by making the broadcasters themselves responsible for deciding which services they will apply for approval. Let me now turn to looking ahead, ladies and gentlemen. Right now, we have an inquiry working on conditions that will apply to public service broadcasting from 2014 onwards. This is a major inquiry, with a broad remit. We want to protect, clarify and develop the mission conducted by SR, SVT and the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company, UR. To help adapt to new times, and a new media market.
One point of departure are the special responsibilities borne by the companies.
On the one hand, they must make sure that licence fee revenues are used in the best possible way. On the other hand, they must make sure that media companies who do not receive public funding also have good opportunities to start up, develop and grow. To guarantee quality, and a proper range of offerings in the media sector, strong and independent public service broadcasting is needed as a clear alternative to commercial actors.
I am convinced that the publicly financed media provided by SR, SVT and UR are good for diversity. They continue to have a vital role in culture and media policy. Another important principal in all services that we finance jointly is transparency. Citizens have a right to see what is going on. Broadcasters therefore must report on their operations openly. We must also have transparency about other financing and forms of cooperation with other actors.
The independent position we want for public service broadcasting is not just a matter of preventing politicians having detailed control over services or programme content.
True independence also relates to business interests and other organisations that might want to influence SVT programmes.
A high degree of autonomy and integrity does not just mean operating independently of the state. It also means independence from financial and other interests, from other powers in society.
As I stated in my introduction, ladies and gentlemen, public service broadcasting plays a great and vital role for democracy, media diversity and freedom of expression.
I believe in independent public service broadcasting, and the confidence - and affection - it inspires. Even in an age of so many new and different media, its support is stronger than ever.
A democracy promotes openness, tolerance and freedom. A simple Facebook post led to those 40,000 people I joined in Oslo.
But be it Oslo, or Cairo, or Tripoli, or Damascus, it is the independence of the media that is the cornerstone of a modern, functioning democracy.
This needs our committed support. It asks us to stand firm for open societies in Europe, and throughout the world.
I know this conference here in Stockholm can contribute to this.
So I welcome you to our beautiful capital city, and to learn a little more about Sweden.
But above all; I wish you every success in your talks and discussions, both now, and in the future.