A bill on amendments to the Media Act proposes still greater financial support for private media companies than the media act bill introduced nearly one year ago. While the previous bill suggested eligible companies could receive a grant for up to 18% of their operating costs, the new bill suggests the grants could amount to up to 25% of those costs.
The bill defines a private media company as one “that is neither wholly, nor in part, owned by the state, municipalities, institutions, or companies in their ownership.” The financial help is intended to support news collection and dissemination and coverage of social issues. To be eligible for government support, a private media company must have at least three employees working full-time on creating and disseminating material. Local media companies (covering a specific region or neighbourhood, for example) must have at least one full-time staff member doing such work.
There are other requirements for a media company to be eligible for support through the initiative. The company must have submitted annual reports to the Media Committee and have paid its public fees in full. Its employees’ salaries and working conditions must be in accordance with collective agreements and laws.
The grants may be used toward direct wage costs of journalists, editors, assistant editors, cameramen, photographers, and proofreaders, as well as contractors in such positions.
As elsewhere in the world, Icelandic media companies are facing a challenging operational environment. One of the country’s largest papers, Morgunblaðið, laid off 15 employees late last year, following exponentially growing losses over the past three years. Icelandic journalists organised worker strikes last year when wage negotiations came to a standstill.