The Icelandic parliament passed a bill yesterday that will provide financial support to independent media companies, Vísir reports. Through the legislation, the state will grant up to ISK 400 million ($3.3 million/€2.7 million) to privately-owned media companies, which can apply for up to 25% reimbursement of eligible expenses: salary costs and payments to contractors working on collecting and disseminating news.
Thirty-four MPs voted in favour of the bill, while 11 voted against it and 12 abstained. The bill was introduced by Culture Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir. All members of her party (the Progressive Party) voted in support of the bill, as did all Left-Green Movement MPs and all Social-Democratic Alliance MPs that were present for the vote. All MPs of the Centre Party voted against the bill as did one member of the Independence Party, former Justice Minister Sigríður Andersen, and one member of the People’s Party. Three members of the Independence Party and other members of the People’s Party abstained from the vote, as did all MPs in the Reform Party and Pirate Party.
The legislation is a temporary initiative: it provides grants to independent Icelandic media companies this year and next year. Parliament passed similar legislation last year to establish a fund to help independent media companies address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some journalists have argued that such funding is biased toward Iceland’s largest media companies at the expense of smaller, local media.
Iceland’s ranking fell in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, which stated that Iceland’s media system was becoming increasingly less viable. The index report pointed to lack of funding as the media system’s main problem.