A bill mandating financial support of private media companies is no longer on Parliament’s agenda for this session, reportedly due to opposition from the Independence Party, Kjarninn reports. Debate on the bill, which was scheduled for yesterday, is no longer on Alþingi’s agenda.
Media bill majorly revised
The media bill proposes partially reimbursing editorial costs of private media companies. The bill’s initial draft proposed a 25% reimbursement scheme, similar to existing programs the Icelandic government has for music and film production in the country. The bill’s latest revision, released last Friday, has reduced that rate to 18%, a change that affects smaller media companies more than large ones.
The bill’s new version aims to max out government support of private media at ISK 400 million ($3.3m/€3m), capping maximum payouts to any single company at ISK 50 million ($410,000/€370,000). At least three media companies – Morgunblaðið publisher Árvakur, Fréttablaðið publisher Torg, and DV publisher Free Media would likely receive the maximum payout, provided they fulfilled the conditions set by the government. The bill stipulates additional support of media workers whose salaries fall into the lowest tax bracket.
Kjarninn’s sources say that opposition from the Independence Party, a member of the three-party governing coalition, is the reason behind Parliament’s shelving of the bill. Independence Party MPs have expressed strong opposition to the bill, despite it already being passed by the government and all governing parties. Brynjar Níelsson, one of the party’s MPs, described the proposed legislation as “stillborn.”
Media in tight spot
As elsewhere in the world, Icelandic media companies are facing a challenging operational environment. One of the country’s largest papers, Morgunblaðið, laid off fifteen employees last month, following exponentially growing losses over the past three years. Journalists’ collective agreements ran out at the beginning of the year, and negotiations are at a standstill, leading to several media worker strikes over the past few weeks.
Not enough to vote
The much-discussed media bill was one of three parliamentary issues submitted past deadline, and thus required a vote in the chamber in order to be added to parliament’s agenda. When the vote was scheduled to take place, there were not enough MPs in the house to carry it out.