Media Landscapes

Sweden

Written by Lennart Weibull, Anna Maria J├Ânsson, Ingela Wadbring

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Sweden is situated in the north of Europe. It is the largest of the Nordic countries with 9 million inhabitants and an area about the same as Spain. The national language is Swedish. The country is socially and culturally homogenous, but is gradually changing because of immigration, mostly in metropolitan areas. Sweden is characterised by its strong welfare system. Sweden made a strong recovery from the economic recession of the 1990s , which increased unemployment. But the global economic crisis of 2008 has created serious problems for some of the basic industries.

Typical for Swedish politics are strong political parties and other organisations, like trade unions. There is a clear left-right dimension in political preferences of the Swedish electorate, but government politics is generally middle of the road. The social democrats have been the leading party since the 1930s, but it has gradually lost its political dominance. After the 2006 election a non-socialist government was formed.

The Swedish newspaper market has traditionally been strong. More than 75 percent of the adult population read a newspaper on an average day. There are about 150 printed papers in Sweden. Of those, however, about 60 are published only once or twice a week and have a low circulation. The newspaper market is characterised by five main features. First, newspapers are based locally or regionally; only two tabloid newspapers, one free daily and one business paper can be regarded as having a national readership. Secondly, almost 100 percent of the traditional morning newspapers are sold by subscription, with early morning home delivery. A third feature is that almost all social groups read newspapers. A fourth point is the state press subsidy system, which today plays a minor role for the newspaper structure in general. A final feature is the strong presence of free dailies.

The total audit circulation figures for 2008 of printed paid-for dailies published at least four days a week was about 3.3m, equivalent to roughly 460 copies per 1,000 inhabitants. Non-daily circulation amounts 3.7m. In addition, circulation of the free dailies was estimated at 1 m copies in 2008. Of the total advertising market, paid-for newspapers have about 27 percent and the free papers about 6 percent. Both circulation and advertising have gradually dropped in the last decade, mostly with paid-for newspapers.

The Swedish print newspaper market is traditionally divided into five main segments:

  • The metropolitan morning papers: dailies published in the three main cities Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. Includes Dagens Nyheter (339,000 copies in 2008) in Stockholm, Göteborgs-Posten (243,000) in Göteborg, and Sydsvenskan (124,000) in Malmö. These are quality papers published seven days a week. The group represents 23 percent of total newspaper circulation.

  • The metropolitan single copy sale papers: two tabloid dailies published in Stockholm, Aftonbladet (377,000 the biggest Swedish newspaper) and Expressen (303,000), including its local editions in Göteborg (GT) and Malmö (Kvällsposten), all publish seven days a week with a focus on entertainment, crime and sports. They also contain, however, debate on culture and opinion material. The group represents 15 percent of total newspaper circulation.

  • The regional and local papers: all other papers published at least three times a week, the biggest being Helsingborgs Dagblad, Helsingborg (76,000), Dalarnas Tidningar, Falun and Nerikes Allehanda, Örebro (both 62,000). Most papers in the group are published six days a week, and sold almost exclusively on subscription. They represent 37 percent of total newspaper circulation.

  • The low-frequent papers, comprising all general newspapers published once or twice a week, both local papers in the metropolitan areas and small regional papers, all of them with small circulation. The group represents 5 percent of the total newspaper circulation.

  • Free dailies form a group of their own, since their circulation is calculated differently from paid newspapers and based on distributed copies. The biggest paper is Metro (643,000), with editions in Stockholm six days a week (launched in 1995), Göteborg (1998), Malmö (1999) and nationwide (2004) five days a week, and the smallest is the local City Landskrona (4,000) five days a week. The group represents 20 per cent of the total newspaper circulation.


In addition there are metropolitan niche papers — eg the business daily Dagens Industri (112,000) and the small Christian daily Dagen (18,000). Almost all dailies are published on the Internet (see below).

The Swedish newspaper market has been relatively stable over the past three decades compared to many other countries. However, since the mid-1980s there has been a circulation decline for paid papers. In the first phase it was a decline mostly within the group of single-copy newspapers, but during the 1990s a gradual decline in circulation started for subscribed-to morning papers, especially among metropolitan papers. Also, the local newspapers, which for a long time were more successful in attracting readers, have begun loosing readership. In total the circulation loss of subscribed-to morning papers in the last decade has been 9 percent, 17 percent for single-copy papers. However, the expansion of free dailies has compensated for the decline to a large extent.

The total revenue of the newspaper market in 2008 was about 19.5 billion SEK (approx. 1.9 billion euro). The metropolitan morning papers took a share of around one third. Regional and local papers, with almost about half of the total revenues, are the two dominating groups. The relatively higher shares of those two groups are explained by their high share of advertising revenues: they draw between 55 and 60 percent of their income from advertising, in comparison with about 25 percent of the single-copy sale tabloids.

The Swedish newspaper industry of the late 1990s was a generally profitable business. The net margin increased in the late 1990s after a period of decline due to a period of economic recession. In the early 21st century, it is still increasing — to about 10 percent in 2007 — mainly because of the expanding advertising market. The economic crisis of 2008 and ’09 probably means a strong decline because of the loss of advertising. Newspapers’ share of media advertising volume has gradually declined among paid-for newspapers—from 35 percent in 2000 to the 27 percent in 2008 — but it is high by international standards. The main competitors here are not so much other media but direct mail and, to some extent, the Internet. The expansion of the total advertising market during the same period meant that the newspaper industry kept its economic volume, even as its share of the volume decreased.

Local newspapers have applied different strategies to cope with this development. One important measure has been to develop their editorial content, especially by including more of what can be called instrumental contents such as consumer pages as well as more news on entertainment and music. Further, all papers have launched Internet versions, especially developing so called user-generated content. Another measure has been to change the size of the paper from broadsheet to tabloid. The format developed gradually in the local press, but in 2004 it became very visible. All main metropolitan papers changed to tabloid size. Finally, and most economically important, are mergers of local newspaper companies and the expansion of the main newspaper conglomerates by further newspaper purchases.

The dominating actor on the newspaper market is the Bonnier Group (among others Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Sydsvenskan, Dagens Industri and the free daily City), with more than a quarter of the total newspaper circulation and revenue of 5.7bn SEK ( in 2008). Second biggest is the Stampen Group (Göteborgs-Posten and a lot of local papers) with revenue of 5.1bn SEK. Third is the Swedish branch of the Norwegian Schibsted Group (3 bn). A typical feature of the Swedish newspaper market is regionally based chains, eg the Ander Group in Karlstad and the Herenco Group in Jönköping, both significantly smaller than the big three. The Bonnier Group also owns several newspapers abroad, mostly in the Baltic area, including Poland. Also the MTG, owner of Metro, has exported the Metro concept to most continents.

The total market of other periodical publications in Sweden is estimated at more than 400. However, the general popular magazines are few and have, like in most other countries, a declining circulation. In 2007 annual sales totalled a little more than 170m copies of weekly and monthly magazines. The decline has mainly affected family and women’s magazines, whereas the lower-priced products, mainly gossip magazines, have managed to keep their circulation. Specialised magazines — devoted to food, sports, home furnishing, computers, history, science — have developed since 1980s. In total, however, Swedes’ exposure to magazines has decreased during the last decade. Sweden never had any strong political magazines, probably because of its strong daily press with extensive political coverage. The main publishers, such as the Bonnier (mostly specialised magazines) and the Aller Group (mostly popular magazines), have kept their strong position on the magazine market. The magazine market is generally characterised by a large degree of concentration.

The organisational press, ie magazines published by associations and businesses, plays an important role in Sweden. Many of these publications have developed into specialised magazines. The biggest are both magazines about food, Buffet (2m copies) and Coop Mersmak (1m copies) published as customer magazines by two main shop chains in Sweden. In the latest decades papers published by trade unions for their members with a monthly circulation of roughly 4m copies, have modernised their journalistic form.

Although a small language market, Sweden has traditionally had a strong book market, which in the early 21st century has been significantly expanding. About 20,000 books are published annually. About 80 percent, are non-fiction with a generally small average circulation in comparison with fiction or children’s and youth literature. Of the total number of books about 15 percent are translations from foreign languages, with translations from English comprising about two thirds. There are two important factors affecting the book market and contributing to its expansion. The first was the reduction in VAT for cultural products, including books. The second is the introduction of new selling points for pocket books, for example in grocery stores. Pocket book sales doubled between 1998 and 2005, having a positive effect on the purchase of fiction books. Statistics also show an increase in regular book reading; in 2008 about 40 percent of Swedes read a book at least once a week. Also audio books have expanded; the percentage of listeners at least once a week is about 5.

The dominating Swedish book publisher is Bonnier, which owns a number of book publishing companies, including both fiction and non-fiction publishers. The second biggest is KF, which is owned by the Swedish co-operative movement.

Radio in Sweden was established in 1925 as a private company, owned, among others, by the newspaper industry. Strong public control granted a broadcasting monopoly. Advertising was banned from radio from the start. Nonprofit organisations were given the right to develop so-called neighbourhood radio, later community radio, in 1978 outside the public service system. In 1993 private local radio was introduced on commercial basis. Experiments with digital radio have been carried out since the late 1990s, but no decisions on future actions have been taken.

In 2008 radio reached 74 percent of all Swedes an average day. Average listening time was about 115 minutes. The time spent on radio listening has gradually dropped in recent years, probably because of the expansion of mp3 players, which in 2008 had a daily reach of almost 20 percent, but also because of the Internet.

In the radio market the public service company Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio) is the dominant actor. It has close to 60 percent of the radio audience market. It offers three national channels, P1 (news, culture and public affairs), P2 (classical music), P3 (youth) and one regional channel, P4, which offers news and current affairs programming in 25 regions. P4 also contains some national programming including news and sports. It is targeted at an age group of 40 plus and is the individual Swedish radio channel with the highest ratings (about 35 percent in 2008).

Formally private radio only consists of local stations, 89 total in 2008. Originally private radio frequencies were sold by auction at fairly high prices, but a 2001 regulation presupposes a negotiation process. Since the introduction of commercial radio, four Swedish networks with national ambitions developed, but later merged into two: MTG Radio and SBS Radio. MTG Radio has 46 station and its main stations are RIX FM, Lugna favoriter and NRJ. SBS Radio has 40 stations with Mix Megapol and The Voice as the most important. These main networks extend national programming to local stations. The network with highest reach is Rix FM broadcast in over 40 of the MTG stations. Originally private radio targeted younger listeners aged below 30, but have gradually tried to reach older age groups. The private radio market has from its start been under economic pressure. Stations have not attracted as large an audience as expected and their percentage of the media advertising has been only 2 percent (as of 2008), less than the half of the European average. Most stations have been making substantial losses, with the exception of a few stations with a strong local profile.

Community radio transmissions normally have a radius of only 10 kilometres. The right to broadcast is only open to non-for-profit associations and the fee for using the frequencies is low. Since the early 21st century they are also permitted to broadcast advertising. In 2009 about 900 associations had the right to broadcast community radio, a clear drop from a decade ago. There are also substantial differences between community radio stations. Some are almost as commercial as private local radio, whereas others are more idealistic, eg immigrant stations broadcasting in their own language.

Swedish television initially developed as a public service monopoly. In 1969 a second channel was added including so-called windows with regional news. Commercial competition increased when cable networks began to distribute satellite channels. In 1987 the first Swedish satellite channel, TV3, began broadcasting from United Kingdom. In 1992 public service radio and television was divided into two companies, one for radio and one for television. Further, there is one public service company for production of educational programmes. The same year a commercial terrestrial TV channel, TV4, was permitted.

About 85 percent of all Swedes watch television daily. Viewing time among watchers is about 110 minutes. The figures are relatively stable in the last decade. In a European comparison the time spent watching television is low in Sweden.

Public service television is organised by Sveriges Television (SVT; Swedish Television). It has traditionally been the main actor in the television area. It had a monopoly on terrestrial television until 1992. It broadcast in three channels: SVT1, SVT2 and SVT24. SVT1 is the more popular and broader channel, whereas SVT2 is profiled as more specialised. Moreover, the SVT24 is a 24-hour news and current affairs channel. SVT distributes one children’s channel and one channel focused on educational programs and documentaries. The television market share for SVT1 and SVT2 was in 2008 about 30 percent. It is almost 10 percentage units less than it was in 2005. Other SVT channels together have around 3 percent.

Privately owned television channels financed by advertising were introduced in Sweden in the second half on the 1980s, mainly as a spinoff from liberal cable legislation enacted in 1986. Since cable penetration was high it offered a market for satellite channels. In 1987 TV3 started its transmissions and after some years the Nordic Channel, later Kanal 5 (Channel 5), both transmitting from abroad, and TV4. After the tender based on the decision in 1991 to permit a Swedish terrestrial TV channel based on advertising TV4 was given a licence and moved from satellite to terrestrial transmissions.

In 2007 digital terrestrial television was fully introduced, making Sweden one of the pioneers of the new technology. However, access to television is mainly though cable (47 percent), whereas terrestrial (36) and satellite (20) distribution cover most of the rest.

Today the main commercial broadcaster is TV4 (20 percent of the TV market in 2008), competing with five Swedish satellite channels, the biggest of which are TV3 (9) and Kanal 5 (8) and the smaller TV6 (5) and TV8 (1). Of those, TV4 and TV6 are so-called free channels, which together with the public service channels are available at no cost in the terrestrial net.

TV4 holds the licence for terrestrial commercial television until the year 2014. Only news and some public affairs programming are produced within TV4. It has 16 local windows, broadcasting about one hour each weekday. TV4 has expanded by offering movie, lifestyle and sports channels. The TV4 family today consists of six channels, covering in 2008 a little more than 25 percent of the Swedish television market. It is owned mainly by the Swedish media conglomerate Bonnier AB.

TV3 was originally intended as an all-Scandinavian channel but in 1990 was divided into three separate channels with national profiles. The Swedish TV3 is dominated by entertainment programming originating in the US. It is owned by the Modern Times Group (MTG) as part of its satellite platform Viasat Broadcasting. MTG later launched other satellite channels: ZTV as a Swedish youth channel with a concept similar to MTV, TV6 as an adventure channel, TV8 with economic news, and a sports channel.

Kanal 5 was launched by a Swedish industrialist in 1989, but later bought by the Scandinavian Broadcasting System (SBS), which in 2007 was bought by the German ProSieben Group. The channel broadcasts mainly US entertainment but has tried to include also Swedish talk shows. It has also launched a second channel, Kanal 9.

Of course, many non-Swedish satellite channels can be received in Sweden. Of the foreign channels, however, only Discovery and MTV in 2008 had more than 1 percent of the television market.

Until 2005 digital television was dominated by the private satellite platforms with a penetration of about 45 percent of the Swedish households. The two leading actors are Canal Digital, owned by the Norwegian Telenor, and Viasat, owned by MTG. Cable has gradually been digitalised. The main cable actors have been Com Hem and UPC, which merged in 2006. Canal Digital is also an actor in the cable market. In the digital terrestrial market the main actor is Boxer, which has the state as its majority owner.

Since commercial television was introduced in Sweden in the beginning of the 1990’s, the advertising market grew. In 2008 television have a share of about 15 percent. The economic recession has meant a decrease in advertising incomes for all channels, but so far less than expected.

Like in most Western countries traditional cinema theatres lost part of their attraction with the advent of television. In early 1960s the average Swede visited the movies more than five times a year. In the early 1970s it was down to three and in 2008 it was 1.6. However, since the early 1990s the average number of admissions per year has been quite steady, around 16.1m. The number of cinemas has also declined, but has been compensated by an increase of cinemas with more than one screen. In 2008 there were 514 cinema theatres in Sweden and 848 screens, together offering around 166,000 seats. The dominating actor in commercial cinema is SF Bio, owned by the media conglomerate Bonnier AB.

About 250 films are distributed annually in Sweden. Of those a little more than 10 percent are of Swedish origin. The dominating film supplier is United States with more than 50 percent of all new films shown in cinema theatres. However, Swedish films are more popular with viewers and account for more than 20 percent of the audience of new films. The relation has been stable over recent decades.

About 35 films are produced annually in Sweden. Most films have a production guarantee mainly from semi-public funding. In 2008 it was about 340 million Swedish crowns (34m euro). The amount is based in an agreement between the Swedish government and the cinema industry, to which the government contributes with about half. The industry adds the rest, mainly from a 10 percent tax on cinema tickets. There also are contributions from the television industry. The system is administered by the Svenska Filminstitutet (SFI; The Swedish Film Institute), a foundation set up by the government and the film industry. Further, there is a special public support for quality film (120m in 2009), which is also handled by the SFI.

Film distribution in Sweden is dominated by Svensk Filmindustri, a subsidiary of Bonnier AB, Nordisk Film, belonging to the Egmont Group, the Versteegh Group and Sony. They supply not only cinema theatres, but the total video and DVD market. The DVD market is dramatically increasing in importance with about 4,500 outlets for purchase or rent of video/DVD handling more than 35m units in 2008, an increase from 1.3m 2000. The share of purchase reached 94 percent in 2008.

The Swedish telecommunication area was one of the first in Europe to be deregulated. The Swedish Telecommunication Agency was active in cable television and had conducted experiments with local information networks, often in close co-operation with the Swedish technological industry like Ericsson. Therefore, it was no surprise that deregulation opened up rapid growth in all sorts of communication services supplied by private actor, including the partly privatised telecommunication agency called Telia, which later merged with its Finnish counterpart Sonera to become Telia-Sonera.

In Sweden mobile phone penetration is about 95 percent (as of 2008), about the same percentage as fixed telephony. In terms of telephone traffic fixed telephony is used more often than mobile, but use is continuously declining and is expected to be exceeded by mobile phone traffic in 2010. SMS traffic is especially increasing: in first half of 2008 the average mobile phone user sent 60 SMS messages a month, compared with 20 in 2005. The dominating actor in mobile area is Telia Sonera with 43 percent of the 4.5m subscriptions and pre-paid cards in 2008, followed by Tele2, a subsidiary of the media conglomerate MTG, with 30 percent and Telenor Sweden, the former Norwegian telecommunication agency, with 17 percent.

Internet services have expanded dramatically since the late 1990s. As of 2008 more than 80 percent of Swedes live in household with Internet access. About 75 percent have broadband access (about 3.3 m), which has led to increased Internet use. Also mobile broadband shows a strong growth after 2007. It increased half a million new subscribers between 2007 and 2008. Also here Telia Sonera is the strongest actor with 40 percent of all Internet subscriptions, followed by the cable operator Com Hem (15 percent) and the B2 Bredband.

The telecommunication market is supervised by Post- och Telestyrelsen (PTS; The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency), which monitors the electronic communications as well as the postal sector in Sweden, including telephony, the Internet and radio. It also produces annually updated market statistics.

Many newspapers started web versions in the mid-90s or soon after. In the early 21st century almost all Swedish newspapers have digital versions, trying to find a format completing the print version, eg news updates or special services. The most popular online medium by far is Aftonbladet.se founded by the newspaper with the same name in 1995 with almost 4.2 million unique visitors per week for a national reach of 35 percent. The visitors of the web versions of the five big metropolitan mornings amount to 3m. In most regions local papers are the dominating online service of local news. However, in all areas Aftonbladet.se is the dominating Internet paper for national and international news.

In terms of readership competition it is evident that the single-copy print newspapers gradually have been replaced by the ’Net versions. In 2008 the leading single-copy papers, Aftonbladet and Expressen, had significantly more Internet than print readers, the only exception being among Swedes aged 65 and older. Thus, the decline in print circulation has been compensated by the online reading. For subscribed-to morning papers the situation is different. The print versions are totally dominating, but there is gradual increase in Internet reading, which is higher than the decline in print circulation. Further, morning papers have developed news services for mobile phone reception, but so far the subscription rate is so far fairly low (2 percent daily use in 2008).

The reach of the two main television websites, SVT.se and TV4.se, is significantly lower than that of the national papers. However, the use of web television has increased significantly and doubled only between 2008 and 2009 (in the last quarter of 2008 almost 4m Swedes watched web television. Paradoxically, part of the increase has been influenced by an expansion of video news in Internet newspapers. However, the dominating source of web television is still Youtube. Also in social media the US sites, like Facebook, dominate, even though there are a number of Swedish sites, often owned by newspapers.

Sveriges Radio began podcasting in 2005. Today there are almost 1,000 channels available. So far the use of them is relatively low but growing.

There have been initiatives to develop online media with no counterpart in print or broadcasting. So far all have failed. One obvious reason has been the problem of attracting advertising to the Internet media. It also means that most papers still lose money on online services. However, the online service has been regarded as important as a complement to print or broadcasting and an investment in knowledge for the future.

Sweden has since the 1990s been characterised by a strong interest in digital media. This has been demonstrated by high Internet penetration and early household investments in broadband. The digital field has also been a place for young entrepreneurs, often with a critical look at established institutions. It is typical that Swedes were behind the alternative phone system Skype (2003), as well as Pirate Bay (2003). But also sites internationally renowned for legal downloading of music (Spotify, 2006) and of film (Voddler, 2009) are Swedish. The freedom of the Internet has sparked intense debate, not least concerning the role of Pirate Bay in violating copyright rule. One consequence was the start of Piratpartiet (The Pirate Party, 2006), a political party which ran in the 2009 EU election and received 7 percent of the votes and thereby a seat in the European Parliament.

Sweden has one national news agency, Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT), founded in 1921 by a merger of two competing agencies. It was organised as co-operative agency owned by the Swedish newspapers to handle domestic and foreign news. After a period of economic problems in the ‘90s TT was reorganised. Its co-operative ownership model was replaced with a company formed by the three biggest newspaper groups—Bonniers, Schibsted and Stampen.

TT during the last decade developed its services and introduced new areas. Through its subsidiary TT-Spectra, originally an independent news agency for the social democratic press, it offers readymade newspaper pages, including features about travel, health and motor. It also produces news for radio, television, Internet and mobile devices. The main telephoto service is offered by Scanpix, a Nordic company originally owned by the two media conglomerates Bonnier and Schibsted Groups but since 2007 only by TT. TT has also the biggest Swedish news archive.

There are also some minor agencies, mainly specialized in feature material on economic and cultural affairs.

The Swedish media world is characterised by a small number of powerful organisations. Tidningsutgivarna (TU; The Association of Newspaper Publishers) is an interest group of which almost all Swedish newspapers, news agencies, printing houses and the like are a part. TU is considered one of the most central media organisations in Sweden and has the ambition of becoming an organisation for all media, not only for the press. Today there is no comparable association for the radio and television industry. The small organisation of magazine publishers (Sveriges Tidskrifter) is also considered fairly strong.

Also Svenska Journalistförbundet (SJF; The Union of Swedish Journalists) has about 18,000 members and is considered to be very strong. The level of organisation of Swedish journalists is almost 100 percent and the SJF is the only professional organisation organising journalists. It is also responsible for labour negotiations. Another trade union of importance is Grafiska fackförbundet Mediefacket, organising employees in the graphic industry and in advertising, with about 20,000 members. White collar workers in media administration and economy are mainly organised in Unionen or Handelsanställdas förbund (HTF).

A third organisation, Publicistklubben (PK; The Publicists' Club), is an organisation of publishers and journalists, interested in the ethical conduct of Swedish mass media. Together with the TU and the SJF it formed the Swedish accountability when it arranged the first Press Council.

The development of private television in Sweden was followed by the establishment of a number of new production companies. Originally their productions were aimed at commercial television channels, but gradually public service television became an important customer, not least because of a political decision that the share of externally produced programmes should be increased.

There are three main production companies. The biggest is Strix Television, part of the MTG Group, Zodiak and Metronome, owned by the Schibsted Group. There is a certain specialisation between them. For example Zodiak the leading company in export of formats and programme rights and has customers in 60 countries. The export formats concern mainly entertainment. The most well-known Swedish format is Expedition: Robinson.

Media legislation is based on a strong tradition of press freedom. It is all regulated in a basic law dating to 1766. Freedom is granted for the content of radio and television by a parallel basic law, the Freedom of Expression Act. Additional laws regulate organisational and technical conditions. Internet is generally treated like the press, meaning there are legal freedoms to establish sites and no restriction on contents. The basic laws on press freedom also grant citizens’ access to public documents.

Press freedom means the right to publish and inform with few restrictions. In terms of active state policy, state subsidies have given to economically weak newspapers since the early 1970s. Around 80 daily papers currently receive an operational subsidy (in 2009 about 435 million SEK). The main aim of the subsidies is to support weak papers in competitive markets. The subsidy system at first created intense controversy, but criticism gradually decreased. Today state subsidies represent about 3 percent of the total revenue of the Swedish press, but are important for individual papers. Subsidies are based on general rules and are not subject to political decisions in individual cases. There are also some indirect benefits for all newspapers, eg reduced VAT (6 percent instead of the general one of 25 percent) and a general distribution subsidy. In 2008 a discussion started in the EU about the Swedish press subsidies, but still there has been no decision to change them.

The general principles of broadcasting are presented in the Freedom of Expression Act. Details are explained in the Radio and Television Act. There is a licence for terrestrial broadcasting of television and for public service radio. It is issued by the government on the basis of a contractual agreement, normally for a period of five years. For the contractual period certain specifications are presented, concerning, for example, news organisation, children's programming and amount of Swedish productions, but also terms of fairness and bias. Licence fees are decided by Parliament finances public service; for 2009 it is about 2000 SEK (200 euro). Changing to a tax has been discussed but so far there is no concrete proposal. The licences for private radio stations, normally for 10 years, were originally given away after a public auction. They are nowadays granted by the Radio and Television Authority (Radio- och TV-verket) and based on an agreement concerning the volume of local programming. There is no other requirement of the content.

The Swedish accountability system has a long tradition. The first rules, decided by the so-called Publicists’ Club (PK), — an organisation of people working in the newspaper trade, later also other media, both editors, journalists and writers — in 1900 concerned fairness in publishing. Gradually the rules were extended, especially in the 1950s and ’60s, when a Press Ombudsman (PO) was established by the press organisations. In 1968 the Association of Swedish Journalists (SJF) decided on a professional code of conduct. The Press Council was established in 1916, originally as a ‘Court of Honour’ for editors and journalists.

Today three sets of rules form the basis of the media accountability system in Sweden:

  • The publicity rules (the rules of good journalistic practice): these rules regulate the fairness of reporting, respect of privacy, the rights of interviewees, the right to reply, the treatment of pictures and so forth. These rules are the oldest part of the code of conduct.
  • The rules of professional journalism: these rules deal chiefly with the journalist's professional conduct and concern the integrity of journalists, humiliating assignments, acquisition of material, relations with news sources and so forth. These rules are the code of conduct of the SJF.
  • The guidelines of editorial advertising: these cover the relationship between advertising and editorial content. They state that news should be judged by news value, not by advertising value. Advertising must not look like editorial pages. These rules were initiated by the The Association of Newspaper Publishers (TU) in 1970.

All the rules are voluntary, initiated by independent organisations, in order to prevent legislation. The rules of good journalistic practice, which are regarded as the most central, are supervised by the Press Council and the Press Ombudsman; the rules of professional journalism by a special committee appointed by the board of SJF. There is also a special council for co-operation in the field of media accountability.

Since 2005 the rules of editorial advertising have no supervising body, because TU withdrew its support, claiming that the rules were too strict, and are mainly regarded as guidelines for the responsible editors. Further, both the leading newspapers and the national TV-channels have their own Ombudsmen handling complaints from the public.

In the area of radio and television media accountability is a responsibility of the government organisation Granskningsnämnden för radio och tv (The Swedish Broadcasting Commission, see below).

Swedish media policy is a matter of government and is handled by the ministry of culture. There are at least four important government agencies supervising the media field.

Regulation is a matter for the newspaper industry itself. The exception is the press subsidy system, where Presstödsnämnden (The Press Subsidies Council) is the governmental organisation tasked with safeguarding the diversity of the daily newspaper market. It carries out its function by distributing the state's subsidy to the daily press. Further, it presents an annual analysis of the economy of the newspaper industry.

In the area of radio and television there are two main agencies. Radio- och tv-verket (The Swedish Radio and TV Authority) a national authority for the media sector. It grants licences for radio, TV and Internet, gives information and monitors developments in the media field. It grants licences for private radio, including community radio and digital radio, as well as for terrestrial digital television. For cable and satellite television no licence is needed but sending companies have to register their activities. It is also possible to register Internet sites at the Radio and TV Authority for legal protection. The Authority does not handle public service radio and television issues.

All radio and television programmes, with the exception of satellite channels from abroad, are formally supervised by Granskningsnämnden för radio och TV (The Broadcasting Commission). It oversees radio and television broadcasts, both public service and private, and determines whether a broadcast complies with the provisions of the Radio and Television Act and the licences granted by the government. The Commission handles complaints from the public, mostly in television. It also publishes reports on programming activities in radio and television.
Svenska Filminstitutet (SFI; The Swedish Film Institute) is a foundation established by the Swedish state and the various professional bodies of the film industry. Its task is to support the production of new films, the distribution and screening of worthwhile films and to preserve and promote Sweden's film heritage. The task is defined in the Film Agreement, the Film Bill, and in the annual document of grant appropriations from the Ministry of Culture. The SFI has a government-appointed board.

Post- och telestyrelsen (PTS; The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency) is a government organisation that monitors electronic communications and postal sectors in Sweden. It covers telephony, the Internet and radio. The agency works with consumer and competition issues, efficient utilisation of resources and secure communications. PTS supervises telecom operators to ensure that competition is functioning, works with analyses of market trends and allocates the operators with number series. PTS also supervises Internet service providers and controls provisions concerning privacy protection.

The main principles of media legislation and ethical principles are applied also to Internet publications if they have a formally appointed responsible editor.

Three university departments - in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Sundsvall - by tradition dominate Swedish journalism education, including postgraduate studies, even though the character of the programmes varies somewhat. However, their dominance does not preclude the existence of other schools and institutions. The 1980s saw an increase of new journalism education institutions, not least as a consequence of the strong increase in the number of applicants to the traditional studies, reflecting the expansion of Swedish journalism.

Changes in the media industry and in journalistic trends have influenced the landscape of Swedish journalism education. In the 1980s and ’90s new, often specialised, journalism programmes were set up at other universities and university colleges, adding special profiles to the three general departments. In total it is estimated that about 800 students initiate some sort of academic journalism course annually.

Sweden has a long tradition of compiling media statistics both in the industrial and the economic field. Basic information sources about the Swedish media include:

Research international, which publishes statistics on the newspaper market, found in TS-boken, the annual publication concerning audit circulation figures. RI also publishes Orvesto, with daily reach for all media.

The Nordicom, the information centre on media and media research at University of Gothenburg, regularly publishes analyses of media developments in Sweden presented on its homepage. It conducts an annual survey of media use, called Mediebarometern (the Media Barometer) with a representative sample of the Swedish population. Current media statistics are also available from the homepage of Nordicom. Every second year, MediaSverige (Media Sweden) is published by the Nordicom to present basic statistics and covering the development of most media. There is also an English version called Media Trends covering all the Nordic countries, which is published on a non-regular basis.

Dagspresskollegiet, a longterm research programme at the University of Gothenburg, regularly presents annual trends on readership development, including online media, most of them publicly available over the Internet. Most basic data are in English.

The SOM Institute, also at the University of Gothenburg, annually publishes Swedish Trends, presenting data on media and public opinion in Sweden based on annual surveys. Most basic data are in English.

Radio- och TV-verket (The government agency for radio and television publishes a yearbook with statistics and current trends for the broadcasting area, including satellite and cable. Most basic data are in English.

Granskningsnämnden för radio och tv (The Swedish Broadcasting Commission) publishes annual reports concerning complaints of radio and television programming and analyses of television content. Most basic data are in English.

The rate of transition within the Swedish media landscape has accelerated in recent years. The economic boom of the early 21st century has been integral to this acceleration, bringing with it an expansion of the media system, especially in online services and digital media. Expansion occurred not least because of the advertising growth. The global crisis that began in autumn of 2008 has changed the picture, but its lasting consequences for the Swedish media are still difficult to predict. Another factor impacting media policy issues in Sweden is the change in government in the autumn of 2006.

There are few changes to expect in terms of legislation. The non-socialist government of 2006 is expected to try to reduce the press subsidies somewhat especially for metropolitan papers, but not change the system. There has been a dialogue with the European Commission on the principles of the subsidy system. Is it harmful to competition? So far no changes have been formally proposed. It is also interesting to note that the newspaper market has changed in recent years so that a majority of the papers receiving subsidies today are owned by profitable newspaper, often papers in the same market.

Radio and television policy has often created political controversy. The main issue has been the organisation and character of public service. The current policy outlined by the social democrats stresses broad public service with no advertising but accepts sponsored programming, like sports events. In spite of its earlier criticism of public radio and television, small changes are expected from the non-socialist government, at least in the short run. A recent proposal from the government seems to mean almost no changes in the current public service model.

Consequences of the economic crisis are much more difficult to foresee. However, it is evident that it has meant economic pressures in many media areas because of declining advertising. The general tendency is that the public, especially young people, want to pay less for news and information, preferring media that are free of charge.

Internet will continue to expand as a media arena. Legacy media are expected to further develop their already strong presence on the ’Net. The importance of the Internet as a distribution vehicle for news is gradually increasing. However, media based only on Internet publication are few. Thus, traditional media companies probably will continue their control of online media. In this perspective it is expected that newspaper companies in the longer run can compensate the decline of print with the Internet versions of the papers, even though the recent economic crisis hits the necessary advertising. So far no Swedish newspaper company has proposed subscription fees for its Internet publications, with the exception of certain content areas.

Media concentration is gradually increasing and might be reinforced by the recent economic crisis. On the local markets a number of mergers between local newspaper companies have created a debate on pluralism. On the national level the leading Bonnier Group has met with competition from the Swedish expansion of the Norwegian Schibsted Group, in the newspaper field by both the MTG and the Stampen Groups. In private radio MTG and SBS totally dominate. Bonnier is also strong in cinema and film, whereas MTG is an important actor in the telecom field. Since the early 1980s a measure to restrict this increasing ownership dominance have been proposed. However, the proposal was widely criticised and has not been implemented. There is no recent indication of change.

One interesting development of recent years is that Swedish media companies are expanding abroad; Bonnier draws about half of its revenue from media activities in other countries, mostly newspapers, magazines and books. MTG is the second biggest in foreign investments, most through the free daily Metro but also in radio, television and telecom. During the 1990s, mainly as a consequence of the deregulation of television, foreign companies entered Sweden. Some of them, like Schibsted and SBS (later ProSieben), have been expansive, but still the market is dominated by Sweden-owned companies.

The main problem for public service radio and TV is that they are gradually losing the young public to the commercial channels, a tendency that is reinforced by digitalisation as the satellite channels become available to a larger audience. Both public service companies have presented plans to recapture the youth. Sveriges Television has made its first channel (SVT1) more popular with dramas and series programming, whereas SVT2 has made a priority of culture and current affairs. However, this has stopped audience decline for SVT.

The development of the radio and television audience is a good illustration of the fragmentation of the Swedish media system of the early 21st century. All existing channels loose audience when new channels are introduced. Audience fragmentation in Sweden has meant strong age segregation, where traditional newspapers and public service are preferred by the elderly and new commercial media, including the free dailies, by the youth. The development is reinforced by the expansion of online services and the digital media, popular among young people but not the elderly. The media industry is conscious of the situation and today marketing analyses are an integrated part of the media planning.

  • Hadenius, Stig; Weibull, Lennart & Wadbring, Ingela (2008) Massmedier. Press, radio och tv i den digitala tidsåldern. [Mass media. Press, radio and television in the digital era] Stockholm: Ekerlids förlag.
  • Svensk Dagspress 2009. Fakta om marknad och medier. [Swedish daily press 2009. Facts about market and media] Stockholm: Tidningsutgivarna.
  • TS-tidningen no 1 2009.
  • Medieutveckling 2009. [Media development 2009] Haninge: Radio-och tv-verket.
  • Mediebarometern 2008. [The Media Barometer 2008] Göteborg: Nordicom-Sweden, University of Gothenburg.
  • Facts and Figures on Swedish Film 2008. Stockholm: The Swedish Film Institute.
  • The Swedish Telecommunications Market first half year 2008. Stockholm: The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency.
  • von Krogh, Torbjörn (ed.) (2008) Media Accountability Today... and Tomorrow : Updating the Concept in Theory and Practice . Göteborg: Nordicom-Sverige.

Lennart Weibull
Professor in Mass Media Research and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Gothenburg
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Gothenburg
Box 710
SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)31 786 54 06
Email: lennart.weibull@jmg.gu.se

Anna Maria Jönsson
Associate professor in Media and Communication Studies
Department of Culture and Communication
Södertörn University
SE 141 89 Huddinge, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)8 608 42 55
E-mail: anna-maria.jonsson@sh.se

Ingela Wadbring
Ph D and senior lecturer in Media and Communication Studies
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Gothenburg Box 710
SE 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)31 786 49 75
E-mail: ingela.wadbring@jmg.gu.se