New Minister Wants to Rip Up Public Broadcasting Legislation
In the middle of a scandal over her failure to pay the TV viewer licence fee for more than a decade, Sweden’s new Minister of Culture Cecilia Stegö Chilò has suddenly announced she wants to cut public broadcasting’s current licence period by half.
Earlier this year the Swedish Parliament approved the then-Social Democratic government’s legislation to allow Sweden’s three public broadcasters - Swedish Television, Swedish Radio, and Swedish Educational Broadcasting - to operate for another six years. The bill was supported by all parties in parliament, a reflection of the preceived need for broad consenus over such an important part of Swedish society.
Commenting on proposed ex post facto changes, Swedish Radio’s Director General Peter Örn said:
”It is remarkable that a parliamentary decision that was adopted by a broad consenus across the political spectrum has been set aside by the new government....
”Longterm planning is very important in public service broadcasting. To be able to make thorough and lasting decisions about programming without being forced to interruptions because of the politicians is one of the greatest advantages of the six year agreement approved by parliament. It is also important for our journalistic independence.”
Broadcasting licences run for long periods because of heavy investments involved and the need for longterm planning.
But less than a week in office, and amidst calls for her resignation, Minister of Culture Cecilia Stegö Chilò wants to tear up their agreement and replace it with new legislation. She says she wants to end the current broadcast licence after three years instead of six. This would allow the new majority in parliament to draft a new agreement, changing Swedish public broadcasting from 2009, before it has to stand for re-election.
Changes in public broadcasting were not part the center-right alliance’s campaign platform.
The announcement came the day after it was revealed Stegö Chilò for 16 years. The licence fee funds public broadcasting in Sweden. The revelation has been followed by accusations that she has an ideological objection to public broadcasting and a series of calls for her resignation.
The media magazine Resume has reported that Stegö Chliò said publicly at the conservative think tank Timbro, which she headed, that she was refusing the pay the licence as an ideological protest. She has denied the report, but has refused to explain why she failed to pay the licence fee.