New press law puts online news on a par with print
Media publications in Luxembourg will now receive government funding according to the number of journalists they employ and no longer by looking at the number of pages their newspapers print each day, putting online media on an equal footing with print press.
Late on Thursday, the government voted in favour of a new law which has been in the works for more than a year and aims at turning the focus to journalistic quality, acknowledging the shift in how people read news nowadays compared to when the current law was created in 1976, before the internet was created.
Publications will be eligible for a €30,000 subsidy per journalist each year, whether they work for print or online. The initial text of the new law set out a higher amount of €55,000 per reporter, but this was lowered during the talks.
Luxembourg operates a system of subsidies comparable to that of Norway and Sweden, and partially also France, but most other European countries do not allow for such direct government intervention in the media.
€7 million a year
Last year, the government paid just over €7 million in subsidies to media outlets. Among print press, Tageblatt received the most with €1.2 million, followed by the Luxemburger Wort, which is run by the same publisher as the Luxembourg Times, and Le Quotidien with €1 million.
The Luxembourg Times received €100,000 – the same as other online publications such as Portuguese-language website Contacto, the French-language news website Paperjam and the online versions of the Wort, Tageblatt and L’Essentiel.
The president of the journalist’s association, Association Luxembourgeoise des Journalistes Professionnels (ALJP), Roger Infalt, warns there is a risk that outlets may use the €30,000 figure as a benchmark for how much they should pay a journalist, rather than adding it to their salary.
“When an editor does the calculations, he will wonder why he should pay more,” Infalt told the Luxemburger Wort. “That won’t enable us to achieve the journalistic quality we want.”
Journalism is a sector where there is high turnover of staff, Infalt said, mainly due to the working hours, high workload and a relatively low salary.
ALJP has also criticised the new law for failing to mention journalists’ access to information or making it mandatory for authorities to provide information to reporters. Luxembourg does not have a real freedom of information process in place for journalists, unlike some other countries where public organisations are obliged to provide information to journalists if they hold that information. This creates a brick wall for reporters who seek to hold authorities to account.
The main opposition party, the christian democrats (CSV), put forward two amendments before the law was passed, suggesting that media outlets receive €45,000 a year for five journalists in its newsroom and then €30,000 annually for all subsequent journalists. it also wanted funds to be applied retrospectively from 1 January. But majority parties rejected both proposals.
(Additional reporting by Annette Welsch)