A report of Access Broadcasting 2004 -
The future of Non-commercial Local Radio and Television in Sweden

Along with public service broadcasting and private commercial broadcasting in Sweden non-commercial local radio stations are operating in 165 cities and non-commercial local cable television in 90 cities. (There are a total of 290 cities (municipalities) in Sweden). This media sector is internationally known as community radio and community/ public access television or open channels.

Christer Hederström, Media Advisor, has completed a one-year inquiry for the Ministry of Culture analysing the future conditions for non-commercial local broadcasting. The report Open Radio and Television (313 p) has now been presented to the Ministry of Culture and will serve as a basis for forth-coming governmental measures. Here is a summary of the conclusions in the report.

The report states that non-commercial access broadcasting is of great importance in order to vitalise and foster the democratic dialogue. Connected to this will be the relation and position of this media sector to public service and commercial broadcasting respectively. However, a developed public access media sector is only possible where the citizens are allowed the set up a broadcasting organisation, which will operate independently from both governmental and commercial institutions. This alternative is becoming increasingly important as media owner-ship is becoming more concentrated and commercialised. Also Sweden has become a multi-cultural society which public service or commercial media will not set aside resources or visions for.

The report states that 25 years of non-commercial local radio in Sweden will soon come to end if there will be no significant changes in rules and regulation. Commercial or private interests have begun taking dummy by proxy control of frequencies and thus preventing access for NGO:s. The Swedish Radio and Television law must be brought up to date.

In order to vitalise this media sector there must also be some kind of structural government support on an annual basis This non-commercial media sector is the only sector within the cultural and media sphere in Sweden, which is not government supported on a structural ba-sis. For example in Sweden public service broadcasting is financed by a license fee (6.200 Million SEK a year) and the private owned newspaper sector receive 550 MSEK a year in tax money. For example Open Channels in Germany is funded by 1 percent of the television li-cense fee. Such a funding in Sweden would provide an annual funding of 60 MSEK for non-commercial local broadcasting. The report proposes a state support to be canalised via a new central organisation for non-commercial radio and television.

Most countries have different solutions regarding financing, organisation and regulation of local non-commercial broadcasting. Knowledge and experience regarding this media sector in ten other countries has been studied. Special attention has been paid to systems in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Holland and the U.S.

The development of efficient digital technique, for both production and for transmission will be of vital importance for radio and television operated on a non-profit basis by NGO:s. The report proposes that a special non-commercial slot in the new digital radio platform (DAB) will be assigned for local community radio as well as a regional slot in the state owned terrestial digital television (DTT) system for public access television. A government supported trial with community radio in one regional DAB area is proposed.

The report proposes abolishment of limitations for non-commercial radio to reach outside city borders and networking. Advertisements as a possible mean of financing will be maintained. However, this will only be possible by giving broadcasting license to one common local non-profit broadcasting organisation per city serving NGO:s. This is termed as an open local radio.

Must carry and take-way obligation for non-commercial local television – known as open channels – for all cable operators in a city is proposed. Also there should be guarantees for simultaneous distribution in both analogue and digital cable systems.

Also the report suggest that more attention should be paid to radio and television for handicap groups especially mentally handicapped young persons. Some very promising project in Copenhagen and two Swedish cities have been studied.

The report proposes a close co-operation between authorities, municipalities, county councils etc developing the preparedness of Swedish society to manage serious crises. As minority language are quickly expanding in non-commercial local radio and television it is crucial that this broadcasting sector is included in this national emergency system.

The report also proposes a more direct governmental funding for media development regarding democracy, and integration. Most important is development of media support for journalistic development in other languages than Swedish. Among other subjects in the report are copyright matters, archiving, public journalism, media education and co-operation with the public service radio and television.

Ministry of Culture
tel. +46 8 405 1000

Christer Hederström