The Finnish perspective
In modern Finland, standards of education and literacy are high, a result of Finland's endeavors for independence and nationhood. In 1994, according to the World Competitiveness Report, Finland's workforce ranked tenth among the most qualified workers in the world, a result of high standards and quality in public education, quality secondary schooling and on-the-job training, as well as computer literacy.
Although Finland joined the European Union in 1995, it cannot neglect its common border with Russia which it has had since independence. Even before Lenin granted independence to the former "Imperial Russian Grand Duchy" in 1917, Finland and its expertise in manufacturing served Russia's needs for modern, high-quality goods and skilled labor. Russia, regarded throughout the nineteenth century as the most backward power in Europe, had annexed the former Swedish colony in the spoils of the 1808-1809 war. With a remainnder of former Swedish settlers, mostly farmers, living along the coast and a small Swedish-speaking nobility left behind (only an echo of Sweden's imperial rule), Finland continued to exist in the shadow of imperial Russia, but as an outpost and buffer zone against Russia's most formidable western enemies.
The First World War and the Russian October Revolution, though advantageous for Finland's prospects for independence, exerted a divisive force within the country. In 1916 Lenin suggested that socialism might come about peacefully in a small country sharing a common border with a socialist country. Finland shares an 800-mile border with the former Soviet Union, and whether Lenin had Finland in mind is not known. After independence, the "Whites," in Finland, saw themselves as defenders of Finnish sovereignty, while looking to Germany for political and military support. The "Reds," who had the support of the Finnish workers' associations, the Social Democratic Party and the landless proletariat, were also motivated by the shift in the success of the Russian Soviets.
Although there were fundamental differences in both the history and the content of the Finnish workers' movement and its Soviet (Bolshevik) counterpart, civil war erupted in Finland as well, a war which per capita became one of the bloodiest domestic conflicts in all of Europe. After the White victory in the civil war, Finland continued to function as a parliamentary democracy. The Social Democrats retained their influence throughout the 1920s. The 1930s, however, was characterized by a slide towards political reaction and extremist politics on the right which added to deteriorating relations with the Soviet Union by the end of the decade. As Hitler became a recognized and immediate threat to the Soviet Union, Soviet demands on the Finnish government for a land swap to guarantee the security of Leningrad resulted in an early war, known in Finland as the Winter War. After a short armistice, Finland's alliances with Nazi Germany forced it to continue the war with the Soviet Union until total defeat and withdrawal from those alliances came about in 1944. After World War II Finland embarked on a new beginning. Indicative of the new political climate in Finland was the fact that in seven out of nine post-World War II national elections, the Finnish Communist Party received more than 20 percent of the popular vote, and the Social Democratic Party was by far the most popular political party, followed by the agrarian based Center. The postwar turn to the left can be explained as an expression of sentiments crushed during the civil war and a reaction to the extreme political policies of the 1930s. It is only after the 1970s that the left's support slowly began to abate and strong feelings of identification with one particular party or the other began to subside.
When comparing Finland to North America, history has shown that Finland, like most European countries, is geographically compelled to exist alongside its neighbors, and experiences its internal conflicts as reflections of even greater conflicts and divisions throughout the rest of Europe. Americans, on the other hand, have a commitment to tradition and place which could only be characterized as intermittent, a result of geographical and social mobility which developed from the allure of the frontier. Also, in contrast to Americans, who can switch between Republicans and Democrats from election to election, almost at will, Finns more readily identify with and adhere to the political platform of a particular party. Strict adherence to party politics has meant that political public discourse in Finland is characterized by more formal public debates between representatives of established parliamentary political factions, and not photo opportunities and interviews with individual political leaders, as in the United States.
It is within these precarious parameters, drawn by history, that the Finnish broadcasting corporation, YLE, with ninety percent of its shares government owned, was established as a broadcasting monopoly in 1927. YLE was founded, therefore, during a relatively peaceful interval after the tumultuous years of the bloody civil war.
During the modern era, after the Second World War, when the rest of Europe and America fell into the throes of cold war and confrontation, Finland played an exceptional role in Europe. Out of dire necessity, to accommodate both east and west, a foreign policy aimed specifically at peaceful coexistence was devised. Finnish neutrality allowed good foreign relations while trade with the planned economies of Comecon permitted Finland's economy to become less susceptible to market fluctuations in the west.
From 1945 until the 1990s, a period in which the Soviet Union bought up nearly a quarter of Finland's manufactured goods in exchange for Soviet oil and other raw materials, cultural contacts between Finns and Soviets, including nearby Estonia, remained weak. Finns, however, were "treated" to a diverse window on the world every evening on their television sets-from East German children's programs to prime-time American TV, all with subtitles and without dubbing. Finns compensated for their political and geographical isolation, brought about by the realities of postwar Europe, and developed their understanding of the world around them with the help of their television sets.
Public information distribution in Finland today
Finland, like other small European countries, is forced to invest a larger proportion of its educational resources in foreign-language teaching. Ten years of foreign language instruction is compulsory for those who attend Finnish schools. The vast majority of the adult Finnish population today has had at least ten years of English in school, which explains the level of foreign-language competency, which is a level similar to that in mot other Scandinavian countries. Television broadcasts have also contributed a broad knowledge of American popular culture and foreign television broadcasts are never dubbed into Finnish, with the result that Finns, in contrast to Americans and other Europeans, have more access to foreign languages, including English, as they are actually spoken.
According to a recent study, Finland's population reads considerably more daily newspapers and receives more public information via the written word than other nationalities. Education in Finland, as in other European countries, is considered a right and not a privilege, a result of Finland's historical striving for independence and a national language and culture. People who are highly educated, in the professions, including academics and journalists, for example, gain considerable respect.
Commercial publications abound, but other publications, such as those sponsored by farming co-operatives, the state church and independent churches, retailing co-operatives, trade unions and political parties, have also been abundant in Finland and have been an integral part of Finnish public discourse since long before independence. The broad contours of public discourse in Finland are still delineated by the written language. Although television news has of late become more commercialized, the leading competitors for the marketing of news, in contrast to the United States, are not independently owned television stations and commercial national networks. Instead, newspapers and radio broadcasters, some of which are now independent and commercial, are in the process of developing this new market. Television news in Finland, in particular that which is broadcast over the state-owned YLE, still plays a smaller role in the dissemination of public information than newspapers.
Advertising, in all its forms, is certainly quite visible in Finnish society. Still, the importance of the image remains a factor which is less significant in the distribution of public information. With a population of five million, Finnish readers are still able to support 27 daily newspapers. However, party, trade union, church and other associative publications are no longer as prevalent as they were only a decade ago, while most newspapers remain privately owned and commercially operated. In 1989, approximately 75 percent of newspaper income in Finland was derived directly from advertising.
Every year, on average, eighteen new book titles appear in Finnish bookstores for every 10,000 persons living in Finland. This number places Finland with Switzerland and Denmark among the best-read nations in Europe. In 1976 the average Finnish citizen spent 105 minutes out of every day watching television and almost 50 minutes reading. A third of that time was spent reading books and two-thirds newspapers. Three-fourths of all Finns over the age of 15 read at least two books a year, and in 1987, the amount of time spent watching television increased in Finland to 111 minutes a day, with little change in reading habits.
A late 1994 survey, conducted by Suomen Gallup-Media OY, showed that 12-69 year-old Finns listened to their radios for an average of three hours each day. However, the study points out, most people do not listen intensively for more than one hour each day. Finns spent a little over two hours each day watching television. Still, Finns spent nearly 50 minutes each day reading newspapers, and nearly 30 minutes a day reading books. With television and radio occupying the attention of Finnish audiences for a little over three hours each day, and newspapers and books for one hour and 20 minutes, it would seem that the electronic media do demand more time from Finns than the written word. However, public discourse in Finland, that which concerns public affairs and other newsworthy events, is still dominated by a form of the Finnish language which approximates the written word, similar to that used in a newspaper. Finnish, in its written form, still carries the most influence and credibility with Finnish audiences, even on radio and television. Written Finnish still prevails as an acceptable style of discourse for the exchange of news and other public affairs programs. How long this style will prevail, however, is a matter for conjecture, especially when one considers that the popularity of commercial radio and television news in Finland continues to increase, and more commercial radio stations are adopting the commercial style of discourse for their news broadcasts, a trend emulated to a lesser extent by commercial television news.
Concerning radio and television broadcasting in this context, broadcasting is still considered a public institution in Finland, and television is responsible to the Ministry of Transport and the Finnish parliament, the Eduskunta. In keeping with the tradition of public broadcasting in Europe, the ministry distributes broadcast channels in such a way that specialized tastes and needs will be met. Cultural requirements of the Finnish population, including news presented in at least three different "domestic" languages (Finnish, Swedish and Saame), serious music, popular music and current affairs are all, to a certain degree, met through public service broadcasting.
During the past decade this system, with all of its accomplishments and deficiencies, has been undergoing a period of change. The most profound change in Finnish broadcasting took place in the middle 1980s. Compelled by the private sector of the Finnish economy to deregulate and thus fulfill advertising needs for a more market-oriented broadcasting system, the Finnish government has allowed local radio stations to be set up and operated by private individuals. The vast majority of these new radio stations are today commercial enterprises, often operated by other media corporations, appropriately serving to quench the increasing thirst of sponsors for more advertising outlets.
At present, YLE still operates two national television channels (in addition to the
Swedish channel), with the third channel now under the control of the commercially
oriented Mainos-TV, the first commercial broadcaster in Scandinavia. A major change
in the law which concerns YLE, advertising and its broadcasting monopoly is also pending.
The dominance of public service broadcasting in Finland is being increasingly questioned.
Not until the introduction of cable, however, did the diverse possibilities of
multi-channel television confront YLE with its own demise. Although approximately fifty
percent of Finnish homes are today wired for cable television, multi-channel foreign
broadcasts have been available to cable subscribers and satellite dish owners in Finland
for a number of years.
Changes in Finnish television broadcasting
As church, trade union and other organizational publications become less important to the average Finn as a source of public information, which was a trend in the United States in the early part of this century, changes in the traditional concept of news will be inevitable. Developments in Finnish television news, in just a few years, could lead to television news program which resemble the templates now used in the United States.
At first glance, with Finnish television channels YLE 1 and YLE 2 still broadcasting in the same manner, it would seem that little has really changed in Finnish public information distribution and reception. However, major changes in Finnish broadcasting are underway. Up until the early 1980s there were only two channels available to Finnish television viewers-and no foreign channels, except for Swedish television, which could only be seen along the west coast and in the archipelago with a good antenna or cable connection. Soviet television was only available in the far eastern peripheries of Northern Karelia. Estonian television did transmit a weak signal across the Finnish Gulf, but SECAM was established as the standard in the former Soviet Union, making it difficult for all but a few of the earliest cable-TV subscribers in Helsinki to receive it. Since there were no home videocassette recorders in the early days of Finnish television broadcasting, Finns were forced, whether they liked it or not, to watch one of the two Finnish television channels.
The prevailing broadcasting policy in Finland was to provide something for everyone. On a typical weekday, children's programming or repeated programming would appear on Finnish TV screens in the early afternoons. Viewers, if there were any, were only treated to hour after hour of YLE's test pattern, with YLE's radio program provided for sound-certainly not the most efficient method for transmitting the state's radio programs. Actual television programming did not begin until almost 6 PM with entertainment, news commentary and YLE's first news program of the day at 6:15 PM, which included only 15 minutes of news, weather and sports.
Mondays and Tuesdays were (and still are) set aside for Swedish-speaking audiences. Usually, this means an admixture of news, documentary and entertainment in Swedish (with Finnish subtitles) and Finnish or foreign programming (with Swedish subtitles). Although this solution is the only one imaginable under such circumstances, neither Swedish-speaking nor Finnish-speaking Finns have ever been entirely satisfied with it.
In addition to the programs transmitted by state-operated YLE, Finland's commercial broadcaster, Mainos-TV, has made its own contract with YLE to provide commercial programs on one of the two channels nightly. Mainos-TV, on a typical weekday evening, would begin showing its programs after the first short newscast with light entertainment for children, progressing on to more family-oriented entertainment, mostly American sit-coms, before the big event of the evening, namely, YLE's news at 9:15 PM.
YLE's evening news report served (and still, too a limited extent, today) as the linchpin for Finnish TV program scheduling every evening. YLE-Uutiset (YLE News) has consistently set the rhythm in most Finnish households, with anticipation among family members, awaiting YLE's news broadcast. Children knew to expect to go to bed at news time, and adults knew that they could relax and watch some "serious" film or documentary program. The 9:15 P.M. news (later moved to 8:30 P.M.), incidentally, was transmitted simultaneously over both of the only existing television channels, meaning that all television viewers in Finland watched the YLE evening news, whether they meant to go to bed at 9:35, after the weather report, or stay up late until signoff (usually to the tune of some popular recording and a picture of a late evening landscape), which usually occurred before 11 PM.
Each broadcast evening had programming which followed an expected formula, meaning that
the Finnish family's routine revolved around the evening news. Finnish television,
therefore, was a family convention, and even more: It was a meeting shared by every family
in the country, around the television set, until bedtime.
Information, education and entertainment
A typical Finnish television viewing evening in the 1970s might have included one
or several of the following programs:
YLE UUTISET (Yleisradio Evening News)
The following programs would usually appear after the 9:15 PM (later, 8:30 PM) news
report and would most likely be shown by YLE, not the commercial Mainos-TV, which shared
the same two channels. The late-night content changed from entertainment to education:
According to research done by Hellman and Sauri in the latter part of the 1980s,
"prime time" in Finland still revolved around the evening news slot at 8.30 PM,
seven nights a week. As can be seen by this chart:
Percent of Finnish audience viewing television on a typical week night 1970-1980.
Television viewing begins in the late afternoon with the number of viewers continuing to increase until news time, then falling off before midnight. This trend was set years earlier by YLE and continues today, although the expansion of Finnish commercial television, in the form of the third channel which is now all commercial, video and foreign competition on cable will eventually cause many to question this formula.
In their study of Finnish television broadcasting in the 1980s, Hellman and Sauri also found that both YLE and Mainos-TV were cooperating more in scheduling their programs. Despite competition from cable channels and video, evening prime-time broadcasts have, in fact, changed little. More competition between YLE and Mainos-TV, in the form of adding more entertainment through the purchase of cheaper foreign imports, had not materialized. On the contrary, there was a clear trend towards more "uniformity" in order to "safeguard common interests" and better "cope" with foreign competition. Whether this observation would still hold true today is questionable. The third channel now competes quite effectively, producing its own news reports, and placing them strategically in the 7:00 P.M. and 10:00 P.M time slots. This, in effect, changes the Finnish prime-time formula by extending it beyond the 9 o'clock peak of previous years (see chart below). It also tends to divert audience attention away from the traditional 8:30 P.M. news slot, diversifying the established viewing expectations and making audiences more fluid. Younger viewers, therefore, are more inclined to watch the news at 7 and 10 PM, while older people remain with "their" 8:30 YLE News.
The evening news
YLE-Uutiset (YLE's Evening News) appears every night at 8:30 PM. The
following telecast, reviewed below, was intentionally delayed by approximately five
minutes so that YLE couldprepare its report about a
breaking story. The story has to do with Austria's voter referendum on joining the
European Union (EU). Such delays, usually caused by breaking news and other technical
circumstances, are not uncommon on YLE, which has no commercial advertising to sell and no
contracted scheduling obligations to sponsors. Finnish audiences, if compared to American
audiences, are considerably more understanding of delays of this sort.
This news report illustrates the flexibility of non-commercial television and the audiences who watch it. For those who are familiar with the fast-paced American commercial style, YLE's news must seem at times slow and unprofessional, with audiences insipidly waiting for their news. It is, however, important to keep in mind that YLE's style is the style which still is most familiar to Finns and most appreciated by them as "news." Most importantly, it is the style which most people in Finland trust.
While they wait, for approximately five minutes, audiences are given YLE's evening schedule to peruse (conveniently, the scheduled time of the upcoming news report is periodicallychanged on screen from minute to minute to reflect the new broadcast schedule of the evening, and accommodate for the delay). For sound, a recording of a singing bird is played until the Austrian story is made ready for presentation.
LIND: Hyvää iltaa ja heti aluksi pahoittelut siitä, että olemme myöhässä. Saimme raporttimme Itävallasta valmiiksi vasta nyt.
Translation: "Good Evening-and right away we would like to apologize for being
late. We have just finished preparing our report from Austria."
Commentary: The broadcast begins with the familiar YLE
Uutiset logo and a very short musical fanfare. Arvi Lind, Finland's best known
television news anchor, and according to a recent poll, the "most trusted man in
Finland," gives a brusque apology (with no welcoming smile) for the delay. Lind looks
the part of an authority, with his polite but solid mannerisms, appropriate for
representing the official voice of the Finnish state broadcasting company, he also
transmits a feeling of trust and familiarity. Lind has been reading the YLE news for over
twenty years and is also responsible for writing his own reports. Lind has considerable
status in Finland, and not just as a trusted news anchor. He is also a member of the board
at the Finnish Language Research Center (Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskus), and
one of the editors of the center's publication, Kielikello, whose task is to
resolve issues which arise concerning the proper use of the Finnish language (päättää
kielenkäyttöa koskevista periaatteellisista tai yleisluonteisista suosituksista). If
Lind sat at his desk, before the cameras, joking and laughing with his colleagues, at the
beginning and end of each newscast, as some American news anchors do, it would cause some
positive but mostly negative reactions among Finnish television audiences. Instead, Lind
considers his task to be that of a neutral reporter. "In my opinion," says Lind,
"the news anchor should not show his emotions during the broadcast, no matter what
the matter is."
LIND: Itävaltalaiset ovat äänestäneet selkeästi maan EU-jäsenyyden puolesta. Kun lähes kaikki äänet on laskettu, KYLLÄ-äänten osuus on kuusikymmentäkuusi ja puoli prosenttia. Äänestysvilkkaus kohosi yli kahdeksaankymmeneen prosenttiin. Itävalta äänesti hakijamaista ensimmäisenä EU sopimuksesta.
Translation: "The Austrians have clearly voted in favor of EU membership. With
nearly all the votes counted, the YES votes represent 60.5 per cent of the total. Voter
interest rose to 80 per cent. Austria was the first applicant to vote on the EU
Commentary: The plain wall behind the anchor and noticeable lack of other stage props, such as television monitors or other people, as well as the lack of other sounds, focuses our attention on the voice and the eyes of the lone anchor, Arvi Lind. Lind is dressed impeccably, for the summer, in a light, double-breasted suit, and his glasses, presumably for reading the text, remind one of the knowledgeable and helpful civil servant, especially as he looks rigidly into the camera. On the blank wall behind appears, superimposed over Lind's right shoulder, a schematic picture of the letters EU (for European Union) and the word Itävalta, meaning Austria, with the circle of yellow stars on a blue background, the flag of the European Union.
Lind writes and formats his texts himself, several pages of which can be seen lying on top of his desk, under his hands, with his index finger pointing to the place while he reads (he is, nonetheless, looking straight into the camera and most certainly reading from a teleprompter). The camera shot is not a close-up, as is used on CNN, but includes Lind from the top of his head down to his waist, making his facial expressions and other features difficult to distinquish behind his wire-rimmed glasses.
Lind's written text is presented in a style of Finnish which would be suitable for a serious article in a newspaper, a book or a news magazine. Kirjoitettu yleiskieli, a spoken form of kirjakieli, literally "the written language," is used predominantly by Lind and there are no intentional attempts to make the news sound "punchier," or to give the audience a feeling of intimacy and familiarity with the anchor, nor is there a "teaser" at the beginning and certainly not much of a reward (a "kicker") at the end of the broadcast (in contrast to Finland's rivaling commercial channel's news at ten). The stories, in general, tend to be somewhat longer and quite thorough in detail. Several news stories in a row may actually vary little in content until at the end when topics related to the arts are presented. During the summer months, the news stories reported on YLE may, as with Lind's suit of clothes, become more colorful allowing topics of a more buoyant nature (such as, in this case, the "Kummeli" story) to be shown to audiences spending their leisure hours (as is the custom in Finland) in their summer cabins.
After Lind introduces the topic, we hear the voice of the
first reporter (Brandt), over a filmed report from Vienna about the events leading up to
the Austrian referendum.
BRANDT: Itävallan EU-kannattajilla on tänään syytä juhliin. Hallituksen edustajat ovat jo ilmaisseet tyytyväisyytensä; ajoihan Itävallan konservatiivien ja sosiaalidemokraattien muodostama hallitus Unionin jäsenyyttä kaikin keinoin. Hallitus sai nyt kaipaamansa selvän jaan.
Translation: "Austrian EU supporters have a reason to celebrate today. Government
representatives have already shown their satisfaction. The Austrian government, made up of
conservatives and social democrats, pushed for membership at all costs. The government now
has its much desired YES vote."
Commentary: Brandt begins her report as a voice-over, but
it is voiced over a German-language schematic drawing of Austria, showing voting in
various precincts. The Austrian Chancellor, Franz Vranitzky, is then shown giving his
comments in German with Finnish subtitles. Finnish audiences are accustomed to graphs,
statistics, and other scientific data on their screens. Polls, on the other hand, are not
as common, although they are increasing in acceptance.
Vranitzky [Interview with an the Austrian Prime Minister (in German with Finnish
subtitles...translation not included).]
BRANDT: Eurohuuma suorastaan tympäisi itävaltalaisia, mutta ei estänyt heitä antamasta ylivoimaista äänten enemmistöä Unionin puolesta. Jäsenyyttä vastustava populistinen Vapauspuolue järjesti näyttäviä viimehetken tilaisuuksia, mutta sen ylilyönnit eivät loppujen lopuksi vedonneet itävaltalaisten enemmistöön. Äänestäjät olivat liikkeellä aamuvarhaisesta ja osa vaalihuoneistoista suljettiinkin jo aamupäivällä. Äänestysinto takasi sen, että jäsenyyden kannattajat saivat murskavoiton - paljon selvemmän kuin viime aikojen mielipidetiedustelut uskalsivat luvata. Tulos näytti selvältä heti, kun ensimmäiset tulokset päivän mittaan saapuivat. Kahden kolmasosan voitosta puhuttiin jo varhain iltapäivällä. Myös vaalipaikkojen luota oli selvästi helpompi löytää niitä, jotka äänestivät EU:n puolesta.
Translation: "European fever has simply disgusted the Austrians, but it hasn't
kept them from giving their overwhelming majority vote for the Union. The populistic
Freedom Party, which is against membership, organized events at the last minute, but its
exaggerations did not appeal to the majority of Austrians after all. Voters were on the
move from the early morning and a portion of the polls closed already in the morning.
Voter enthusiasm emphasized that membership supporters would get a landslide win. The
result became clear immediately when the first results of the day arrived. There was talk
of a two-thirds majority already early in the day. It was also clearly easier to find
those who voted for the EU in the vicinity of the voting places."
Commentary: Brant gives her commentary again as a
voice-over, showing Vienna street scenes, election posters and polling places. Her style
of reporting, although fast and clipped, uses vocabulary which is only somewhat less
formal than the language used by Lind. Lind would probably not choose to use such words as
eurohuuma, "euro fever," or such a construction as, ...niitä, jotka
äänestivät EU:n puolesta, "those who voted for the EU," because of its
more conversational qualities. Brant's style, nevertheless, cannot be defined as
[Interview with an Austrian voter (in German with Finnish subtitles...translation
Commentary: Interviews with foreigners are invariably in
their own languages, since very few foreigners speak Finnish, and Finns expect to hear the
original language spoken, with subtitles in Finnish provided at the bottom of the screen.
Brandt's report ends with a relaxed close up of the
reporter (still not smiling) sitting in a Viennese cafe, in front of a cup of coffee.
There was no wrap-up in the end, and a rather abrupt cut back to the anchor.
LIND: EU:n päämajassa Brysselissä Itävallan kansanäänestyksen tulosta on jo ehditty kiitellä. EU:ssa tuloksen uskotaan lisäävän KYLLÄ-äänten kannatusta Suomen ja muiden pohjoismaiden EU-äänestyksissä.
Translation: "In EU headquarters in Brussels, the results of Austria's referendum
are already delightedly received Within the EU, the result is believed to increase support
for the YES vote in Finland and other Scandinavian referendums."
Commentary: Lind is still sitting in front of the same
wall, with the same (EU - Itävalta) slide over his left shoulder.
RISKI: Itävallan nyt jo selvältä näyttämä [sic] ylivoimainen kahden kolmasosan KYLLÄ-tulos vaikuttaa myös Suomen ja muiden pohjoismaiden kansanäänestyksissä KYLLÄ-äänten puolesta....
... Europarlamentin sosialistien odotetaan lisäävän ääniään
europarlamentissa, mutta enemmän ja eniten täällä jännitetään sitä, miten eri
hallitukset meneh... öh... menestyvät. Eurovaaleista odotetaan suuntaviittoja muun
muassa siihen, miten Saksan liittokansleri Kohl ...
Translation: "Austria's clearly overwhelming two-thirds yes-vote will also
influence Finnish and other Scandinavian referendums in favor of a yes-vote."
"Socialists in the European Parliament expect to increase their votes, but above
everything else the tension here surrounds the question of how the different governments
will lose-uh-succeed. Indications are expected from the European elections in such places
as Germany, where German Chancellor Helmut Kohl... "
Commentary: Riski, YLE's journalist in Brussels, reads his
entire report over the telephone. His report is in the written form of the language, and
he makes little attempt to appear to be "telling" his the news. In fact, it is
rather too obvious that he is reading it from a prepared report because he makes some
crucial mistakes in his reading. From the background noise one gets the impression that he
is actually leafing through pages of paper. Audiences are only shown a picture of Brussels
and a smaller picture of Riski superimposed at the bottom (with his name). Later, his
voice is played over shots of the interior of the European Parliament.
The cut back to the anchor was rather abrupt.
LIND: Suomen kansanäänestys on siis vasta syksyllä, mutta jo alkava viikko on
hyvin ratkaiseva maamme EU-jäsenyydelle ja pääministeri Aholle. Hallituksen EUratkaisu
on esillä eduskunnassa ja Keskustan puoluekokouksessa. Kummassakin odotetaan
äänestyspäätöksiä. Politiikan toimittajamme arvioikin, että alkava viikko...
Translation: "The Finnish referendum will not take place until autumn, but already
the coming week will be crucial to our country's EU membership and Prime Minister Aho. The
Government's EU solution is before the Eduskunta (Parliament) and in the party
caucus of the Center Party. From both a voting decision is expected. Our political
correspondent considers the coming week..."
Commentary: Lind continues reading, tirelessly on into his
next story, with no fear of losing his audience. The story is about the upcoming
discussion in the Finnish parliament-about EU membership for Finland and the various
problems, such as agriculture, which will be considered. The main part of the news report,
therefore, is concerned with government and political matters, with interview after
interview, with various Finnish and foreign government officials and other politically
knowledgeable people. The news report becomes quite detailed with pictures of a desk
calendar, leafing through the dates, circled with a pen, on which important parliamentary
debates about EU membership are scheduled to take place.
There are, of course, other stories reported in this
edition of the YLE evening news. There is, for example, a report about the Finnish Green
Party and its weekend conference. The Greens voted not to support, nor to reject, EU
membership for Finland. (The report is presented as a voice-over, with Lind reading the
Another story reports on the Swedish Peoples' Party's
conference in Turku, in which its party chairman, Ole Norrback, was re-elected.
(Returning to a medium shot of the anchor), Lind looks
into the camera to inform the audience that both the Swedish Peoples' Party and the Green
Party are demanding that Gays be given the right to a legal marriage in Finland and be
entitled to enjoy social security benefits.
The next story concerns the Finnish Veterans' Association, which enjoyed a day of celebration (shots of veterans meeting and carrying flags) is followed by a short report on Haiti, which declares a state of emergency (including voice-over with archive shots of Haiti's president and Haitian refugees).
An army Second lieutenant in Sweden is reported to have
murdered seven innocent people-this story is read rather quickly as a voice-over by Lind
(with shots of the peaceful suburb in Sweden where the murder took place).
Finally, YLE's last news story is somewhat exceptional in
that "soft" news rarely gets reported, except during the summer months. The
story has to do with the outdoor stage appearance of the popular television comedy and
musical group, Kummeli. (Lind introduces the story with just a trace of a smile.)
The rather short (by American standards) weather report,
which follows, begins with a shot of ducks on a pond and the meteorologist, Kari Ahti,
standing in front of a Scandinavian weather map.
At the end of the report, Lind informs us of a special
news report about the Austrian referendum which will be shown later in the evening.
Immediately, without a break, following the news, is a
rather long sports report, because of the weekend, followed by A-Studio, with a
more comprehensive report on the Austrian referendum.
In this particular news report, YLE gave audiences
approximately an hour of news, weather, sports and much detailed reporting, especially
with the addition of A-Studio after the news. There was only one story about a
crime (the story from Sweden). Finns, in fact, generally do not see, nor expect to see,
crime stories on television, nor are there stories about road accidents (except at the
beginning of winter). Catastrophes, of course, do get mentioned (a plane crash or an
earthquake). Major catastrophes which concern Finns directly get reported in considerable
detail. Crimes and accidents are considered suitable for newspapers.
The reporter from Brussels (quoted above) who reads his
copy directly into the telephone is a good example of YLE journalists who are very
qualified as journalists, but not as television news entertainers or
"personalities," as seen on commercial television. YLE's entire news report,
including the weather report, sports and A-Studio, lasted an entire, uninterrupted
hour, (an hour of programming without commercials on American commercial television is 44
minutes), and it was without commercial interruption. As a distributor of public
information, one requiring a certain level of concentration from audiences, YLE and its
reporters are very efficient, but not entertaining.
Changes in the Finnish formula for news?
There have been attempts, and quite recently, to change YLE's format. The structural changes in Finnish television broadcasting which were set into motion at the beginning of the 1980s initiated the overall changes presently underway in Finnish viewing habits. YLE, in contrast to just a few years ago, is now competing with other commercial media which are rapidly expanding their newly created market's share. With three Finnish channels and one Swedish channel available to most households without cable, and between 12 and 25 channels, including cable-TV's own PTV, with cable, YLE's programming and the traditional culture surrounding the television set in Finland will inevitably weaken, although, as yet, it has not changed remarkably. Half of all Finnish households, who now have cable, can indeed watch Tom Brokaw's NBC Nightly News, or Germany's RTL, Spain's TVE, Italy's RAIUNO, Moscow Channel 1 (all commercial channels) or French and Swedish public service TV, as well as the BBC's WSTV.
The average daily number of programming hours on Finnish television, including all of
the available channels, increased from nine hours a day in 1970 to over fourteen in 1985
(not including the cable channel, PTV and the third channel, founded in 1986). Yet Finns
still prefer Finnish-language broadcasts, and most Finns still consider the YLE evening
news as the most qualified and most credible producer of news. Although, cable, videos and
commercial television are succeeding in drawing viewers away from YLE, research has shown
that YLE continues to show documentaries, theater and other "educational"
programming, and it is now done more in alignment with the needs of the commercial
channel. YLE's evening news, no longer appearing on all available channels in Finland,
still marks the boundary, as it did decades earlier, in program scheduling and in
determining what Finns consider implicitly to be "news."
CNN and new formulas for television news in Europe
CNN's influence in the new European Union will be significant. The real challenge to public service broadcasting in Europe, from a marketing perspective, will be found in CNN's use of the traditional American commercial style of discourse. It has proven itself as an extremely efficient generator of revenues in American markets and its success and expertise is bound to influence European broadcasters as well.
The 24-hour television news broadcasting format is a commodity which has now been in existence for only a little over a decade in the United States, where satellite broadcasting and cable have come to dominate program distribution. While CNN advertises itself as a 24-hour global news-gathering network with multi-national contacts, its broadcast discourse style is largely taken from the American model and uses the standard commercial formulas which were developed over decades of commercial broadcasting activity.
In the latter part of the 1980s, CNN introduced, what seems to be, a consequential product to European markets. The idea of an all-news television channel was virtually invented by CNN for European audiences when the Atlanta network's satellite broadcasts first became available in hotels and on cable systems across the Atlantic. Although CNN has been generating non-stop news broadcasts since June of 1980, it was the instantaneous reporting from the war in the Persian Gulf which propelled CNN into the spotlight and gave the all-news channel more influence.
According to Hank Whittemore, author of CNN: The Inside Story, in the early
days, just after Cable News Network began broadcasting,
To get around unions in the bureaus, CNN had been using subcontractors who hired people
to run cameras and crews-such as Mobile Video, run by Sheldon Levy, who had been CNN's
first subcontractor in Washington, D.C. If those employees voted for a union, then CNN
could simply cancel its contract (which was what happened in the case of Mobile Video) and
go to another outfit.
As far as news-reporting style goes, the evidence shows that CNN is continuing Sheldon
Levy's legacy. Today, Levy is well known in the industry for his early contributions to
news reporting, in particular, the work done by his New York based company, Action Movie
News, which sold footage, mostly about crime, fires and accidents, to the networks' New
York affiliates in the early 1970s. Levy, an employee at the New York City Fire
Department, had the idea of using a portable video taperecorder to shoot fires, and then
sell the videotape cassettes to the television stations in the New York area. Levy began
selling tape to CBS in November of 1973, but soon, word of what he was doing spread
"from station to station." Fires were always, according to Levy, the
"biggest sellers," because they are "dramatic." Levy and his employees
would listen in to police and fire radio bands and respond to as many as possible,
because, in Levy's own words, "The most minor fire or the most insignificant shooting
may develop into a big story the next day." Levy also describes a new format for
There was a concept in New York, pushed when we first started Eyewitness News:
It was the feeling that the reporter was on the scene when the action was actually going
on. But it wasn't that way. If it was a fire story they were covering, the reporter would
usually stand in front of the burned-out building the next day and say, "Here, the
night before, was this major fire leaving 40 people or 50 people homeless." Our
business-our service-enabled this reporter to now say, "Here, this is what happened
last night. I'm standing here now in front of this building, but here are the scenes of
what actually happened. Here are the people being rescued, here are the people injured.
Here is the building actually burning." And before we came into the picture, there
was never any way of doing that. In homicide stories, crime stories, very often the
reporter would stand in the spot and say, "Here, last night, two men were gunned
down." Well, now they will have the footage of those two men lying there. And, I
think it has changed the way that news stories are covered in New York.
CNN has taken Levy's lead and applied it to reporting news stories from around the world. According to Whittemore, Ted Kavanau, former news director at Channel 5 in New York and later head of CNN's Washington team, was the inventor of Headline News, for which he sent crews around the country and even to "Nicaraguan jungles" and "Grenada beaches to make reports." "Most stories," Whittemore writes, "were broken down into as many as thirty segments of three to four minutes apiece."
Today CNN garners prestige from the notoriety it received during its coverage of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The Atlanta-based network has transformed itself into a much sought-after commercial model, one which is more and more imitated by Europe's commercial broadcasters, making the news network from the American South a formidable competitor for the older, more established public broadcasting monopolies on the European continent.
If this trend continues we may witness by the turn of the century, the transmission of
CNN's style throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Competition in world markets will
be dealt with in the same way that CNN has dealt with competition at home in the United
States: With a tried-and-true formula and an inherently populistic philosophy, sometimes
to the extreme, CNN will irreverently appear to be snubbing its nose at the European
"big guys" and the "ivory tower" critics, but always claiming to
represent "the common man."
Even if most Finns and most Europeans never become regular viewers of the American station, CNN's influence will be significant because the real challenge to European public service broadcasting will be found in the traditional American commercial format and commercial style of discourse which has proven to be extremely efficient in fulfilling its purpose in American markets. CNN's format is a proven competitive broadcasting commodity while other formats, and discourse styles, are not competitive and will have more difficulty attracting audience attention in a predominantly commercial environment.
Footnotes | Next
chapter | Contents | Homepage ||
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6a | 6b | 7a | 7 (cont.) | 8 | Conclusion | Bibliography
Finnish Views of CNN Copyright © 1995 by Brett Dellinger
Order the book:
BRETT DELLINGER (1995). Finnish views of CNN television news: A critical cross-cultural analysis of the American commercial discourse style. Linguistics 6. (Väitöskirja). 337 s. 136 Finnish Marks.