Norway’s largest trade union federation, LO, has voted to grant millions of kroner in funding to two newspapers, one of them the struggling Oslo-based Dagsavisen, in what LO calls an effort to maintain good journalism.
With advertising revenues plummeting and circulation falling, many Norwegian media outlets have had to cut staff and operations. “Good journalism is more important than ever for an enlightened public debate,” Hans Christian Gabrielsen of LO wrote in a press release. “LO has historically played an important role in ensuring bredth in the Norwegian media, which we’re now carrying on.”
Dagsavisen’s editor Eirik Hoff Lysholm said the NOK 10 million from LO “means a lot for us,” providing the “security” needed to keep its survival strategy alive. Another NOK 9 million was granted to newspaper Klassekampen, which has been growing but also faces tough markets. Klassekampen’s editor Bjørgulv Braanen said he had no ethical problems in accepting the funding since it came with “no strings attached.”
The funding from LO quickly sparked criticism, though, from the conservative Progress Party’s Ib Thomsen. He stressed that LO can support what it wants, but noted that LO was giving relatively large amounts of money to two newspapers that “definitely” are tied to the left side of Norwegian politics.
“Of course there’s no demand to provide LO-friendly journalism … but it’s naive to think that major funding from a single donor won’t have any effect, consciously or unconsciously,” Thomsen told Journalisten, which covers the media in Norway. With many of Norway’s newspapers founded as arms of political parties, Thomsen wondered if LO wanted to restore the papers as mouthpieces for the Labour Party.