Backman withdraws from YLE leadership race
Jouni Backman, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party’s Parliamentary group, announced on Wednesday evening that he would not seek the position of Director-General of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).
Backman also told Helsingin Sanomat that he was leaving the post of vice chairman of the Administrative Council of YLE.
He said that he would have allowed his name to be considered only if the three largest political parties were behind him.
The Backman affair has put strains on relations between the two main government parties - the Social Democrats and the Centre Party. It could also threaten the position of the chairman of the YLE Administrative Council, Markku Laukkanen.
The controversy began during the weekend when Laukkanen announced that he had asked Backman if he would agree to take the YLE leadership post. Laukkanen and Backman had previously looked for an appropriate candidate, enlisting the services of a firm of consultants.
Backman told Helsingin Sanomat that he had agreed to the proposal after both Laukkanen and Jyri Häkämies, the head of the National Coalition Party’s group on the YLE Administrative Council, had asked if he would be available for the post.
"I got the impression that these groups were behind me", Backman said, adding that he gave a positive response on the condition that he had the support of the three largest parties.
Backman insisted that he had never been put forward by the Social Democratic group on the Administrative Council, and that he never sought to place himself in the position.
Later it came out that he did not have the unanimous support of the representatives of the non-socialist parties on the council.
On Wednesday Backman decided to withdraw his name from consideration. He said that he wanted to avoid a debate that might harm the Finnish Broadcasting Company.
A number of members of the YLE Administrative Council, including representatives of Laukkanen’s own Centre Party, felt that the whole affair put Markku Laukkanen’s position in a negative light.
MP Riikka Moilanen-Savolainen called for serious debate within the Centre Party on whether or not Laukkanen should continue as chairman of the YLE Administrative Council. She criticised the way that Laukkanen endorsed Backman without first discussing the issue with other Centre Party members on the council.
After Jouni Backman’s withdrawal, discussions among members of the Administrative Council have focused around Päivi Kärkkäinen, programme director for the television network YLE TV2. Ms. Kärkkäinen was also the first choice of the consultancy firm drafted in for the selection process.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Choice of top executive of Finnish Broadcasting Company postponed (29.9.2004)