Journalists under scrutiny by business interests in 1970s
Johannes Koroma says journalists kept an eye on each other
Representatives of Finland’s business community kept tabs on the political views of journalists of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) and the private television broadcaster MTV in the 1970s, says Johannes Koroma, a journalist and former director of the Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (TT).
According to Koroma, lists were also drawn up of leading civil servants. He found this out while researching the history of industrial organisations.
“It was a bit similar to this thing about the Foundation to Support Free Education.”
He was referring to a conservative-minded foundation dedicated to monitoring the political views of teachers in all universities. This operated between 1971 and 1991. Helsingin Sanomat reported on the group’s activities on Sunday.
Koroma says that he does not know exactly who organised the research into the political backgrounds of journalists and civil servants.
“There was no single group, but there were apparently many people who collected information and processed it together.”
Koroma says that the investigators were other journalists, and “those who were in contact with journalists”.
Koroma says that work took place on a volunteer basis, out of fear of spreading radicalism. YLE, under director-general Eino S. Repo, had become politicised, and it was accused of directly supporting the left.
Koroma says that those gathering the information were not paid.
“I certainly never saw any indications that any money would have been involved.”
Business leaders learned, for instance, that among YLE journalists, only the Swedish language unit had a centre-left majority.
Koroma says that it was easy to ascertain the political views of journalists and civil servants.
“Even the doormen at ministries had to be members of a party. It was a requirement for getting the job.”
Koroma says that this was not an “absolute measurement” of political affiliation, but rather one of sympathies.
“Information was gathered about people and their behaviour.
The purpose of the lists was to get the right people into key positions. Majorities of most ministry civil servants were “on the left side of the centre line”, Koroma says.
Koroma says that when he worked as the head of the business and finance department of Helsingin Sanomat in the early 1970s, he himself was placed on a list kept by the hard-line faction of the Finnish Communist Party.
Koroma still does not think that such lists are a bad idea, and he supports the proposal by Matti Apunen, director of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, that journalists should take part in a survey in which they would report their political affiliations.
Koroma feels that such a survey should be done anonymously.
He welcomes Apunen’s proposal that the Union of Journalists in Finland would take part in the study.
“It would create an atmosphere of objectivity and confidence.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Business group wants to ascertain political affiliations of Finnish journalists (11.10.2010)