SAK cancels controversial political television advertisements
The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), Finland's largest labour union confederation, decided on Sunday evening to cancel a television advertising campaign, aimed at encouraging members of its affiliate unions to vote in the upcoming Parliamentary election. The campaign had sparked a good deal of irritation and anger, especially among entrepreneurs.
A number of Parliamentary candidates in the Social Democratic Party joined those who felt that the two TV spots were not in good taste.
In the cancelled TV advertisements a gluttonous corporate executive played by actor Oiva Lohtander stuffs food in his mouth and fondles dead trophy animals, taking delight in the observation that workers in Finland tend not to vote.
The ads were made public a week ago and they were scheduled to begin airing on commercial television channels as of today.
The decision to drop the ads was made by Matti Tukiainen, who had originally been behind the effort, and SAK President Lauri Ihalainen after discussions with leaders of SAK-affiliated unions. "It was a common decision of the leadership", Tukiainen said. Ihalainen did not give any statements on the matter on Sunday.
One reason for the decision, according to Tukiainen, was that the image of someone gorging himself with food was seen as offensive, and the discussion that it provoked focused on the style of the advertising, rather than the message of voter turnout. This did not promote the original idea of encouraging wage-earners to go to the polls.
The SAK is trying to produce a new advertisement for the time slots reserved for the spots that were now cancelled. Tukiainen suspects that there will not be enough time to produce the same kind of elaborate ad with an actor and a set.
Slots had been booked on two commercial networks for two weeks. SAK hopes to negotiate moving some of the slots to a later time in the period, in order to get more time to produce a replacement.
Before the cancellation, the ad was condemned by many political parties, and by many candidates of the Social Democratic Party.
There were fears in the rank-and-file of the Social Democratic Party that the SAK campaign would hurt the party in the elections.
For instance, Jukka Gustafsson wrote in his blog that instead of encouraging anyone to vote, the campaign primarily provokes anger.
Maria Guzenina-Richardson expressed her "disgust" with the campaign. Arja Alho said that it goes "against good behaviour". Minna Lintonen felt that the ad does not promote "the league between labour and capital".
On Sunday evening, Social Democratic Party Chairman Eero Heinäluoma briefly evaluated the decision of the SAK.
"It is an understandable, and most obviously a right decision. The purpose was good, but the implementation was obviously not on the mark."