Freedom of expression is included in the section 12 of the Finnish Constitution:
“Everyone has freedom of expression. Freedom of expression entails the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communication without prior prevention by anyone. More detailed provisions on the exercise of the freedom of expression are laid down by an Act. Provisions on restrictions relating to pictorial programmes that are necessary for the protection of children may be laid down by an Act.”
(Finnish Constitution, 731/1999, Section 12 - Freedom of expression and right of access to information.)
The Constitution defines the Swedish language as a parallel official national language, specifies Sámi, Romany and Finnish sign language as minority languages; designates Sámi people as an indigenous culture and stipulates the rights of the Sámi people and other minority groups to develop their own culture.
The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for developing educational, science, cultural, sport and youth policies and international cooperation in these fields. The Ministry oversees the content of TV, video and films, copyright issues, education, archiving and research.
The Finnish government appoints the Copyright Council for three years at a time to assist the Ministry in copyright matters and to issue opinions on the application of the Copyright Act.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications oversees telecommunications, the operating licences and the press subsidy system also through (FICORA), which maintains an overview of the functionality of electronic communications networks and information security, reports of eventual information security threats, plans and administers the use of radio frequencies.
The Data Protection Board, an independent authority affiliated with the Ministry of Justice, is the most important decision-making agency in personal data issues. The board may grant permission for the processing of personal data, provided that the vital interests of the subject are protected. The Data Protection Ombudsman provides direction and guidance on the processing of personal data, supervises the processing to achieve the objectives of the Personal Data Act (523/1999), as well as makes decisions concerning the right of access, rectification and deletion.
The Supreme Court handles lawsuits of precedent nature concerning media, e.g. freedom of speech and media freedom. The Supreme Administrative Court is the highest court for administrative cases, including lawsuits related to publicity and accessibility of the material of public authorities.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman exercises oversight to ensure that public authorities and officials observe the law and fulfil their duties. The scope of oversight also includes other parties performing public functions. The aim is to ensure good administration and the observance of constitutional and human rights. The Ombudsman investigates complaints, launches investigations and carries out on-site inspections in official agencies and institutions.
The Chancellor of Justice of the government, along with the parliamentary ombudsman, is the supreme guardian of the law in Finland. The chancellor observes openness in public governance and gives remarks for misbehaviour to authorities withholding information. The chancellor of justice is called upon to resolve matters concerning the supervision of the government, as well as matters of principle or of far-reaching consequence
In all, there are some 25 acts on communications and mass media. The legislation includes a wide range of regulations and rights, from the constitution to the communications market act (Finlex.fi).
There is no special legislation on media competition, media concentration or media ownership. The legislation on media market competition is based on the Finnish legislation on competition restrictions and on EU directives. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority monitors business deals and trade practices in the media market.
The Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media, which became effective at the beginning of 2004, applies to publishing and program production. Communication via information networks is part of it and is therefore subject to legislation on mass media. The new Act amended the previous Freedom of the Press Act and Radio Broadcasting Responsibility Act. While the Act lays down a number of special requirements for regular publishing and program making, the webpages of private individuals are subject only to the Act’s provisions on ensuring that, where necessary, responsibility is borne for any crime or damage.
Television program quotas are set out in the 1998 Act on Radio and Television Activities and adhere to the stipulations of the EU Directive Television Without Frontiers. The Finnish legislation follows the Directive on European programs on TV channels. The Finnish Act on Radio and Television Activities set a quota of 15 percent for programs by independent producers, with a clause that the programs must have been produced during the preceding five years.
The Act on Yleisradio Oy (Finnish Broadcasting Company) (1380/1993; amendments up to 635/2005 included) defines the nature of public service programming. Yle has to support tolerance and multiculturalism and provide programming for minority and special groups. Broadcasting must be in both official languages, including services in Sámi, Romany and sign languages. The company shall not broadcast advertising in its television or radio programs or in other content services that are transmitted in various telecommunications networks. Sponsored programs are not allowed for Yle.
The Act on the Classification of audiovisual programmes (775/2000) provides guidelines for the classification of television programs for the protection of children against pornography and violence. Violations of the act are punishable by Finnish penal code.
Television broadcasting licences in the terrestrial network are awarded by the state. If there is enough bandwidth available, the regulatory authority FICORA may award licences for short-term operations. A short-term operator is allowed to send programs around the clock for three months or for a maximum of eight hours a week.
The new Act on National Audiovisual Archive (2007) - KAVI - expands the tasks of the former Finnish Film Archive by including radio and television programmes in the archives. National Audiovisual Institute was formed in 2014 as a result of a merger between the National Audiovisual Archive (formerly Finnish Film Archive, 1957-2007) and the Centre for Media Education and Audiovisual Media (formerly Finnish Board of Film Classification, 1946-2011). KAVI’s library is the only library for audiovisual literature in Finland. The library includes 32,000 books on film and TV, periodicals in several languages and nearly 45,000 files in the paper clipping archive.
The systematic saving of radio and TV programmes and the introduction of the databasing of programmes allows research use. Recorded programs are available for consultation in the archive, in the library of the University of Helsinki, in the library of parliament and at the University of Tampere. The new procedure for the systematic saving of audiovisual programs opened new resources and perspectives to the research of electronic media production.