Introduction

The Swedish media model can be characterised as a democratic corporatist model, with, at least historically, a strong press, strong political parallelism, a high degree of professionalisation and a strong state role in media policy making. In recent decades, however, the system has moved towards a more liberal direction.

The newspaper market has traditionally been dominated by subscribed local morning papers. Despite a steady decline in terms of printed newspapers, circulation is still relatively high compared to other countries. However, as audiences have increasingly migrated online, the nationally oriented press has gained momentum. Thanks to an unmatched online reach, tabloid newspapers, Aftonbladet and Expressen, attract a majority of the online advertising revenues of the domestic newspaper industry. In a similar fashion, the more quality-oriented morning newspapers, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, have come to dominate the market for online newspaper subscriptions. This recent development not only illustrates the relative weakening of the local press in Sweden but also precipitates the appearance of class-related patterns of news usage in a country historically known for its egalitarian newspaper consumption.

Historically, there has been a strong relationship between political parties and the press. Beside the older liberal and conservative newspapers, social democratic newspapers and newspapers affiliated with the agrarian Centre party were launched during the first decades of the 20th century. The system with competing newspapers of different political orientation clashed with the market forces of advertising during the 1950s, and a press subsidy system was formed, aimed at maintaining the political diversity of the newspaper landscape. Thus, the system with a party press continued to be prevalent. Today, there are almost no ownership ties between political parties and newspapers. There are, however, a few independent and small online news sites with strong ties to political parties. Furthermore, an increasing number of local newspapers are owned by self-governed foundations, of which many have, at least indirect, ties to the political arena.

The journalistic profession has been strong since the 1960s when the first journalism courses started in Sweden. Most active journalists have been formally educated in journalism. The journalistic ideal is very clear: it is to be a watchdog, a third estate, in society. Even though strong cutbacks in journalism have occurred since the turn of the century, this ideal remains strong. In general, legacy media also support this ideal, and most journalists are autonomous in their profession.

In terms of active state policy, state subsidies have been given to economically weak newspapers since the early 1970s. The main aim of the subsidies has been to support weak papers in competitive markets. Today, state subsidies represent only a few percent of the total revenue of the press. There are also some indirect benefits for all newspapers, such as reduced VAT on printed newspapers (6 percent instead of the general one of 25 percent) and a general distribution subsidy. A proposal to also lower the VAT for digital subscriptions is currently being handled by the government. Public service broadcasting is still comparatively strong in Sweden, with a daily market share of roughly 1/3 of the audience for television and 3/4 for radio. There is a political debate going on about public service broadcasting, with regards to how broad or narrow the content should be. Still, it can be regarded as very broad in comparison to the content of public service broadcasting in other countries. The current broadcasting rights of the public service companies were established in 2014 and will be recommissioned in 2020.