The Council for Mass Media

Basic agreement

Basic agreement

The task of the Council for Mass Media is to cultivate responsible freedom in regard to the mass media as well as provide support for good journalistic practice. Media associations, journalists' unions and independent media companies that have affiliated to the Basic Agreement are bound to adhere to its principles. They also endeavour to ensure that their members and those working for them act in accordance with the intentions of this agreement.

For the purposes of this agreement, the Council for Mass Media is referred to hereafter as 'Council,' those bound by the agreement as the ’Affiliate Organisations’ and the media companies within the sphere of its operation as the 'Mass Media.'


1 § Council functions

The general task of the Council and the chairperson is to interpret good journalistic practice as well as defend freedom in regard to speech and the right to publication.

The Council and the chairperson handle issues on the basis of submitted requests, but can also, on their own initiative, take up a matter that concerns a question of principle and major importance.

In individual cases the Council may, in addition to its rulings, issue statements of a general nature.

The Council provides decisions on appeals that may be filed by complainants in regard to exculpatory rulings made by the chairperson

The chairperson leads the operations of the Council and its office in matters related to complaints and their preparation. The chairperson takes an active role in public discussion concerning journalistic ethics and self-regulation.

2 § Scope of operation

The Council and the chairperson review editorial content and its discernibility from advertising material, as published in the Mass Media that have affiliated to this agreement. News agencies may also fall within the jurisdiction of the Council and the chairperson.

Additionally, the Council and the chairperson review the discernibility of content produced by the public from editorial content and the administration by editors of online forums allocated to the public, as stipulated in the Annex to the Guidelines for Journalists.

The Council and the chairperson may also review the procedures used by those serving as employees or freelancers for the Mass Media or news agencies for the purpose of gathering information.

The chairperson and Council office have the opportunity, prior to the official handling of a complaint, to mediate the matter if both parties consent thereto.

The Council may likewise take a stance on any attempts by the authorities or individuals to limit the freedom of speech or publication.

3 § Ruling principles

The Council and the chairperson base their rulings on free deliberation in respect to the Guidelines for Journalists, its Annex and other established principles of good journalistic practice.

The Guidelines for Journalists are drafted and approved by the Management Group of the Council for Mass Media. This approval must be unanimous.

4 § Consequences of violation of good practice

A mass media or news agency that violates good journalistic practice will receive a reprimand from the Council. If the violation is gross or the actions of the Mass Media otherwise show disregard, the Council can issue a ruling that includes a severe reprimand. Such reprimands must be publicised without delay and without direct comment in accordance with the following principles:

1) In all cases on the website of the mass media or news agency, if the media in question has a significant amount of its editorial content on the web.

2) If the reprimand concerns a printed paper or magazine, news of the ruling may be published based on normal news release criteria. If the paper or magazine does not publish news items, it must publish the reprimand in full in the print edition and online.

3) If the ruling only concerns an online publication, it is sufficient that the verdict is published online only.

4) Radio and television media fulfil the obligation to publicise by publishing the news of the reprimand, based on normal news release criteria, on the relevant programme’s website and in connection with the programme in question.

5) If the publication of the reprimand does not meet the stipulations of the basic agreement and the procedures of the Council, the Council or chairperson can require that the reprimand be published again in the required manner.

The Council will specify in its procedures the manner in which the obligation to publicise is to be fulfilled in practice.

4a § Exculpatory ruling

Although the obligation to publicise does not apply to an exculpatory ruling by the Council, it is recommended that news of such a ruling be publicised as well.


The composition of the Council and the selection of the chairperson

5 § Council members

The Council is made up of 13 members, in addition to the chairperson. The term of office, other than that of the chairperson, is three years and starts at the beginning of a calendar year.

The Management Group of the Council shall appoint eight of the members as well as personal deputy members for them. Those appointed should be professionally experienced and well versed in ethical questions. Jointly they should represent expertise in respect to both the press and the digital media. The appointment decisions made by the Management Group shall be unanimous.

The Council shall appoint, as representatives of the public, five members and personal deputy members for them. The representatives of the public are not permitted to be in the service of the Mass Media nor in related positions of trust. Two of the representatives of the public and their personal deputy members must, if possible, have a special knowledge of matters concerning freedom of speech or ethical questions.

Representatives of the public, and their personal deputy members, are selected on the basis of motivated applications, submitted in writing to the Council, in the manner defined by its chairperson. 

Upon the end of the term of office, a Council member cannot be immediately appointed for a further three-year term. This restriction does not apply to deputy members.

Regardless of the above, a Council member and deputy member may, with sufficient reason, be appointed for a further term of one or two years. The decision on the further term shall be made by the Management Group for a representative of media, and by the Council for a representative of the public. Upon consultation with the chairperson of the Council as well as the background organisation of the member in question, the Board shall propose to the general meeting of the Management Group that the member representing the media be appointed for a further term. For a further term to be held by a representative of the public, the proposal shall be made to the Council by its chairperson. 

If a Council member resigns during the term, a successor shall be appointed for the remaining duration of the term. A person who has been appointed as a successor to a Council member can be appointed as a member or deputy member for a three-year term immediately after the term of succession.

6 § Chairperson of the Council

The Management Group of the Council for Mass Media shall elect, by a unanimous resolution, the chairperson for the Council for a four-year term.

The term of office shall begin when the chairperson is elected and has assumed the position. A chairperson may be elected for two successive terms.

If the chairperson resigns or is dismissed during the term, a new chairperson shall immediately be elected for a period of three years in accordance with this agreement. The resolution on the dismissal of the chairperson need not be unanimous.

7 § Vice chairpersons of the Council

The Council shall, on an annual basis, select three vice chairpersons from among its members. The third vice chairperson shall be selected from the representatives of the public.

Vice chairpersons may be re-elected.


Handling complaints and other matters within the Council

8 § Commencement of action

Any individual may submit to the Council a matter that falls within the jurisdiction of the Council or the Council chairperson. This can be done by sending a written complaint to the Council office, or by signing a writ completed by the Council secretary on the basis of oral notification.

The matter shall not be taken up without the consent of the party involved unless there are particularly good reasons for doing so. The party refers to the individual or organisation on whose behalf the complaint is to be made.

The Council may, on its own or the chairperson’s initiative, take up for deliberation an issue that is of principle and major importance, and concerns freedom of speech or publication or good journalistic practice.

9 § Acquisition of clarification

Prior to issuing a ruling, the Council must hear the complainee. In addition to the parties concerned, the Council may hear specialists and also acquire further clarification in writing. The hearing of the parties concerned and specialists may be carried out on either a written or an oral basis.

10 § Grounds for rejecting a complaint

The Council and the chairperson cannot handle matters submitted on an anonymous basis nor, without a pressing reason, any matter that has been published more than three months earlier.

If the complainant clearly seeks a ruling for the purposes of an action to be filed in the same matter in a court of law for criminal proceedings or for damages, the Council shall not handle the matter or shall interrupt the handling.

The Council may, according to its discretion, leave also other matters untreated or interrupt their handling.

11 § Disqualification

The chairperson or members of the Council are disqualified from handling any issue to which they are party or in regard to which they are in such close liaison that this may affect their impartiality. Attention must also be paid to matters that may affect the perceived impartiality of the Council.

The above shall be applicable to Council secretaries as well.

Any dispute concerning the possible disqualification of a member or a secretary shall be resolved by the chairperson of the Council.

Any dispute concerning the possible disqualification of the chairperson of the Council shall be resolved by the vice chairpersons.

12 § Duties of the chairperson

The chairperson may decide that a complaint is not to be handled, in other words, it is rejected. The chairperson may, according to his or her deliberation, issue rulings on matters of principle that are of minor importance and which clearly will lead to an exculpatory ruling. The Council shall be informed of these rulings. Propositions for any other rulings shall be taken to the Council by the chairperson.

If the chairperson is prevented or unable to perform his or her duties, one of the vice chairpersons shall perform them. However, the vice chairperson cannot issue any rulings individually.

13 § Duties of the secretaries

The secretaries acquire documents and clarifications needed for the handling of complaints. They also prepare the ruling propositions for the chairperson.

If there is any disagreement, the dissident opinions of the secretaries shall be presented in the relevant preparatory documents and recorded in the ruling protocols.  

The secretaries shall not take part in making the resolutions, but they have the right to be heard in the Council meetings. 

14 § Publicity in regard to the deliberation and documents

The meetings of the Council are not public, unless otherwise decided by the Council in a specific case.

Any person has the right to obtain information with respect to documents in the possession of the Council. The chairperson of the Council may, however, either on his or her own initiative or that of the involved party, decide on the confidentiality of a document in its entirety or partially. Confidentiality is required, for example, for sensitive information relating to an individual’s state of health.

15 § Council quorum

The Council forms a quorum when the chairperson or one of the vice-chairpersons and a minimum of seven other members are present.

16 § Appeals and reassessment

Ruling by the Council

The rulings of the Council are final and may not be appealed, unless the ruling is based on evidently wrong information or misapprehension, in which case the Council can reassess the issue, on its own initiative or on the basis of a motivated appeal by the party involved.

Exculpatory ruling by the chairperson

The complainant may appeal to the Council against an exculpatory ruling issued by the chairperson. A motivated appeal must be filed with the Council office no longer than two weeks after the date when the original ruling of the chairperson was sent to the complainant.

Reassessment of complaints rejected by the chairperson

If the chairperson’s decision to reject the complaint is based on evidently incorrect information, the Council may reassess the complaint in question.

The request to reassess a complaint is decided on by the vice chairpersons and a representative of the public as appointed by the Council or his/her deputy. The chairperson as well as the secretary who prepared the original proposition for the chairperson are disqualified from handling the complaint. The request must be submitted to the Council office within two weeks after the date when the original ruling was sent to the complainant.

17 § Voting

In the event of a lack of consensus, rulings by the Council shall be made by means of open voting. The counterproposal need not be seconded. If voting results in a tie, the chairperson shall have the deciding vote.

In an election, voting shall be by secret ballot, if requested, and a possible tie shall be resolved by lot.

18 § Rulings

The ruling must include a record of possible voting, its results and the names of the voters. The members left in the minority shall have the opportunity to have their dissident opinion and a brief statement of the reasons for it included in the ruling. They must notify the chairperson about their wish to do so immediately after the vote.

Rulings shall be signed by the chairperson or vice chairperson of the Council together with a secretary. The rulings of the chairperson shall be signed by the chairperson together with a secretary.

19 § Minutes of proceedings

Minutes must be taken during the Council meetings. The members present, matters handled, decisions made, results of voting obtained and names of the voters must be mentioned.

A protocol shall be kept on the the chairperson’s decisions to qualify or reject complaints. The name of person preparing the matter, issues discussed, decisions made and possible dissident opinions of the person preparing the matter shall be mentioned in the protocol.

Council finances 

20 § Council finances

The financing of Council activities and other support shall be overseen by the Management Group of the Council for Mass Media in accordance with its rules.

The Management Group approves the budget for the Council and its operations on an annual basis. The chairperson may, after hearing the Council, introduce a proposal concerning the budget.

The Affiliate Organisations committed to this agreement pay annual fees, as substantiated by the Management Group, to cover their share of the Council’s expenditure.

The Management Group may accept government subsidy in support of the operations of the Council.

21 § Fees and expenses

The Affiliate Organisations shall be directly responsible for paying fees and expenses to the members they have appointed to the Council.

Other fees and expenses shall be substantiated by the Management Group.


22 § Employed personnel

The Management Group shall decide on the hiring and employment of secretaries and other personnel for the Council. The nominations shall be made by the Chairperson and vice chairpersons of the Council. The election of the Chairperson is prescribed separately in Article 6 of this agreement.

23 § Annual report

The Council shall prepare, on an annual basis, a report on its operations to be presented to the Management Group by the time of its annual meeting. 



24 § Affiliation to this agreement

A media association or company operating in the field of mass media communication and unanimously approved by the Management Group may be affiliated to this agreement. 

In approving affiliation to this agreement, the Management Group shall determine the relevant annual fee and its amount, as prescribed in Article 20.

The media association or company that has been affiliated to this agreement shall be entitled to use the identifying mark of the agreement in its publishing operations.

25 § Agreement-related obligation

The Organisation affiliated to this agreement is obliged to follow this agreement and to endeavour to ensure, by any means at its disposal, that the members of the Organisation and those in their service will comply with the Guidelines for Journalists and its Annex and operate in a manner prescribed in this agreement.

26 § Termination of agreement

The Organisation affiliated to this agreement may terminate the affiliation by making a written notification of resignation to the Management Group. The termination of affiliation shall come into effect one year from the notification.

The resigning Organisation is obliged to pay its annual fee until the actual date of termination.

The Management Group shall decide on questions of dismissal due to a breach of agreement or failure to pay the annual fee. The resolution must be unanimous.

27 § Changes to the agreement

This agreement may be amended only by a unanimous resolution of the Management Group.

Regulations concerning the entry into effect

28 § Validity of agreement

This agreement was adopted at the spring meeting of the Management Group on 19 may 2015 on 1 January 2014 and replaces the existing Basic Agreement effective from 1 January 2014.

Finnish Association of Magazines and Periodicals

Finnish Association of Local Periodicals

Finnish Newspapers Association

Union of Journalists in Finland (Finnish Association of Radio and Television Journalists)


Sanoma Entertainment
Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yle