Yle, Finnishness and Culture – Hundred Years of Interaction

In relation to Yle’s 100th anniversary in 2026, The universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Tampere and Turku, as well as Yle are launching an extensive research project on Yle’s relationship with Finns, Finnishness and culture: Yle 100.

This is Yle’s most comprehensive academic research project to date.

The goal of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation is to disseminate the information and art accumulated in the centers of culture to a wide circle of our people, “especially with the needs of those living far away from the central urban areas”. This was defined in Yle’s founding articles of association in 1926, and the same instructions were recorded in the first license granted to the company.

It did not take many years for the rural population to complain that their affairs and way of life were not sufficiently taken into account in Yle’s program schedule. Again, in the 1930s, the voice of the workforce would not have been allowed to be heard on the radio, but in the 70s it was felt to be perhaps heard too much. Now, in recent years, we have often learned from claims that we are bending too much towards the youth and forgetting about elderly Finns.

It is clear that Yle has had a huge impact on Finnish culture and Finns over the past hundred years. Our current strategy says that we will strengthen Finnish culture and society and increase our understanding of each other.

Long and varied connection

But what kind of Finnishness have we strengthened over the decades, and whose views on Finnish culture have been presented? What kind of Finns have been thought of as recipients of Yle’s program activities at any given time – have some sections of the population been avoided? Has our perception of Finnishness been narrow or simplistic, below which Finnish diversity – traditional or new – is too obscured? And what might be important to Yle in relation to Finns and Finnishness in fifteen years, in the 2030s?

Finnishness is a changing idea in history, which reflects the values and ideological trends of the time. It is most directly reflected in the cultural content and offerings and in the use of culture through the ages.

The amount of cultural content that Yle brings to Finnish homes and different life situations is enormous.

Yle’s repertoire been nurtured by culture and Yle has nurtured culture. Radio and television have always been, in all countries, a platform for international culture, which has been a source of vitality and which has transported international trends from one country to another. What part of Yle’s entire repertoire has been particularly Finnish – or just repatriation?

Surprisingly little has been elucidated about Yle’s entire cultural offerings with its entire spectrum/range of genres. Many types of programmes are actually devoid of historical studies.

Research themes

Yle and four universities – Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Tampere and Turku – have now launched an extensive Yle 100 research project that addresses the issues outlined above. The Yle 100 research program is the largest university research project focused on Yle to date. The project’s main focus is on Yle’s programming and it’s Finnish users through time. The development of the digital period of Yle’s organization and institution will also be mapped in the project. The research program as a whole is coordinated by the University of Helsinki under the leadership of Professor Niklas Jensen-Eriksen and consists of three major themes.

The project is Yle’s investment in knowledge of Finnish academic public service, and the research will be conducted in accordance with the terms of academic research.

The first theme examines the above questions about Yle and Finnishness and the relationship between Yle and Finns over a hundred years. The University of Helsinki is responsible for this theme. The principal investigator is Docent Jukka Kortti.

The second theme explores the relationship between Yle and culture. Yle’s cultural repertoire is widely understood as a cluster of many different genres, and the research also focuses on Yle’s international repertoire. The University of Turku is responsible for the theme of Yle and Culture. The lead researcher is Professor Anu Koivunen.

The third research theme focus Yle’s corporate history over the past thirty years. It thus continues Yle’s corporate history, as published in 1997, and is above all the history of Yle’s first digital decades. A lot else has happened during that time: Yle has become a statutory company, the parliamentary control has been strengthened, media regulation has become more European, Yle’s financial model has been reformed and the media industry has become fully internationalized. The University of Tampere is responsible for Yle’s corporate history 1997–2026. The principal investigator is Docent Marko Tikka.

The University of Jyväskylä participates in all three themes under the coordination of Assistant Professor Turo Uskali.

The research program is not a standard commissioned research project that Yle would commission from universities for its own use to develop its operations. Above all, the project is Yle’s investment in academic knowledge of Finnish public services, and the research is carried out precisely under the terms of academic research. The research program is led by an academic steering group and the research is conducted in collaboration with the universities. The respective researchers set the research questions and make methodological choices within each theme. The end result is also intended to be academically peer-reviewed research.

Over the next three years, more than a dozen distringuisged media and history researchers from four universities will participate in the research program. In addition, the research program will organize seminars on the topics, and it is likely that theses will be created about Yle and the public service.

Completed publications on the research program are expected during 2025 and 2026. The publisher of the works is SKS Tieto Oy.

YLE has its anniversary in the autumn of 2026. By then, we also aim to offer examples of the hundred years of interaction between Yle, culture and Finns in a way that is natural to us: on radio, television and online.

Research in Finland

MEVI2022 – The Finnish Conference for Media and Communication Studies

“Interesting content, well-functioning arrangements, a summer city, living people!” This feedback sums up the feelings of those who attended MEVI2022, the Finnish Conference for Media and Communication Studies. The conference was held in Turku, Finland, in April 2022.

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MEVI2022 - The Finnish Conference for Media and Communication Studies

The text was originally published in Finnish in the open blog site of the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle, and later translated and adapted by NordMedia Network.

Photo by Juho Luomala via Unsplah.