Subsidies constitute a prominent media-policy instrument, serving to correct media-market failures. However, because they interfere in the market, and because the commercial media market is under structural pressure in the digital age, there is much debate about the role of media subsidies. Within this context, this article revisits the foundation of media subsidies in certain developed democracies, aiming at qualifying the current discussions. Focusing on the Nordic countries, the article explores the connection between the social-democratic welfare-state regime and the extensive public frameworks for media subsidies found in this region. The article argues that even though continuity rather than disruption characterises the systems of direct and indirect subsidies, the current developments point towards a recalibration of the ways the Nordic countries subsidise media in the future.