Media markets after dictatorship Drucken

Media markets after dictatorship
Dealing with the Past and Democratization from Outside

Dr. Gabriel G. Stanescu
Professor of Ethics of Mass-Media
Managing director of "Gardianul;" daily newspaper

If I were to dig into the Romanian history, without evoking Dracula, I would mention a similar period, the one in Ceausescu's time, when media landscape consisted only in the public television and radio, six national daily newspapers, among which one in German, another one in Hungarian, and a Sport one. Of course, all of them were cenzured by the Comunist Party.

An amazing example: when a Romanian team won the Champions League, the news got a humble place in tha last page because Ceausescu's speech was to fill all the newspapers. The development of the Romanian Media after '89 was a surprising one even for the professionals in the field. Romania was emerging to life and free press after dozens of years of dictatorship but had a tremendous development of the media. The dynamics was a spectacular one.

Liberalisation and privatisation of the broadcast media in Romania have been extensive. During 2000, for example, the National Audiovisual Council (CNA) granted 18 television licences and 20 radio licences, which brought the total number of licensed television and radio stations at the end of 2000 to 173, and 297, respectively. Inevitably, this has been a major expansion of foreign ownership, including a number of US media companies (Viacom's MTV) or companies like CME and SBS, which are predominantly US-owned.

The state broadcaster Romanian Radio and Television (TVR) was split in 1994 to form two distinct organisations. Before the launch of the commercial channel, Pro TV, in 1995, TVR 1, the flagship channel, was watched consistently by two thirds of TV audiences but figures for the year 2000 revealed an audience share of 30.5%. The majority of programmes shown on TVR 1 are in Romanian, as the broadcaster allocates only a small percentage of its budget to the purchase of foreign programmes.

Cable companies are also predominantly foreign-owned. Romanian Cable Systems (RCS), the largest cable operator in Romania, is owned by US and Czech investors and operates 60 networks in Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, each carrying between 30 and 44 channels. It has about 800,000 subscribers.

UPC Romania, part of the Netherlands-based group owned by Liberty Media, had 320,000 subscribers in 2002.


WAZ is a small player in the Romanian media market. It opted essentially for the newspaper sector with a 51% interest in the daily Trustul de Presa National. WAZ owns also a 50% stake in Romania Libera through a joint venture with Trustul Mehrh. The group expanded influence through interests in regional papers across Eastern Europe.


Axel Springer Verlag owns 8 magazine titles including Elle or 20 Ani, and Springer owns 40 % in each of them. The strategy is to publish uniform magazines throughout Eastern Europe.


Burda is the main German player in Romania with participation in 7 weeklies or magazines through the Burda Verlag Osteuropa (BVO), which is taking charge of all publishing operations in this region. BVO is the product of a partnership between Burda and Italian publishing group RCS Editori. Burda owns 80% of BVO and RCS only 20%. The magazines published in Romania through Burda Ofa, a subsidiary entirely controlled by BVO, are the same as in neighbouring countries. Burda tries to standardise the content and the page-layout of their magazines, which cuts production costs and increases profits.


Some other German players are involved in Romania such as Bauer (one magazine) and Gruner+Jahr (with evenimentul Zilei)



Ringier has created a branch called Ringier Romania. It is the leading foreign publisher and market leader in Romania's promising business publications segment. Today, Ringier publishes around ten print products including the tabloid daily paper Libertatea. The trust also owns two of the most important daily newspapers("Evenimentul Zilei ", "Prosport"), and other six magazines: Bravo, Capital, Lumea Femeilor, TV Mania, TV Satelit and Unica.


Edipresse has been in the Romanian market since 1998, in association with Antonios Liberis, its Greek partner. The partnership was enlarged at the beginning of 2002 with the integration of the Romanian publications belonging to the Axel Springer Group. The Romanian Publishing Group (RPG) publishes eight magazines in Romania including well-known international titles like Avantaje or Elle onto its market. In 1999, RPG launched the fortnightly magazine Viva!, a Romanian adaptation of its Polish cousin, and in 2000 it launched the magazine 20 Ani.



In 1999, Sanoma Magazines International and Hearsts founded Sanoma-Hearst Romania (SHR), in which SMI owns a 65% stake. SHR launched several magazines and was quickly able to gain a leading market share. Business in Romania is at an early stage of development. Sanoma-Hearst Romania publishes four titles, including Cosmopolitan, and also operate Romania's leading consumer Internet portal.



Lagardère has owned Europa FM since 2000. The French group also has a stake in Radio Total. When Legardère invested in this radio station, the situation was difficult. After restructuring, Radio Total became very popular in Bucharest. The new objective is to become a national radio station because it only broadcasts in the Bucharest area. Lagardère has adopted the French format with programs arranged every day around 40 sections of information intersected by musical parts and entertainment shows.

Lagardère has also created Radio 21, a youth station broadcast in Bucharest where the headquarters are. Radio 21 has now the objective of broadcasting its programmes on 12 local stations so that they reach almost all the country.

Legardère group is focused on radio in Romania but they also publish the internationally known Elle magazine (circulation 25,000) through the Romanian Publishing Group SRL.



Luxembourg-based and American-financed SBS owns 86% of Ameron Ltd., which operate Prima TV in Romania. This station was established in 1997 and covers 87% of the Romanian media landscape. The programmes are broadcasted by satellite and cable. Currently, Prima TV is the second private television in terms of market shares and audiences.



The global media group, News Corporation, through Balkan News Service flly owns the digital TV channel B1TV (Bucuresti 1 TV). The channel was launched in December 2001 and includes news, talk shows and entertainment in addition to cultural, economic and political programmes focusing on Bucharest's life. The company's goal is to officially launch the channel within the entire country and begin satellite broadcasting.


Pro TV was formed as a joint venture between Bermuda-based CME and local Romanian entrepreneurs in 1995. It has an audience share of 25%.


One of the clearest tendencies has been media concentration. There are several big players on the media market., Some of them are foreign but the biggest actors still remain Romanian. MediaPro is the biggest media company followed by Intact, a company founded by a well-known businessman and party founder. Finally, several international media companies hold newspapers, magazines and TV stations. For example the Swiss group Ringier holds the tabloid Libertatea, the financial weekly Capital and several other specialised magazines.

However, the entrance of international companies into the market has led to improvements in journalism and in the media, after the direct legacy of Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship. The difference between tabloid and quality papers has become even clearer and TV and radio stations have been offering better and more diverse programming.

In Romania, the audiovisual field was regulated by the Audiovisual Law adopted in 1992. In mid-2000, a new audiovisual law was passed to bring Romanian broadcasting in line with the European Union's Television Without Frontiers directive. The law specifies that broadcasters must show at least 40% Romanian produced programmes, 10% of wich must be made by independent production companies. Broadcasting laws permipt foreign ownership. The National Audiovisual Council (CNA), an eleven-member body elected by Parliament, is responsible for awarding TV and radio licences, monitoring operations and enforcing legislation. Broadcasting licences can only be awarded by the CNA.

In Romania, the most important international shareholder of a TV channel is Central European Media Enterprises (CME), that is Pro TV. Another important international owner of a TV channel licence is SBS Broadcasting.

It could be assumed that the international press groups, when talking about written press, cover about 50 to 60 percent of the national circulation. Concerning the audience of the radio and TV channels, they gather together about 40 percent of the whole public. As it concerns the income in advertising, these groups have about 60 to 70 percent of the market.

Some of the advantages that come in having an international stock-holder could be:

  • a greater editorial independence.
  • a political and economical balance in the news reports.

All these would guarantee a free press. On the other hand, because the advertising system in Romania is connected with the political interests, the presence of some international press groups afords the media institutions to avoid the economical and political pressures.

More than that, the specialists of the international groups brought a modern line both in the way of working with the editors and in treating stories, in graphics, in marketing, in printing and so on.

Another positive aspect of their presence is that beside the professional standards imposed by the new companies, the journalists gain similar wages like in the Western countries. That would be an important reason for which they can be faithful to their ethical principals. So, there is no need of having a second job, or to get favors, special treatments or gifts. As a consequence, they can avoid the conflicts of interest.