Austria: dominance of the tabloids
In Austria the dominance of politically motivated advertising and financially strong major publishers leaves little space for new independent media. The result is a dominance of the tabloids, which makes for little diversity on the media market.
Belgium: media concentrated in very few hands
The division of Belgium is an established fact - at least in the media. The French-speaking region, Wallonia, Dutch-speaking Flanders and the small German-speaking region each have their own media and media structures. Experts find it worrying that in none of the three regions is there much media coverage of other parts of the country.
Bulgaria: commercial interests instrumentalise the media
With the democratic revolution of 1989 Bulgaria's media landscape underwent a major upheaval. The strong demand for independent journalism after decades of communist repression of media freedom (1944–1989) led to the founding of numerous print media. Whereas the first independent dailies 24 Chasa and Trud are still regarded as the leading media organs, the communist successor newspaper Duma leads a shadow existence these days. The weekly Kapital and the daily Kapital Daily are regarded as quality newspapers targeting an educated readership with an interest in political and economic news.
Croatia: parties gain influence over journalists
Although Croatia became independent in 1991 its media continue to be marked by the war surrounding the break-up of Yugoslavia and the transition from a socialist to a democratic society. Even after the privatisation of the media in the 1990s, most of the major print media and the public radio station HRT remained subject to the influence, manipulation and control of state institutions.
Cyprus: a divided public
Cyprus's media landscape was shaped by the former colonial power Great Britain until independence in 1960. That same year press freedom was enshrined in the constitution and in 1989 extended via a law.
Czech Republic: a media tycoon bolsters his empire
2013 and 2014 were explosive years in the Czech media: in the wake of the newspaper crisis several previously dominant German publishers (Rheinische Post, Axel Springer) left the Czech market. While neither of these publishers had ever exerted any political influence over newspaper content, when they sold the papers they made mistakes that were to have indirect repercussions for press freedom.
Denmark: a cruder journalistic culture
Danish journalists have recently started with increasing frequency to use unscrupulous methods to obtain stories. The tabloid Se og Hør, for instance, in 2014 paid bribes to the staff of credit card companies and hospitals to get hold of information about celebrities. And the 2011 parliamentary elections were preceded by a dirty campaign to discredit the social democrat candidate by publishing details of her love life.
Estonia: anonymity on the Internet
In Estonia, as elsewhere, the Internet is forcing traditional media increasingly to publish online. The online editions of print media offer not only written contributions but also a lot of audio-visual material and live transmissions. Users are increasingly turning their backs on the print media in favour of the Internet, as is evident from steadily declining print runs. Online commentaries are a hotly debated issue in Estonia.
Finland: Finns still avid newspaper readers
The media crisis and the upheavals in the media landscape are a subject of constant debate in Finland. Two controversial pieces of tax legislation were discussed particularly heatedly: the introduction of VAT for print products in 2012, initially 9, now 10 percent, and a year later the so-called Yle tax, named after Finland's radio and television broadcaster, which replaced the television license fee based on ownership of a TV receiver. The newspaper publishers hold the introduction of VAT partly responsible for the decline in circulations, and even politicians in the governing party are now demanding that the rate at least be reduced.
France: unparalleled attacks on press freedom
On 7 January 2015 two Islamists forced their way into the editorial offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed twelve people, among them some of France's best known caricaturists. Under the slogan "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) millions of people around the world rallied in public places and social networks to show their solidarity with the murdered journalists. Observers described the brutal attacks as the "9/11 of press freedom". Before the attack Charlie Hebdo had had a small print run of around 60,000, whereas the first issue after the attack sold seven million copies in France and twenty-five other countries.
Germany: a major media market undergoing upheaval
2014 saw a serious crisis of confidence in the German media. During coverage of the Ukraine conflict news portals were flooded with online commentaries in which German journalists were accused in some cases of spreading pro-Western, in others pro-Russian propaganda. According to an Infratest-Dimap survey, by the end of the year 63 percent of Germans had little trust or no trust at all in German media coverage of the Ukraine conflict.
Great Britain: scandals in the cradle of press freedom
For Alan Rusbridger, the chief editor of The Guardian, it was "one of the most bizarre moments" of his journalistic career: on 20 July 2013 two Guardian employees went down to the basement of the newspaper and using a drill destroyed the hard drives on which secret documents of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden were stored. The operation was supervised by two representatives of the British government who had put pressure on Rusbridger to destroy the data and threatened to take The Guardian to court if he refused.
Greece: a blow to democracy and press freedom
Without warning the Greek government closed down the public radio station ERT on 11 June 2013. Transmission ceased shortly after 11 pm. The Samara government described ERT as "an incredible example of money-squandering", leading observers to hold the austerity policy of the Troika responsible for the closure. Greek and foreign media condemned the move as a severe blow to press freedom.
Hungary: press freedom undermined
The campaigns against press freedom of Hungary's right wing-conservative government have made international headlines several times in recent years. Plans to introduce an Internet tax brought the population onto the streets in huge numbers in autumn 2014. In fact, the protests were so strong that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán eventually abandoned the project.
Ireland: media concentrated in a few hands
The crisis-induced concentration of Irish media has even caused politicians to take action. In December 2014, Irish Minister of Communications Alex White presented new guidelines to combat the increase in media monopolies. But critics say this will make no dent in the already established dominance of certain media organisations.
Italy: television dominates public opinion
The Italian media are heavily influenced by politics and business. Ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi began building his media empire in the 1980s and his monopoly continues to constitute a threat to pluralism to this day.
Latvia: little trust in the press
The economic crisis and the new media have made life very difficult for Latvia's media market. Most media have yet to see sales return to the pre-2008 level. The print media were hardest hit: subscriptions to the daily Diena, for example, fell by 70 percent. Advertising revenues dropped dramatically, partly because of the rising influence of online media. Only the second most popular daily, Latvijas Avize, managed to stay in the black.
Lithuania: online media as beneficiaries of the crisis
Censorship was abolished in Lithuania even before the country's declaration of independence in 1990, giving the media a major role in the struggle for state sovereignty. During the 1990s the media were highly influential, as citizens strove for a free press. Print runs of 100,000 were not uncommon, a figure that media organisations in Lithuania can only dream of today.
Luxembourg: diversity of opinion under threat
Observers of Luxembourg's media market believe the huge cost-cutting measures that have already led a number of newspapers to cease publication present a major threat to diversity of opinion in the Grand Duchy, which is otherwise highly pluralistic. Not only are the readers abandoning their newspapers, advertising revenues are also disappearing, bringing painful losses for publishers. As if that weren't enough, the Luxembourg government is also planning to cut or even eliminate state subsidies to the press in 2015. Not surprisingly, the Press Council and Luxembourg's journalists are less than pleased.
Malta: the media as a political mouthpiece
Europe's smallest member state, located south of Sicily with a population of 421,000, is one of the world's most densely populated countries. Relative to its population Malta has an extraordinarily diverse media landscape. There are fourteen daily and weekly newspapers, seven national television channels, more than a dozen radio stations and several online portals.
Poland: Internet set to overtake television
Poland's media are now gradually recovering from the financial and economic crisis, and the Internet has an important role to play in this process. Just how important is demonstrated by the story of Michał Brański.
Portugal: media advertising and jobs in decline
In the wake of the general economic and financial crisis Portugal's media system has experienced declining advertising revenues and staff reductions. Major media holdings with mainly Portuguese capital and a multi-media orientation own most of the newspapers and other media. The dependence of media companies on non-media and foreign investors has increased dramatically. The Angolan holding company Newshold, for instance, acquired several renowned newspapers in the crisis-shaken newspaper sector, namely the weekly Sol and the daily i and also acquired shares in the Impresa media group (SIC, Expresso and Visão).
Romania: the media in a credibility crisis
"You lie to the people on TV" is a frequently heard slogan at demonstrations in Romania, most recently during protests against the social democrat Ponta government at the end of 2014. This particular protest was sparked by the presidential elections: television stations with high viewing figures like Antena 3 or Romania TV had supported Victor Ponta's election campaign and used all possible means to defame his political opponent Klaus Johannis. This was yet another demonstration of active intervention in politics by media companies, the majority of which use their own channels and newspapers to promote their business or private interests. But some media tycoons, like Sorin Vantu or Dan Voiculescu, have now been held to legal account for their dubious business practices.
Slovakia: little diversity on the media market
One day in October 2014, the liberal daily Sme published a huge photo on its front page showing its own newsroom empty of editors. The photo was symbolic, since one of the former owners, the German Rheinische Post, had just indirectly sold its 50 percent stake in the newspaper to Penta, an investment group alleged to be involved in the country's biggest ever corruption scandal.
Slovenia: conservative influence on the press
Slovenia's small media landscape is characterised by a high concentration of ownership and major state influence. After the break-up of former Yugoslavia only some of the main national dailies were privatised. Some remained in state ownership while others were bought by state enterprises.
Spain: new actors at the left end of the spectrum
Like the country as a whole, the Spanish media face huge challenges. Since the economic crisis of 2008, advertising revenues have been falling, print runs have been eroding and many newspapers have responded with massive layoffs. The deputy chief editor of the country's largest quality newspaper El País, Lluís Bassets, summed up the critical situation of the media in 2013 in the title of his book: El último que apague la luz. Sobre la extinción del periodismo (The last person turns out the light. Journalism is becoming extinct). He predicted that the printed daily newspaper, which to date has determined quality and opinion journalism in Spain, would disappear "much faster than expected”.
Sweden: digital is better
In recent years Sweden has seen the closure of one newspaper after another as the print media contend with declining circulations. The consequence has been major job losses. The publishing concern Mittmedia, for instance, announced in December 2012 that 150 jobs would be cut, while Dagens Nyheter had to let eighty staff go in spring 2013. Svenska Dagbladet reduced its editorial staff by fifteen in December of that year. And in June 2014 Sydsvenskan and Helsingborg Dagblad announced they would have to shed up to 180 positions.
Switzerland: free newspapers gaining ground
The news of Duke d'Estaing's military campaign in Grenada appeared as the lead story on 12 January 1780 in the first-ever issue of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (then still just Zürcher Zeitung). This marked the beginning of a free press in Switzerland. When the Swiss Federation was founded in 1848, press freedom was considered a constitutional matter. And to this day Switzerland can still call an impressive level of press freedom its own, despite the increasing concentration on the media market.
The Netherlands: a country of newspapers goes digital
God created the world but the Dutch created The Netherlands. This old Dutch saying could equally well be used to describe the country's highly innovative media landscape. The new projects that have been launched in the Netherlands are even causing a sensation internationally. Take Blendle, for example, an online newspaper kiosk, which allows readers to choose from any of the Netherlands' many newspapers and magazines and read them for 15 cents per article. The crowd-funded initiative De Correspondent, on the other hand, focuses on the journalists. For a monthly fee readers can "rent" their own personal correspondent for coverage of a specific issue and receive top-quality journalism.
Turkey: huge pressure on journalists
When the Gezi protests broke out in Istanbul on 31 Mai 2013 and tear gas was fired on thousands of demonstrators, the news channel CNN Türk responded by showing a report about penguins while NTV aired a documentary about Nazi Germany. This was the moment when many Turks first realised the true situation of the media in their country.