Portugal: Out of the frying pan into the fire

Portugal’s media landscape has barely recovered from the 2008 - 2017 financial and economic crisis. Now the new crisis triggered by the Covid pandemic is hitting media companies and journalists hard.

A newspaper stand in Lisbon.
A newspaper stand in Lisbon.
The Association for Private Media (PMP) warns that the effects of the coronavirus crisis could bring the whole sector to its knees. The media groups also expressed concern that the financial support measures announced by the government are not available to the media.

The Union of Journalists (SJ) has also appealed to the government: "In view of the pandemic, which will have brutal economic consequences, it is more important than ever to ensure the future of journalism, one of the pillars of democracy". It stressed the urgency of keeping enough professionals in newsrooms in order to provide reliable information to the population.

The employment situation of most journalists in Portugal remains precarious. Over a third of them work on a freelance basis, poorly paid and without any security. The union is therefore calling for jobs and contracts to be guaranteed to ensure a minimum income for journalists.

Then and now: how Portugal’s media landscape has developed

For many years, Portuguese media were subject to censorship which only ended with the Carnation Revolution in 1974 and the subsequent collapse of the dictatorship. Some newspapers were nationalised soon afterwards and didn’t return to private ownership until the end of the 1980s.

Today, the Portuguese media landscape is divided between the public service broadcasters of the RTP network (television: RTP1 and RTP2; radio: Antena 1, Antena 2 and Antena 3) and the private broadcasters SIC and TVI. In addition, there is a handful of large media holding companies, mostly financed by domestic capital and with a multimedia orientation.

In the radio broadcasting sector, the Catholic Church operates the influential Rádio Renascença. For news, the private station TSF is widely considered to be a reliable source.

Portugal’s newspaper market is comparatively small. The weekly Expresso, which was founded during the dictatorship in 1973, is the country’s leading paper. It is published on Saturdays and liberal in orientation. Among the daily papers, Público, founded in 1990, is Expresso’s strongest rival. Other major and national dailies are the conservative Diário de Notícias, the high-circulation Jornal de Notícias, founded in Porto, Jornal i, launched in 2009, and the tabloid Correio da Manhã, which has the highest circulation in the country. The most important news magazine is Visão, which now also publishes a magazine for children. The main business newspapers are Jornal de Negócios and Jornal Económico.

Like many other countries, Portugal has also seen a wave of restructuring and streamlining measures in editorial departments as well as the expansion of digital services. This includes online-first measures, the expansion and redesign of websites, and the introduction of apps and digital subscriptions.

Some prestigious titles such as the former market and opinion leader Diário Económico did not survive the economic crisis. However, new journalistic projects have emerged, including the digital business journal Eco-Economia Online, launched in 2016, the weekly newspaper Jornal Económico and the online platform Observador.

By June 2019 Público had already become one of Portugal’s most widely read websites. In March 2020 it posted a record 45 million visits.

The coronavirus crisis could well lead to further digitalisation of the media landscape. The demand for information is growing and social isolation is encouraging people to consume more news online. Journalists and media companies must now take advantage of this surge in interest and make the benefits sustainable.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 9 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020
Media search

Media from Portugal at euro|topics

Media search