Portugal: slight recovery after the crisis

Portugal’s crisis-stricken media landscape seems to have recovered somewhat, but continues to struggle in the face of declining advertising revenues, staff cuts and accumulating debt at the media companies. The financial situation of journalists in Portugal also remains precarious.

A newspaper stand in Lisbon.
A newspaper stand in Lisbon.
The total debt of the three largest media groups (Cofina, Media Capital and Impresa) amounted to more than 371 million euros in 2017, levels similar to those at the peak of the crisis a few years ago. While some prestigious titles such as former market and opinion leader Diário Económico did not survive the crisis, new journalistic projects have emerged, including the digital business paper Eco, founded in 2016, and the weekly newspaper Jornal Económico.

But the situation for journalists remains difficult: more than half of them earn less than 1,000 euros a month and 12 percent earn less than 500 euros, according to a study published in 2017.

Overall, newspaper sales have dropped sharply in recent years. The high-circulation publications Correio da Manhã and Jornal de Notícias had to slightly lower their print runs again in 2017. The Portuguese are reluctant to pay for online news, with the result that most of these publications’ revenues now come from advertising.

Portugal's media experienced a long period of censorship which only ended with the Carnation Revolution of 1974. Some newspapers were then taken over and run by the state, and it wasn't until the late 1980s that they returned to private ownership. The liberalisation of Portugal's radio and television services also began in the late 1980s - before that they were the exclusive preserve of the state and the Catholic Church.

Major media holdings with predominantly Portuguese capital and a multimedia orientation own most of the country's newspapers and other media. The media companies' dependence on non-media and foreign investors - which in some cases increased dramatically during the crisis years - has subsided since the end of 2015.

Portugal does not have a large number of newspapers. Expresso, a liberal weekly published on Saturdays and founded in 1973 when Portugal was still under dictatorship, is considered the country's leading media organ. It maintains good contacts with the country's two most important political parties and served as a mouthpiece for the moderate opposition during the dictatorship. Its main rival among the dailies is Público, which was founded in 1990 by former Expresso journalists. The five other nationwide daily newspapers are the longstanding daily Diário de Notícias, the high-circulation Jornal de Notícias, which is based in Porto, the compact daily I, which was founded in 2009, and the tabloid Correio da Manhã, the country's highest-circulation newspaper. Visão is the most widely read news magazine, and the leading daily business newspaper is Jornal de Negócios. Blogs are practically irrelevant in Portugal’s media landscape.

The private TV channels SIC and TVI entered the television market in 1992/1993 and compete with the three channels currently run by state broadcaster RTP. Despite the rise of digital television, viewers in Portugal only have these five free-to-air channels to choose from. In the radio segment, the Catholic church operates the influential radio station Rádio Renascença. The private radio station TSF, which is seen as Portugal's leading radio station for news, was founded in 1989.

Press Freedom Index (Reporter Without Borders):
Rank 14 (2018)

Last updated: May 2018
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