Bulgaria: commercial interests instrumentalise the media

The democratic revolution of 1989 led to major changes in Bulgaria's media landscape. The strong demand for independent journalism after decades of communist repression of media freedom (1944–1989) led to the founding of numerous new print media.

Protests against the election of Delyan Peevski (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Protests against the election of Delyan Peevski (© picture-alliance/dpa)
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.

As the Internet grew in importance a large number of web and news sites such as News.bg and Dnevnik.bg. sprang up in the early 2000s and now have a wide reach. Blogs, on the other hand are largely ignored.

Bulgaria ranks below all other EU states in the international press freedom rankings, reflecting the media’s heavy dependence on political and economic circles. Journalists are frequently subjected to political pressure and there have been isolated cases of violence being used against them. Self-censorship is widespread among journalists because they often don't get enough backing from their editors.
Dramatic falls in print runs and decreasing advertising revenues mean that most newspapers are scarcely able to finance themselves and are dependent on sponsors. Most of Bulgaria's media are now owned by a small number of companies whose owners are accused of instrumentalising the media for political purposes. These include the businessman and publisher of Kapital and Dnevnik, Ivo Prokopiev, and the member of parliament and media tycoon Delyan Peevski, whose New Bulgarian Media Group maintains close ties with the whoever happens to be in power in Bulgaria. Peevski's appointment as head of the secret services in June 2013 triggered sustained mass protests [LINK] in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria's most important television stations are foreign-owned. The private channel bTV belongs to Central European Media Enterprises (CME), a group owned by US billionaire Ronald Lauder. Nova Televizia is part of the Swedish media concern Modern Times Group. The introduction of modern entertainment programming enabled the national private broadcasters to rapidly reduce the state television monopoly that had existed for many years. The public television channels BNT1, BNT2 and BNT HD continue to have a strong influence on public opinion, however. Bulgarian national radio and the private station Darik Radio are the only national broadcasters where the spoken word (rather than music) dominates.

Press Freedom Rating:
Reporters Without Borders: 109th place (2017)
Freedom House: 78th place – status: partly free (2016)

Updated: May 2017
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