Romania - 2014 Media Report

The market share of sales of quality newspapers has declined dramatically in the last five years in Romania. Out of newspapers sold, quality newspapers fell from a market share of 32.6 per cent in 2009 to 16.1 per cent market share in the first nine months of 2014. Overall, the newspaper market declined severely over the past five years, from an average of 777,882 copies in 2009 to an average of 267,807 copies in 2014 (January to September). This marked a drop of over 65 per cent. The biggest sales decline in the market is remarkable for quality newspapers. Sales decreased 82.9 per cent in 2014 compared to 2009.

According to information provided by the National Study of Audience (Studiul National de Audienta - SNA Focus), a study by the Bureau of Circulations and Audit for the Romanian press (BRAT- Biroul Roman de Audit al Tirajelor) that provides information about the printed media, print newspaper audiences are also declining.

In terms of advertising sales, the market increased slightly in 2014 due to the presidential election campaign and sports events that took place in 2014 like World Cup, the Winter Olympics and tennis matches. However, this is an increase in the rate card, which does not necessarily mean an increase in net revenue collected. The market of magazines was redesigned with the takeover of the company Sanoma Hearst Romania SRL’s publications by Burda Romania SRL and partly by Ringier Romania SRL.

In 2014, important developments in the media market occurred.

MediaPro Group is under investigation for tax evasion and money laundering. MediaPro is the one of leading Romanian media groups. Founded in September 1990, the company has evolved constantly in all the fields it has activated, becoming one of the most important players in this part of Europe. MediaPro develops projects in all the communication areas: publishing (newspapers and magazines), cinema and TV production, news agency, new media content, entertainment distribution, online media, indoor media, cinemas and education. Companies owned by the group are Publimedia, MediaPro Studios, MediaPro Pictures, MediaPro Distribution, ProVideo, Mediafax, MediaPro Interactiv, Indoor Media, Coprint and the Pro Foundation. The Group is controlled by Romanian businessman Adrian Sarbu, the founder of Romania’s largest TV station, PRO TV, and the former CEO of media group Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which now owns PRO TV. Sarbu left CME 2013.

During the investigation, 11 people were detained. The Group became insolvent, and founder Adrian Sarbu was investigated by prosecutors. The action came after Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta stated that Sirbu, owner of Mediafax news agency and of online daily Gandul, came to his office to ask if he could halt some fiscal investigations to be made into his companies. According to Ponta, this is the reason why there’s persistence on an alleged influence trafficking by his office related to the lawsuit of PSD politician Adrian Duicu. In reply, Adrian Sarbu said the Romanian prime minister is lying. One of the persons targeted in this case is Orlando Nicoara, the former CEO of Mediafax Group, who left the company in 2014.

MediaPro, another media group which owns film studios in Romania and was also founded by Sarbu, is currently owned by CME and under investigation by Romanian prosecutors for tax evasion and money laundering.

Following the searches made in MediaPro buildings, 11 people were preventively arrested on suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering. Moreover, the authorities decided to seize control over the mobile and immobile goods of the arrested people, in order to recuperate the prejudice produced by their illicit acts.

Mediafax Group filed for insolvency at the end of November 2014.

The problems for another market leader, the Intact Media Group, are similar: a file for blackmail that targeted the owners, and confiscation proceedings for a 60 million EUR damage in a non-media related file, called ICA, finished with a sentence of 10 years in prison for the media holding founder, Dan Voiculescu. The Intact Media Centre headquarters were seized by the state on 8 August 2014, as a result of the judgement sentencing Voiculescu. The building may be sold in order for the state to recuperate the prejudice brought to it as a result of the fraudulent privatization of the Institute for Alimentary Research in 2003.

Intact group is the first Romanian media group based entirely on a private local business. Intact Printing House was established in 1991. During 2014, Intact Media Group’s TV channels were watched for at least one minute by 10,450,000 Romanians, at a national level. The media group gained the status of several leadership positions on the Romanian media market, like leader in TV entertainment (Antena 1), leader in in quality newspapers (Jurnalul national), leader in sports papers (Gazeta Sporturilor) and leader in sports websites (gsp.ro). In 1993 the group launched a general-interest TV channel (Antena1). It also owns a news and current affairs channel (Antena3), a lifestyle channel (Euforia), a station focused on talk-shows (Antena2), a sports channel (GSP TV) and a station designed to appeal to the Romanian community abroad. Intact Media Group holds Radio ZU that targets the young segment, and Romantic FM that has been on the market for over 20 years. One of the leading dailies on the Romanian market, owned by Intact, Jurnalul National, saw its bank accounts blocked, after cutting the salaries several times and reducing its editorial staff from 300 to around 60 people. Last time the cuts occurred in December 2014 (10 per cent) and reducing the editorial staff to only 26 people. Salaries have gone unpaid for several months.

Owners of other media companies were also in imprisoned or are currently on trial. They include Sorin Ovidiu Vantu from Reality Media, along with shareholders Liviu Luca and Maricel Păcuraru. Dan Adamescu, the owner of the newspaper Romania Libera, was arrested for bribery. Adevarul Holding is facing a similar situation after the death of its head, Dinu Patriciu, leaving things pretty confusing and the companies in insolvency proceedings.

At the Evenimentul zilei daily, the situation is similar, it faces insolvency proceedings, and not its daily circulation has dwindled to no more than 10,000 copies.

Tabloids continue to be Romania’s most-read newspapers, although their audience is in a slight decline, as is the case for most printed publications.

Click! remains the most-read newspaper in Romania, with 554,000 readers per edition, according to BRAT’s SNA for 4 June 2012 – 4 May 2014.

According to SNA Focus, the only national dailies that won readers during the analysed period are Evenimentul zilei (gaining 4,000), Ziarul Financiar (gaining 2,000) and Pro Sport (gaining 21,000), as ZF’s weekly supplement.

Libertatea, a tabloid published by Ringier, ranks second-highest with audiences, with 436,000 readers per edition on average.

For the analysed period, the sports newspapers are the next most-read, with Gazeta Sporturilor having a medium readership per edition of 324,000. This is followed by ProSport, with 339,000 readers.

Among quality publications, Jurnalul National keeps hold of its leadership with 169,000 readers per edition, followed by Evenimentul Zilei with 154,000 readers and Adevarul with 141,000 readers.

The most-read newspapers also posted the highest decreases in readership: Click! lost 33,000, Libertatea lost 32,000 and Jurnalul National lost 18,000.

Dan Diaconescu’s OTV television, which lost its licence in 2013, got a parliamentary party in meantime. Diaconescu, is waiting for the justice to judge him. The prosecutors asked for seven years in prison for blackmail. Without OTV, Dan Diaconescu made an arrangement and continued his electoral campaign, and not only circus at RTV television where he found a shelter.

Media Pro Distribution underwent a wave of resignations, with 23 out of the total 30 employees leaving the company. Those that decided to leave were the managers for Sales, Acquisitions, Distribution, Marketing and PR. The resignations were caused by the uncertainty about the company’s future, as it was put up for sale by Central European Media Enterprises (CME). Media Pro Distribution is active in film distribution sector.

Two news TV channels, Realitatea TV, belonging to the political consultant Cozmin Gusa, and RTV, belonging to a member of the Parliament from the Social Democrats camp, have the closest ties to politics.

In January 2014 German ProSiebenSat.1 sold all media it owned in Romania. The Greek Antenna Group bought Kiss TV, Kiss FM, Magic FM, One FM and Rock FM.

Media group Goldbach has announced that, “due to difficult economic conditions in the first part of 2014, which have yielded poorer results than expected, it has decided to reconsider its presence on the Romanian market, as part of a new strategy in Central and Eastern Europe”. Goldbach sells advertising space on behalf of local and regional media channels in Romania, having a portfolio of more than 71 local and regional radio channels, 46 local TV stations, 52 local publications and over 80 websites.

CNA decided in 2014 to authorize two broadcast licences to the news station lastiri.ro, set to be launched in early 2015.

According to the regulatory body ANCOM, the number of subscribers to television broadcasting services reached 6.4 million at the end of 2013. Most of them (4.1 million) prefer cable services (of whom 1.5 million have access to digital services), 2.2 million were subscribers to satellite networks and 56,000 received those programs through IP technology. According to official data, the coverage rate of broadcasting services at household level grew by four per cent to 85.1 percent, while that of cable broadcasting reached 55.1 per cent

The net advertising spending in Romania was 305 million EUR in 2013, according to the Media Fact Book report in 2014. From its peak of 540 million EUR in 2008, the market lost over 40 per cent of its value, with strong declines registered in print and television, though a small but consistent increase was present in the online sector.

Piles of charges against shady businesses in the media, journalists accused of blackmail or other illicit activities, like Bogdan Chirieac, undercover agents acting as journalists inside the editorial staff, or like the cases of Jurnalul National’s or Robert Turcescu’s, are what puts the media in mortal conjunction with politics and business. Robert Turcescu shocked the public when he posted on his blog a text in which he confessed to acting as an undercover army officer. Later that day, Turcescu confirmed the story live on B1 TV.

The general impression is that the politicians and their right-hands destroyed the media, and that justice will solve the situation by eliminating it completely. This is what the situation looks like.

The mentality of the Romanian politician in relation to media is very similar to a statement made by a Liberal politician from Brasov county, who said, “Usually, when you want to be a real politician, you make your own television”.

Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, more than 6,000 jobs have been lost in the media in Romania. For example in November 2014, 80 people were laid off at television channel Kanal D. The layoffs affected mainly editors and technical staff. A few programs were cancelled. The main reason is a 30 per cent decrease in advertising revenue since 2013.

A Study of Active Watch on local television provides a shocking picture after the research of 56 stations in 15 counties. "From one county to another, local stations have almost identical problems. Media workers are often poorly trained, underpaid and have to supplement their income from other activities .There are political figures who have learned to dictate the journalists the articles, exactly with the words of the politician. Local media live from press conferences, official communications and exposes itself to from the public officials. The printed press is in drastic decline everywhere. In Timişoara, for example, remained five printed publications, of which only one is a daily. In the 1990s up through 2,000 there were 16. The phenomenon of moving on to the online version is prevalent. Important newspapers disappeared in front of our eyes; others diminished their dimensions and number of pages in order to reduce costs with the paper.”

The Romanian ActiveWatch additionally said in the study, “The Political Map of Local Televisions” that the media content is imposed by the owner, paid from public funding, dictated by politicians, and generating blackmail.”

Passing from print to online is not necessarily a sign of intelligent management. We risk becoming the first country in Europe without printed newspapers, and looking ahead, that does not mean that we are postmodern. We are rudimentary. Newspapers are dying because we are not able to produce reliable information, not because we were visionaries and moved to digital platforms.

On 13 November 2014 the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to find out that Romanian journalist Stefan Mako experienced alleged harassment by state officers. The journalist was taken into custody after filming Romanian police officers while they were arresting another person. He was told to stop filming, but since he did not stop as instructed, he was arrested and taken in for questioning by the police. The journalist was threatened and beaten several times while he was detained, and the video material was erased from his phone before he was released.

“It is very disturbing to hear that a journalist simply doing his job can be treated so harshly and for no reason. I call on Romanian authorities to investigate the case as soon as possible” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovc said about the incident.

On 14 June 2014, SEEMO published the following statement about Romania: The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe, is worried by different reports on the violation of media freedom and freedom of speech in Romania in the past several months. “It has been brought to our attention that journalists and other media workers in Romania have been facing various types of pressure in their work. Journalists are subjected to threats, attacks and self-censorship, which is leading to a deterioration of media freedom in the country” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

Dan Constantin, one of the editors-in-chief of Jurnalul National daily newspaper was assaulted and threatened on 14 June. The motivation behind this attack was his guest appearance on a talk-show on Antena 3 TV channel, a station openly critical of Romanian President Traian Băsescu. The channel Antena 3 was also put under pressure by some politicians after airing a short film about a relative of the president, who allegedly received money in order to intervene at the judiciary level.

In April 2014, SEEMO announced that a Romanian member of the European Parliament verbally attacked news channel Antena 3 during a live talk show, stating that he would shut the channel down. At the same time, Romanian President Traian Băsescu has refused to enact revisions to the new Romanian Penal Code made by members of parliament, abrogating Article 276. The article makes it impossible for journalists to reveal to the public key information regarding judges’ decisions. In June 2014 Antena 3, gave a heavy blow to President Traian Băsescu by presenting a short film in which the President's brother, Mircea Băsescu, appears to admit to receiving money from a member of a convicted underworld boss's family. Mircea Băsescu claimed he has not asked for nor received any money in this case, while Prime Minister Victor Ponta called for the resignation of the president.

The regulation agency National Audiovisual Council (CNA), decided on 30 January 2014 to publicly summon local Digi 24 TV station following a series of stories on alleged organ trafficking in Bucharest. Digi 24 TV station didn’t respect an audio-visual law concerning the correct information of the public during its news programs broadcasted in October 2013, which presented a journalistic investigation on a possible organ trafficking at a medical institute in Bucharest.