Ana Pinto Martinho and Gustavo Cardoso
ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon
The Portuguese media landscape continues to be characterised by a high reliance on television news – and by an increasingly concentrated radio and print sector struggling to remain relevant in a digital world.
Five media groups control the majority of news production and distribution in Portugal, three of them with a strong TV presence: RTP (the public broadcaster), Media Capital (owned by PRISA, with TVI channels and several radio stations), and IMPRESA (SIC TV channels and the Expresso newspaper). The remaining two groups have strong roots in print. Global Media is the owner of two newspapers, Diário de Notícias, and Jornal de Notícias, along with TSF radio. Cofina owns the Correio da Manhã newspaper, which has recently moved into TV with a cable channel of the same name, as well as Negócios, the leading business print title.
Also of note is the presence of Rádio Renascença and RFM, both of which are of Catholic inspiration and run one of the leading entertainment broadcast channels (RFM) and one with a strong presence in news radio (RR).
This year’s survey shows the continuing dominance of the main TV, radio, and print brands, namely the two private sector television channels (SIC and TVI), followed by the public broadcaster (RTP). In the online space, legacy brands share the top spot with internet news brands like Notícias ao Minuto and SAPO, a portal owned by Portugal Telecom (PT) which showcases content from a range of legacy media companies.
The business sector has seen the biggest upheaval in the last year with the closure of one the oldest business print dailies, Diário Económico, and the birth of two new online newspapers: Jornal Económico and ECO.
Most media companies are in a difficult financial position after years of economic recession (2011–15), low stock market capitalisation, and a high exposure to debt. In the first nine month of 2017, the three biggest Portuguese media groups (Cofina, Media Capital, and Impresa) had a total debt of over €371m.
In Portugal newspapers like Público, Correio da Manhã, and Diário de Notícias operate a range of paywall models, but willingness to pay for online news is low and the majority of revenue still comes from advertising. Some new digital-born publishers like Observador have been experimenting with branded and sponsored content – as well as trying to persuade readers to turn off ad-blockers. Some of the main recent news innovations in Portugal have been sponsored by the Digital News Initiative, a partnership between Google and European news publishers.
The 2017 report Journalists: Working Conditions and Changing Jobs showed that over half (57%) of Portuguese journalists earn less than €1,000/month, and almost 12% earn less than €500/month. In addition, around a third (34%) have precarious work conditions, and no employment contract. Around two-thirds of journalists (64.2%) surveyed have thought, at least once, about leaving the profession. 1
Declining advertising revenues combined with high levels of debt could raise serious questions about the independence of the media in general. Despite this, Portuguese citizens tend to continue to have high levels of trust in the media and in journalism. The phenomenon of ‘fake news’ has been widely debated in the media, but there are few local examples in a political system marked by low levels of political polarisation. One interesting development around trust has been the growth of social media pages, such as Os truques da imprensa portuguesa, that act as a watchdog on the mainstream media. Other watchdogs with social influence include the Barómetro de Notícias, focusing on a weekly report on media headlines and social media and the monthly report on opinion makers and political commentary in News Channels, both based at ISCTE-IUL.
Online brands attributes provide information about the ways in which these are valued differently. SIC Notícias and Público (27%) are considered by their users best for accurate and reliable news. By contrast SAPO, TVI, and Correio da Manhã (25%) are valued most for amusing and entertaining coverage.
TV, as a source of news, remains more important in Portugal than in many other countries. Online consumption is flat but, within that, social media have grown over the past few years.
Trust in the news media is stronger in Portugal than in many other European countries. This may relate to a strong tradition of press freedom, which is guaranteed under the constitution following the 1974 revolution, but also to relatively low levels of political polarisation.
- Cardoso, G., et al, 2017, Journalists: Working Conditions and Changing Jobs, OberCom. ↩