Centre for Media and Communication Research, University of Zagreb
The Croatian media market is characterised by strong commercial television providers, a declining print sector, and a vibrant mix of traditional and alternative online websites.
In recent years the editorial independence of public service HRT has been negatively influenced by the editorial changes implemented by the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) government. Hopes that more moderate leadership might alleviate some of the damage to public service and non-profit media have so far not been realised. A small group of independent journalists remain at the public broadcaster HRT, but often find themselves struggling to maintain professional standards in the light of an increasingly conservative editorial policy. News audiences for both the television news service (HTV) and the radio section (HR) are up a few points from last year, but our data show that public trust in HTV news is lower than for commercial competitors.
Meanwhile there is continued concern about the non-profit media — mainly online news portals and magazines, whose funding has been reduced by the government in the previous period. Several successful crowdfunding campaigns, including that of the portal Lupiga.com, continue to show citizen support for alternative progressive media.
Television remains a critical source of news in Croatia with our data showing Nova TV (61%) as the top source of news, followed by the television branch of the Croatian RTL in second place (59%). The most significant ownership change in the media sector involved Nova, which was sold to the Slovenia Broadband company, part of the American KKR investment fund which also owns the N1 (cable) television and multimedia platform that operates in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. N1 Croatia has a growing audience (12%) and was recognised with the Miko Tripalo Democracy Prize for their contribution to democracy in Croatia in 2017, by the Centre for Democracy and Law Miko Tripalo, a progressive think-tank.
In the newspaper market, the most popular title is the tabloid 24sata (36%) owned by the Austrian company Styria, followed by the left of centre Jutarnji list (30%), which is owned by Hanza Media, Croatia’s largest print media company, along with the right-leaning Slobodna Dalmacija (10%).
Advertising spending has continued to decline for print (-8% 2015–16) and radio (-2%), but the overall advertising market increased in 2016 by 2% to reach 1.493 billion Kuna (€199 million). Advertising on the internet rose 27% in relation to the previous year, and television and outdoors rose by 2%.1
Most online media rely on digital advertising with little evidence of digital subscription. Digital-born Index.hr remains the leading news website followed by the website of the daily tabloid extension 24sata.hr. In the third place is again the online portal of the most popular non-tabloid daily Jutarnji list. While the legacy media in Croatia continue to attract the largest audience, a number of right-wing portals are also proving popular.
Dnevno.hr is a radical website which reached a fifth (21%) of our sample despite having the lowest trust of all the brands we surveyed. Direktno.hr, another right-wing portal, increased its reach to 14% (+3). These websites illustrate the growth in recent years of radical social and political conservative voices organised by NGOs, and linked to the more conservative parts of the ruling HDZ party and the Catholic Church. There are no comparable media on the left side of the spectrum, and the left-leaning online media in general have a much smaller following according to this study.
The issue of so-called ‘fake news’ has received increased attention in the past year, with Croatian fact-checking portal Faktograf.hr becoming a member of the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN). A brief flurry was caused in professional and academic circles by the government announcement that they will be working on a new law to prevent fake news and hate speech on the internet. Nothing further was heard about this idea which was seen as a possible step towards censorship given that Croatia already has laws in place that cover hate speech against different ethnic and social minority groups.
Sources and Devices for News
Trust in news (39%) remains low, reflecting other survey research, which shows that interpersonal trust in Croatia (5.1 on a 10 point scale) is below the EU average of 5.8, with institutional trust still lower.2 The most trusted news sources tend to be radio and television, followed by newspapers. Digital brands tend to be less trusted.