Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
The media market in Greece is characterised by a TV market in turmoil, a weak print sector and some of the highest use of social media and digital born outlets in our study. Trust in the news is extremely low.
The saga of TV relicensing rumbles on, creating uncertainty for operators and viewers alike. Reducing the number of national licences to four was the first controversial media intervention by the government in 2016, though after the Council of State ruled that the independent regulator should oversee the process, seven licences opened up, with six media groups having applied so far. One broadcaster caught in the crossfire is MEGA, the oldest and for many years largest commercial channel in Greece. It has been reduced to broadcasting reruns of hit TV series in an attempt to pay off part of its debt. Ivan Savvidis, a Greek-Russian businessman, ex-Duma member with ties to Kremlin, bought Epsilon, a national broadcaster, that has applied for a nationwide licence.
The deep crisis in the print market in Greece continues. The circulation of all Sunday newspapers during a typical week in 2018 is down by 75% compared to a typical week ten years ago.1 But despite this, there have been three national newspaper launches this year: Nea Selida, the relaunch of the legacy newspaper Ethnos, and Fileleutheros – a print version of the digital-born liberal.gr. So far, the success of these new entrants has been limited. Greece also has eight national daily sports newspapers and two news-related radio stations were launched in the past year in the Athens market: a radio version of the newspaper Proto Thema, and 24/7radio, from the 24MEDIA group. Meanwhile, the radio station Το Vima was shut down during the takeover of the DOL conglomerate by the company of Evangelos Marinakis.
The Greek online news market is congested and highly disrupted. Most of the online news brands in Greece are digital-born including Newsbomb (34%), In.gr (26%), and News247 (26%). When making the transition from offline to digital news, Greeks tend to prefer non-traditional brands, unlike users in most other European countries, partly as a result of the low trust in the legacy news media and the increase in political polarisation during the financial crisis. Among the top digital-born news websites in Greece, but also in the long-tail list of the most visited news websites, we see a number of websites that engage in sensationalism. Many are preaching to the choir of left or right-wing partisans, reaching sometimes extreme levels of conspiracy and hoax reporting while others are focused on click-bait and social media distribution. Unfortunately, these phenomena are not limited to small websites.
The government, in an attempt to regulate this chaotic market, has launched a register for online media for which approved outlets will be eligible for state advertising and to access a service for tracking plagiarism which is a problem in the Greek news media landscape. The Minister of Digital Policy said that the government is discussing the possibility of a law against the spread of false information, while accusing traditional outlets of publishing fake news against the government.2
Greece is one of just three countries (out of 37) where social media news use is higher than TV use for news among the population with an internet connection. While Facebook still dominates, we see a slow shift towards private messaging apps for reading, posting, and commenting on news, as in many other countries. In Greece, the most used messaging apps for news are Facebook Messenger (22%) and Viber (14%).
Very few people pay for online news in Greece. The economic situation, the lack of trust in news, the lack of culture for online payments as well as the low number of paywalls in Greece are some of the reasons for minimal levels of online subscription (6%). At the same time, Greece is a world leader in ad-blocking use (42%), with even higher numbers for those aged below 35 (57%). Two experiments in the Greek landscape have been the donation-based ThePressProject and the subscription-based website insidestory.gr. But overall, the prevalence of ad-blocking software, combined with the very high use of social media platforms for news, portray a challenging landscape for online news publishers in Greece.
Websites and social media remain the most frequently accessed source of news in Greece, though television remains popular with older groups. Smartphones have become a more popular way to access news over the last three years (up 8 percentage points) approaching reach from computers and laptops.
Trust in news in Greece is consistently one of the lowest in our study. When looking at the news brand trust in Greece, we can see that the gap between the highest and the lowest trusted news brands is small. In addition, trust in the public service broadcaster (ERT) is low compared to some other countries.