Centre for Media and Communication Research, University of Zagreb
The Croatian media market is characterised by strong commercial television providers, a print sector trying to adapt to the digital ecology, and a vibrant mix of traditional and alternative online websites. It has recently been marked by threats to journalistic independence in the public and third sector media.
The negative trend in regard to media independence started in 2016 soon after the election of the HDZ governing coalition. Particularly troublesome is the editorial policy of the HTV (Croatian television, the public service broadcaster) with its pro-government and new Christian conservative bias (pro-government bias was generally not present from 2000 to 2016). Public outrage was caused when legal action was brought by the broadcaster against its own journalists who were publicly critical of its non-pluralistic editorial policies.
In March a few thousand journalists and citizens marched in Zagreb in support of media freedom and journalistic independence after the Croatian Journalist Association (HND) highlighted 1,160 law-suits that had been taken out by politicians and public figures against journalists in the course of their work. The Association has demanded that the government work to stop this practice, seen by the journalists as harassment, and guarantee the autonomy of editorial and journalistic work from media owners.1 The Croatian Journalist Association was awarded the Miko Tripalo Democracy Prize for their contribution to democracy in Croatia in 2018, by the Centre for Democracy and Law Miko Tripalo, a progressive think-tank.
Government is also criticised for not distributing the funding for the non-profit media sector earmarked several years ago by the EU Social fund. The 2016 government cut the support to third sector media awarded by the previous social-democratic government. This is also interpreted as a move against media pluralism, as non-profit media are predominantly progressive. A government media strategy has been promised for some time but its unveiling has been constantly postponed. Strong action was announced against misinformation and hate speech on the internet, but no proposals were presented amidst anxieties that censorship might be introduced unwittingly.
While there have been no significant changes in the ownership of national-level media, it was recently revealed that Viktor Orbán’s favourite media baron, a member of the government-promoted Central European Press and Media Foundation KESMA which now controls much of the media in Hungary, is interested in buying a local television in Zagreb (Z1). Media companies from KESMA acquired parts of the Slovenian and Macedonian media in 2016 and 2017, and supported far-right candidates and parties in the election campaigns. Any similar move in Croatia would be viewed with great concern in the light of upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections for 2019 and 2020, respectively.2
Print circulation continued to fall by 10% in 2017 across the board, with the two main press companies maintaining their relative shares. Styria, with some 50–60% of the audience market, includes the tabloid daily 24 sata and Večernji list. Hanza media, which owns popular daily Jutarnji list and the regional daily Slobodna Dalmacija has some 30–40% share of daily newspapers and 40–50% in the magazines market.3 According to the Croatian association of advertising agencies, total advertising revenues (€196.4m) decreased slightly in 2017, the latest year for which we have data, though internet advertising increased by 14.5%.4
Public broadcaster HRT is funded by advertising and a licence fee. It faces stiff competition from private networks, including leading national station Nova TV. HTV has kept its third place as source of offline news, but TV reach is down 3% from last year, while its radio branch HR slipped by 2%. HTV’s two commercial rivals retained their positions – Nova TV is at 59%, the top source of news offline and online in Croatia, and the television branch of the Croatian RTL is in second place, one point down from 2018 (58%). N1, the 24-hour news channel, has also maintained its share and rank.
The growth of podcasts is a new development with around a third (37%) accessing at least once a month – with more than one in ten using podcasts relating to news and information.
Internet penetration in Croatia is now over 90% and this growing connectedness is also reflected in smartphone use – 76% use the device for news weekly. Croatians also love their social networks with Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Viber most regularly used for news.
Trust in the media remains stable with the ranking of media brands similar to last year. The most trusted news sources are two commercial TV stations (both foreign owned), alongside two main daily newspapers and the public service radio. The tabloid 24sata has a lower trust score along with the more politically inclined portals – Dnevno.hr on the right, and Index.hr on the left.
- Osam zahtjeva protiv cenzure, 1 Mar. 2019. www.hnd.hr/osam-zahtjeva-protiv-cenzure1 ↩
- Berislav Jelinić, Orbanova medijska hobotnica preuzima Z1, 19 Feb. 2019. No. 1087, pp. 8–12, www.nacional.hr/orbanova-medijska-hobotnica-preuzima-z1/ ↩
- Agencija za zaštitu tržišnog natjecanja, www.aztn.hr/24-sata-prvi-na-trzistu-prodaje-jutarnji-list-na-trzistu-oglasavanja-u-dnevnim-novinama-a-7dnevno-i-medimurje-najprodavaniji-o ↩
- https://hura.hr/istrazivanja/medijska-potrosnja-u-hr ↩