Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
The media market in Greece is characterised by online fragmentation, a changing and polarised TV market, a print sector in crisis and one of the highest uses of social media for news. Trust in the news remains one of the lowest in our survey.
The past year saw a number of structural changes in the broadcasting landscape. MEGA finally ceased operations, 29 years after its first broadcast and a few years after getting into financial difficulty. Open TV, owned by a Greek-Russian businessman, Ivan Savvidis, with links to Vladimir Putin, launched this year. It took over from Epsilon TV which is now reduced to being a regional broadcaster in the capital. The Vardinogiannis family, owner of Star TV, is about to close a deal for 50% of Alpha’s TV and radio stations, pending approval from the broadcasting regulator, potentially opening the way to greater collaboration between the two. One TV, a new online broadcaster, is awaiting approval for obtaining the sixth national TV license. It is owned by Evangelos Marinakis who has during the past years bought a number of legacy news outlets.
The polarised political climate in Greece was reflected in the news media landscape this year. The main opposition party, New Democracy, banned its MPs from being interviewed by the public service broadcaster for five months, citing unfair coverage and pro-government bias. Meanwhile the governing party, Syriza, has boycotted the largest news broadcaster SKAI since summer 2018, following their dissatisfaction with SKAI’s wildfire coverage in Attica. In December, SKAI suffered a bombing attack at its headquarters from a left-wing terrorist organisation.
The print market in Greece continues its dramatic decline. The Sunday newspapers currently in circulation sell a small fraction of the 1.1 million papers sold ten years ago.1 Print editions of most newspapers face tough competition in an environment where most content can be found for free online. Despite this, there are still more than 20 national newspapers in Greece, including six sports papers. As a point of reference, the UK, a country six times larger than Greece, has half the number of national newspapers. The abundance of news sources in Greece can be explained by attempts of some businesspeople to influence the political agenda or to gain revenue from state advertising.The government announced in May that it will support local and regional newspapers with €16m over the next four years. The money will be distributed to news organisations based on the number of full-time employees they have, while a similar support package for national newspapers will follow.
The online media market in Greece is highly fragmented, with new digital-born players making up half the list of most popular websites. Newsbomb.gr maintained the top spot for a number of years with its sensationalist news coverage (34% weekly access). A few legacy players like SKAI (25%) and Proto Thema (18%) have built up a loyal audience online while some new outlets have strong connections to legacy journalism, being the personal initiatives of famous journalists or news anchors (e.g. Enikos or NewsIt). One interesting new digital-born initiative is the ‘slow news’ Inside Story, which operates behind a paywall, following the example of De Correspondent in the Netherlands.
Greeks report using on average more than 5 online news sources per week, the second highest among 38 countries. While this finding reflects plurality in news selection, in the long-tail list of the most visited websites are a number of news websites or blogs that regularly engage in dangerous conspiracy theories. The number of news brands used can be explained by the very high use of social media platforms for news in Greece, a behaviour that has been linked to incidental exposure to news sources (Nielsen and Fletcher 2018). More than two-thirds (67%) of Greeks use social media as a source of news, while 20% of Greeks online (and 32% of those under 35) claim that social media are their main source of news. Apart from Facebook (58%) and YouTube (36%), Greeks use messaging applications widely to share and discuss news. A quarter of the sample (25%) uses Messenger for news, while Viber is used for news by 17% of Greeks, the highest share in all 38 countries of the study.
Smartphones are now used to access news as often as computers for the first time. Almost all Greeks online get news via online sources (92%), with social media (67%) considerably more popular for news than in many other countries. TV news usage remains steady while newspaper readership continues to decline.
Only a third trust the news they use themselves, while Greece ranks 36th across 38 countries in overall trust in news. Decades of corruption, political and business undue influences, and their targeting by left- and right-wing populist parties have resulted in the media being widely distrusted by Greeks.
- Data from Argos (www.argoscom.gr) and the Athens Daily Newspaper Publishers Association (eihea.gr). It should be noted that a handful of large newspapers have asked to be excluded from the industry circulation data published from the Argos press distribution agency. ↩