Dublin City University
After last year’s general election, minor changes in the Italian media environment took place to reflect the new balance of power within Italian politics. This year has also been marked by a continuing weakening of the printed newspaper sector.
Topics related to immigration, government formation, and the relationship between the ruling coalition parties have dominated news coverage this year. After months of negotiation, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right League party formed a government in June 2018. Immigration has long been a core topic for the League’s leader Matteo Salvini, and his tough approach towards landings of immigrants from North Africa, together with his tendency to comment on crimes where immigrants are involved, have kept the topic in the media spotlight and at the centre of the public debate.
Social media posts, especially Facebook live streams, have been intensively used by the leaders of both the Five Star Movement and the League to circulate anti-elite and anti-migrant messages, as well as to share moments of their personal and family life. With more than 3.5m followers, Matteo Salvini has the greatest reach on Facebook of any European politician.1 Social media has also been often used to attack Italian journalists. In early 2019, a Council of Europe report warned against the hostile rhetoric from members of the Italian government.2
In line with the Italian tradition of media partisanship, editorial and managerial changes in the broadcasting sector have followed the election results. At Mediaset, the main commercial TV group owned by Silvio Berlusconi, only minor changes took place. Some TV shows hosted by journalists known for their anti-migrant and anti-establishment positions were cancelled or suspended. Many observers have seen this as an attempt to cut the media support for Salvini’s League, which at the 2018 general election outpolled Forza Italia (the party led by Berlusconi). Some of these TV shows have now been restored after audience pressure. At the public service broadcaster RAI, the reorganisation has been widespread: as regularly happens after a new election, top managers and the TV newscasts editors have been substituted to reflect the changes in the political majority.3
While broadcasters’ revenues have been relatively stable from 2013 to 2017, newspapers’ and magazines’ revenues experienced a 21% reduction during the same period. In terms of overall revenue share within the Italian communication system, the main players are the international broadcaster Comcast Corporation/Sky (15%), Berlusconi’s broadcasting group Fininvest/Mediaset (15%), and the public service broadcaster RAI (14%). Other relevant players are the international platforms Google (4%) and Facebook (3%), Cairo Communication (the publisher of the TV channel La7, which also controls Il Corriere della Sera, 4%), and GEDI (the publisher of La Repubblica, La Stampa, and several other local newspapers and radio stations, 3%).4
The online news market is still dominated by legacy players. The websites with the widest online reach are those of established commercial TV broadcasters (the Mediaset’s TgCom24 and SkyTg24), the main newspapers (La Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera, and Il Fatto Quotidiano), and the main Italian news agency (ANSA). However, 2018 has also been marked by the impressive results of the digital-born outlet Fanpage. Thanks to its effective use of social media, its focus on online videos, and the establishment of large teams of multimedia experts and social media managers, Fanpage is now among the top five online news players in our survey list. At the end of December 2018, Enrico Mentana, the editor of La7 television newscast, launched Open, a digital-born news outlet that has been widely publicised from the Facebook page of its founder. However, it is too early to evaluate the success of Open in terms of audience results or its digital advertising revenues.
Because of internal disagreements, RAI has not yet launched the online news outlet that has been at the centre of many discussions in recent years. The online news reach of the Italian public service broadcaster is still far from the levels it achieves on traditional platforms. Although several leading newspapers like Il Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica have adopted ‘soft’ paywalls in the last few years, our data show the proportion of people paying for any online news is only 9% in Italy, with the figures for ongoing digital subscriptions even lower.
Note: Some brand positions have moved significantly this year as a result of new education quotas and some changes to our panel providers as we try to increase accuracy. We have not commented on brand shifts, therefore, without corroborating evidence.
Newspaper readership continues to fall steadily while television news viewership has been more stable than in many other countries. With over half of our sample (58%) using it for news each week, smartphone is now the main device used to get online news.
Trust in news is particularly low. This long-standing trend is mainly due to the partisan nature of Italian journalism and to the strong influence of political and business interests on news organisations. Brands that are most trusted are generally those that are known for lower levels of political partisanship.
- www.repubblica.it/politica/2018/06/14/news/matteo_salvini_e_il_politico_europeo_piu_popolare_su_facebook-199008668 ↩
- https://cpj.org/blog/COE_JournalistsReport_2019.pdf ↩
- https://agensir.it/quotidiano/2019/4/1/osservatorio-tg-eurispes-numerosi-i-cambi-di-direzione-nellinformazione-televisiva/ ↩
- www.agcom.it/osservatorio-sulle-comunicazioni ↩