Coverage by the Bulgarian-language media of an annual report on the state of the Bulgarian media said a lot about, well, the state of the Bulgarian media.
On February 4, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Media Democracy Foundation released a report on the media, accompanied by a survey by opinion polling agency Market Links.
The report analysed coverage of politics by four newspapers – Presa, Sega, Telegraf and Trud – and four television stations – public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television and privately-owned bTV, Nova and TV7.
According to the report, the Bulgarian Socialist Party government in which Plamen Oresharski occupies the prime minister’s chair is given a generally soft ride by the media (“media comfort” in literal translation of the customarily-used Bulgarian term).
This seemed to to suggest a major discrepancy with the view taken by most Bulgarians, who support public protests demanding the resignation of the government.
At the same time, Market Links found that just 14 per cent of those polled saw journalism in Bulgaria as independent. Fifty-seven per cent had the greatest confidence in television news, 22 per cent in online media and only three per cent in radio.
The report noted the prominent coverage given to Nikolai Barekov, formerly of TV7 – owned by the New Bulgarian Media Group of Irina Krasteva, mother of Delyan Peevski – and around whom the “Bulgaria without Censorship” party has been formed. Polls do not show that party as having emerged as a major force, but those in charge in coverage in Bulgarian media seem to find it more worthy of stories than the activities of Kristian Vigenin, foreign minister in the BSP government, the report noted.
Media analyst Orlin Spassov told a news conference at the launch of the report that 2013 had been characterised by negative media campaigns, linking this to drops in the popularity of Boiko Borissov, leader of centre-right opposition party GERB and former prime minister, and of President Rossen Plevneliev, elected as head of state in 2011 on a GERB ticket.
The background to all of this, of course, is the working alliance between the parties currently in power in Bulgaria and a large section of the Bulgarian-language media. It is no wonder that Plevneliev recently called on parties in the 42nd National Assembly to legislate against media monopolies, a call likely to fall on the stoniest of ground.
Coverage on February 4 and 5 of the report varied, in extent – from lengthy to none at all – and less so in angle.
Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio angled on Oresharski being named as a “media darling” and on the lack of belief among Bulgarians in the journalism with which they are presented being independent.
Darik Radio (effectively in the same stable as Nova Televizia after a deal announced in August 2013) also went on the angle of Oresharski and the government getting the most media approval, and quoting Spassov on the contrast between media coverage and the anti-government protests.
News site Mediapool angled on the lack of independence of journalists, quoting Georgi Lozanov, head of regulator the Council for Electronic Media, as saying that the regulator would compile a register of the ownership of broadcast media.
Mediapool also reported the pecking order for consumers of Bulgarian media – that 62 per cent preferred television as the source of news on politics, 20 per cent the internet and only four per cent the press. The site added that against the 14 per cent national average who held that there was media independence, the figure for Sofia was half that.
Mediapool, whose coverage was among the lengthiest, quoted Spassov as calling for urgent measures to improve the media environment in Bulgaria, such as more funding for public media as well as a wider national basis for the imposition of ethical standards in journalism in Bulgaria.
The site noted Spassov as mentioning the rise of influence of Facebook, which he said had become the primary source of information not only for society but also for the media.
According to Spassov, in contrast to the Krasteva-owned media, other media such as Nova Televizia and what he reportedly described as “pro-GERB” Economedia had become information hubs on the anti-government protests.
Mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa also angled on the “media comfort” afforded to the government and to Oresharski, quoting the report as finding that the cabinet and the prime minister were hardly ever criticised harshly and “some media even support them unconditionally”. The paper’s stablemate Trud, one of the publications surveyed, ran coverage with an angle and length similar to that of 24 Chassa.
Economedia-owned website Dnevnik posted detailed coverage of the report, also angled on the “media comfort” for the BSP and Oresharski and how media that formerly had supported Plevneliev and Borissov had turned against the President and the former prime minister.
The article noted the conclusion that Nova Televizia was the most favourable to former ruling party GERB, in relative terms, but far from the behaviour of anti-GERB and pro-government TV7. According to Spassov, the “most balanced” media was public broadcaster BNT, taking the most neutral stance in relation to government and opposition.
BTV covered the report, along similar lines reflecting the conclusions on how the Bulgarian media treated the government and Oresharski. Apparently basing its story on coverage of the news conference by Bulgarian news agency BTA, bTV omitted – probably understandably – Spassov’s nod to BNT as the “most balanced” in its coverage.
Website Offnews also afforded relatively lengthy coverage to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation-Media Democracy Foundation report, angling on the lack of belief in the media being independent.
At the same time, there were those media that did not seem to find the report newsworthy, at least going by their websites, without print issues at hand. These included Presa and Telegraf, both in the Krasteva stable. Again, going by searches of their websites, three of the television stations surveyed did not cover the report – BNT, Nova and TV7.
(Photo: Brian Lary/sxc.hu)