Media Outlets - Balkanmedia
Despite the status of the poorest nation in Europe, Moldova is media-rich. The media market is relatively young and saturated. Over 50 percent of the outlets were registered during the last decade, specifically after 2000. According to the most recent research done in the field, a plethora of media outlets (about 420) operate on a more or less regular basis. Although the official and most widely used language in Moldova is Romanian, an important segment of the market is occupied by media issued in Russian language. About half of print media is issued in Romanian and another half - in Russian, while almost all main TV channels broadcast news in both Romanian and Russian. There are also a number of media in Gagauzi, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish languages.
A multitude of media outlets operate on the media market, but multitude does not mean a diversity or pluralism of opinions. Rather, the capacity of the press to reflect accurately and fairly the whole political spectrum is influenced by political sympathies or antipathies and/or by persons/leaders from behind the scenes. Thus, the media is facing issues related to independence and accountability. The degree of independence depends on the type of media – print media, radio stations and online media are more independent in their work than the TV stations, which often are controlled or owned by politically affiliated persons.
Ownership patterns are quite diverse as well. Most of the news media are privately-owned. Nevertheless, there are also organisations registered as state entities, NGOs, public associations, cooperatives, and political-party property. It is worth mentioning that Moldovan mass-media is not transparent in disclosing its owners. In most cases, the real owners of media outlets are not known by the public. The transparency of media ownership is a current issue that is on the agenda of the civil society and government.
The impact of print media in Moldova is limited. According to a survey conducted in April 2014 by the Institute for Public Policies, only 9 percent of the population read newspapers on a daily basis and 18 percent - several times a week. 2 percent of respondents said newspapers and magazines are the most important source of information for them. The trust people have in print media has rated in April 2014 only 2 percent, which is the lowest score registered since 2004.
The print media market in Moldova is still emerging; it is in a continuous state of flux due to the periodic appearance and disappearance of publications. Print media, including news agencies, constitute approximately 60 percent of the total number of media outlets. This sector includes state, party, non-commercial and commercial outlets. There are nationwide, regional and local print media. A number of media outlets claim they are independent from any external influence; however media monitoring reports conducted during election campaigns showed that most print media were biased towards certain political actors.
Broadcast media, specifically TV stations, are the most important sources of information in Moldova, with about 66 percent of citizens saying TV channels are their first source of information. This indicator for radio is only 6 percent. Approximately 35 percent of people trust TV programs they watch. Unlike TV programs, the public trust in radio is not high, constituing 7 percent. Television is the most popular and influential type of media, being the first in the top of the most accessed media - 81 percent of respondents said they watch TV channels on daily basis and 10 percent - several times a week.
According to the Broadcasting Coordinating Council’s (BCC) data, currently 65 TV stations and 60 radio stations operate in the media market. TV stations broadcast through terrestrial frequencies, cable networks and satellite, out of which five have national and quasi-national coverage – Moldova 1, Prime TV, 2 Plus, Publika TV and Canal 3. There are two regional networks – Canal regional and Aici TV – incorporating a number of local stations. In general, local TV stations, with minor exceptions, don’t have a big audience and impact. During the last decade, the national state broadcasters – Moldova 1 TV station and Radio Moldova and the regional state broadcaster Teleradio Gagauzii became public. However, the reforming process took longer than expected and currently the Teleradio-Moldova management has still been struggling to transform the public company into a truly public service. No data on ownership of private companies, mostly those with nationwide coverage and regional coverage, are available. However, according to data from investigative reports and media experts, most private channels are owned by politicians and oligarchs or persons close to those circles.
According to the 2014 Public Opinion Barometer, about 48 percent of respondents claim they use the Internet daily or several times a week. 20 percent of them regard the Internet as their primary source of information, while 15 percent have rated the Internet as the most trusted source of information, outpacing print media and radio in this respect. The online media started developing in Moldova in the beginning of 2000 when the first publications in online format appeared. However, the limited access to Internet, the lack of funds and equipment, the non-existence of an advertising online market hindered the development of this type of media for years. The most spectacular development of online media was registered in 2009. This is due to their role during violent protests after the elections in April 2009. The interest in online publications increased when they became the quickest sources of information for Moldovan citizens and of reference for international media. The increased interest of the public in the Internet served as a catalyst for periodicals and TV and radio stations to develop their online pages. As a result, a large number of Moldovan media outlets launched online operations that they administer in a professional manner and update regularly.
Besides, a series of online publications have been launched since 2009, providing multimedia content to media consumers. Gradually, the first online publications managed to attract audience and consequently a part of advertising market was redirected to online media. Even though most of online media claim they are independent media outlets, media experts believe that some of them are affiliated to political parties or businessmen. Online media ownership data are not available and, with few exceptions, no data on the editorial team, management, contacts are available. This may be explained by the fact that, unlike in the case of broadcast or print media, there are no legal provisions that would provide for disclosure of that information for online media.
Nadine Gogu, Director of the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) in Chisinau