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Country Reports - Edition 2011

These are summarized results of the Media for Democracy Monitor – Edition 2011. After selecting a country, you will be presented with the assessment of its performance in each indicator, to which research members assigned values from 0 to 3. Alternatively, you can also compare the performance of all countries.

Please keep in mind that these excerpts and texts were extracted from the book “The Media for Democracy Monitor”, edited by Josef Trappel, Hannu Nieminen and Lars Nord (Nordicom, 2011).

Please select a country:

🇦🇺 Australia

Overall points (max. 78):


Freedom / Information

Due to Australia’s geography and population distribution, regional areas are less well served than the metropolitan centres, where all media are available.

The Australian citizen is well supplied with news from different sources.

For Australians, as part of the English-speaking community, the Internet offers a wide array of news sources. Also the world-wide media network of News Corporation feeds the Australian market, whereas the public broadcaster has cut its commitment to foreign correspondents.

There are no written rules for newsroom democracy in the Australian media.

Media proprietors have long been dominant figures, also in newsroom decisions.

The strong position of Australian media proprietors protects the newsroom from external influence.

Although no formal rules on how to select and process news exist, informal rules are followed in the news selection and processing.

Equality / Interest Mediation

Australia has a high media ownership concentration on a national level, which is only slowly broken up by increased availability of media on the Internet.

Australia’s demographic distribution and resulting economy of scale have led to a high media ownership concentration on a regional level.

Australia has sufficient news presentation formats of news and current affairs.

Australia offers an abundance of broadcast and print media in languages other than English.

Media are readily affordable in Australia.

Australia has a number of monitoring instruments, but largely of a self-regulatory nature.

The journalists’ code of ethics is well-known in the print industry but is becoming less suited to new online environments.

While the self-regulatory system is far from perfect, a fair attempt is made to implement it.

Though there is an increasing interaction between journalists and the public, there is no actual participation in the news process.

There is evidence of internal diversity but little of internal pluralism.

Control / Watchdog

Australia has a number of independent observers of the news media.

Legal instruments to guarantee greater independence from power holders have only just become law. However, defamation law is used as another pathways by the rich and powerful to silence critics.

Data on media are rarely a topic of debate.

Most journalists receive professional training.

It is difficult to provide job security for journalists in this time of change.

The law provides access to public information, but practical problems persist.

Australia’s media sees itself as a watchdog.

Some mid-carrier training is on offer.

Commitment to investigative journalism is the Australian media’s way to brand themselves.

🇦🇹 Austria

Overall points (max. 78):


Freedom / Information

A wide variety of news media is available to Austrian citizens. The distribution of news media, however, varies by media type.

Newspapers and public service television are the main sources of information concerning political issues. Among the younger population, the importance of the Internet is increasing. The reach, however, is limited.

All editors-in-chief emphasized the predominant role of journalistic research and pointed out that external content could at best serve as a starting point for further investigation.

Newsroom democracy is established by editorial statutes, which are common in most Austrian newsrooms. But journalists have limited influence on hiring decisions regarding the editor-in-chief.

The separation of newsrooms from management is formally practiced by all media organizations in this media sample and can be interpreted as common in the Austrian media system.

All editors-in-chief strictly denied the direct influence of external parties on newsroom work and content, although such attempts were occasionally reported.

Institutionalized means of criticizing journalistic working habits only exist in a few newsrooms and are not regularly practiced.

Equality / Interest Mediation

Ownership concentration on a national level is very high as the market is divided among a few big media companies.

On a regional level, ownership concentration is very high. In most Austrian regions one newspaper is dominant; the ORF dominates the local radio market.

Austrian daily newspapers provide a wide variety of news coverage in different categories, usually including local, national and international news as well as politics, economy, culture and sport sections.

The availability and institutionalization of minority media depends on whether or not the minority is legally recognized. Overall, a wide range of minority media are available; however their reach is limited.

All news media are relatively cheap compared to the average income of an Austrian household.

Institutionalized and independent media monitoring instruments are rare in Austria.

A code of ethics exists, but the Austrian Press Council has been re-established in 2010 only.

Self-regulation occurs rather informally; institutionalized or codified rules and procedures are rare.

Audience participation is limited to “classical” means of participation, e.g. letters to the editor. Austrian newsrooms are not open to citizens.

As Austrian newsrooms usually do not have codified guidelines, contradictions and discussions are also subject to informal agreements.

Control / Watchdog

Even though weblogs are becoming more popular in Austria, there are only a few media-blogs so far. Media criticism and public debates are centered on the press, but absent from radio and television.

Overall, a special status is granted to journalists by several laws emphasizing the value of independence for journalistic work. However “promise and practice” often diverge.

Transparency is given with regard to media legislation and the ORF. Ownership structures of private media companies, however, lack transparency.

The position of journalists concerning professional ethics and standards is quite ambivalent. On the one hand, such principles are highly valued and a crucial status is attributed to them; on the other hand, journalists show little enthusiasm regarding institutionalized forms of self-criticism and reflection.

Journalists are formally well protected by several laws. Nevertheless, pressures occur in the daily journalistic routine.

Formally, access to information for journalists in Austria is unlimited even though some restrictions are present.

A significant value is attributed to the watchdog function of media in Austria.

Supply of further education is abundant in Austrian newsrooms; nevertheless workshops on democratic values and ethical standards are rare.

Austrian newsrooms usually try to provide resources for in-depth research to the extent possible. The decision which issue is most promising is up to the editor-in-chief.

🇫🇮 Finland

Overall points (max. 78):


Freedom / Information

The mainstream news media are accessible throughout the country and there are no major regional divides.

The mainstream news media reach a very high proportion of the population in Finland.

The diversity of sources is seen to have increased with the Internet, but the influence of PR material and recycling of other media’s material are identified as threats in some sectors.

Individual journalists seem to enjoy a high level of autonomy in daily journalistic decisions, but formal procedures to ensure internal democracy are few.

The autonomy and independence of the newsroom is generally regarded as a central value in the Finnish journalistic culture.

Direct influence by external parties on newsroom decisions is not seen as a major problem.

Stylebooks that include guidelines on the processing of news items are becoming more common, but their significance is still limited.

Equality / Interest Mediation

The national media market is relatively concentrated with a handful of companies dividing the market in each sector.

Apart from newspapers, the leading news media in Finland are nationally oriented. There are no significant regional or local television channels.

Formats of news presentation have proliferated especially online, and nearly all major news formats are widely available in Finland.

The supply of media in Swedish and Sámi languages is extensive in relation to the size of the population in Finland, but other minority and alternative media are limited.

The prices of media services in relation to household income are affordable.

There are some attempts to develop more systematic instruments for media content monitoring, but they have yet to become fully institutionalized or widely publicized.

All leading news media have committed to the common code of ethics.

Self-regulation is based on the ethical guidelines whose application varies from media to media.

Audience participation in the news process is increasing, but there was some skepticism about the productiveness of all new forms of participation.

Internal pluralism is encouraged and valued, but aside from general professional guidelines and values, there are few formal rules.

Control / Watchdog

Organized media criticism in general is seen as lacking in Finland.

Independence of the Finnish news media from power holders is generally strong.

Relevant information about the media system is generally available, but not necessarily easily accessible.

The news media are characterized by a strong professional ethos and a high level of unionization.

There are few specific legal provisions that apply only to journalists, but general legal provisions and labor contracts give journalists strong occupational protection.

The existing law provides extensive access to public information, but problems remain in practice.

The importance of the watchdog role is widely recognized by Finnish media organizations.

The importance of continuous professional training is broadly acknowledged, but not all journalists take full advantage of the opportunities available.

The leading news media give priority to their own material and also seek to undertake investigative journalism.

🇩🇪 Germany

Overall points (max. 78):


Freedom / Information

All relevant news media are available to all citizens, there are no regional divides or regional shortages.

In Germany, news media use is – with certain reservations regarding the news media use of young people – at quite a high standard.

Most of the German news media rely on different sources, though there is a tendency towards one dominant news agency

In Germany, journalists are not in full democratic control of the newsroom. There are some significant barriers to an effective and democratic organization of newsrooms, especially with regard to the engagement of new staff.

The autonomy of newsrooms is generally well-established and implemented in most of the main news media, although sometimes formal rules are still lacking.

There are no reported cases of external influence, but in the case of the commercial media, there are neither explicit rules nor structural boundaries against such influences.

Rules on how to select and present the news are based on journalists’ professional education and regular debates within the newsrooms and therefore widely practised. Stylebooks and other written documents do exist in some media.

Equality / Interest Mediation

At the national level, there are two or more competitors for all news media, but an increased level of concentration in the TV and print sector can be observed.

There is some limited competition between regional broadcasters in most of the German states, but monopolization in the field of local press is increasing at the same time.

There is a huge variety of news formats in every media sector in Germany.

Minorities’ informational needs are respected and served by the German news media.

A full media supply is affordable for large sectors of the German society.

Content monitoring is delivered on a regular and to some extent free basis.

A national code of ethics exists, is implemented and widely used.

There are parts of a self-regulating system, but these parts are not implemented by formal rules, even though more media seem to establish codes of conduct.

Audience participation is widely established with classical instruments, but there is a growing amount of new means of audience involvement.

Internal pluralism is widely respected and established, though codified guidelines often do not exist.

Control / Watchdog

There is a quite high degree of media monitoring by media journalism, professional journalistic journals and to a growing extent by blogs, although there is no permanent public debate about the role of media as watchdogs.

Independence from power holders is guaranteed by law and widely respected, though there are some minor cases of potential owner influence.

Transparency of the complete media system is given and available for the public.

There are signs of high professionalism, such as strong unions and frequent ethical debates, but the increasing workload of German journalists is a menace to news quality.

Journalists only have rudimentary legal protection.

Formally the access to information and to governmental documents is unlimited, though it does not work in a completely satisfactory manner in daily practice.

There is no widespread use of mission statements that explicitly foster investigative journalism. However, most interviewees emphasized the importance of investigative journalism.

In Germany, there is no serious lack of opportunities for journalism training.

The main German news media are in a quite good financial situation for in-depth investigations.

🇱🇹 Lithuania

Overall points (max. 78):


Freedom / Information

There are no clear differences noticed in the regional or national distribution of mainstream media; some years ago a few exceptions in use of the Internet were observed among users from different age groups (e.g., young people were more active users of the Internet), but the situation has changed rapidly.

Although the mainstream news media are heavily used in the country, the population in Lithuania is segmented (dispersed into different audience groups) according to its socio-economic status and socio-cultural needs (the type of media and how it is used).

News media use diverse sources; however, none of the mainstream news media have a bureau in a foreign country: for international news reporting, news media rely on Internet-based sources or international news agency material. Citizen journalism is popular in news portals.

In most media organizations, there are no formalized procedures for how to involve journalists in decisions on personnel or editor in chief choices.

In most cases, the news media do not have written editorial policies (only a few media have these documents available online); some of the news media that do not have written policies acknowledge that having such document is an important strategic policy decision and are planning to develop such documents in the near future.

It is difficult to draw a firm conclusion here: some of the news media have clear and transparent rules (reporting policies), but this is not applied as a regular and established practice in all media organizations. One of the failures to meet this criterion is the public service broadcaster, which not only lacks transparent and planned funding procedures, but its funding is negotiated with the government on an annual basis.

Some news media have written documents (stylebooks) for news presentation; these instructions, however, are very general.

Equality / Interest Mediation

Concentration is high in all sectors of media with national coverage (especially in television).

In general, regional concentration is fairly low in Lithuania; in most cases more than two competing news media outlets are available in each sector.

Different types of content are offered, but entertainment dominates in mainstream media.

Media for national minorities exist only as niche media.

All media are inexpensive and available at a low cost.

Organized and regular media monitoring is performed by diverse organizations such as NGOs, media regulatory bodies, and higher education institutions; large-scale and regular media monitoring practices, however, are lacking.

Lithuania has an institutionalized system of media self-regulation with two institutions established according to media law; in 2009, the Lithuanian Journalists Union established their own self-regulation institution.

Sophisticated means of media self-regulation do exist in some newsrooms; there are also examples of organized self-criticism in some media.

Media in Lithuania offer a variety of ways for their audiences to take part in the public sphere.

No written rules exist and most of the newsrooms have their own non-interference norms and practices; research studies, however, show that the mainstream media are susceptible to external pressures, and with the media crisis this has worsened.

Control / Watchdog

Public criticism and regular public debates on media performance are found in the media; this, however, happens only on an irregular basis.

Mainstream media do not have established rules and procedures to cope with pressures from power holders.

Media ownership data are available to the citizens.

Professionalism values vary across different media, and this is associated with transformations taking place in the media field, such as economic (media crisis and budget cuts) and technological (media convergence and new demands on journalists) changes.

In most media organizations journalists are working on job contracts.

Additional demands are formulated for journalists.

The watchdog mission is understood (and sometimes also implemented) as an important, but not a primary function of the contemporary news media.

There is a well-established practice of continuous training of media professionals.

No pre-planned budgets are allocated to perform investigative journalism and fulfill the watchdog function.

🇳🇱 The Netherlands

Overall points (max. 78):


Freedom / Information

A wide variety of news and information media is available to all Dutch citizens, although regional news coverage varies from province to province.

Seven out of ten Dutchmen read a newspaper every day. Of all television channels, it is the first public channel that has the largest market share, with one out of four Dutchmen tuning in everyday. The reach of most online media is on the rise.

For quite a long time the Dutch press agency ANP used to enjoy a dominant position in providing news and scoops. Recent developments on the Internet have put an end to that hegemony. Other sources mentioned are the national and regional newspapers and the regional broadcasters, which often function as pointers to given issues.

Nearly all news media have internal rules or by-laws outlining a procedure for appointing an editor-in-chief. The management will not easily disregard the viewpoint of the editorial board.

Editorial by-laws endorse the chief editor’s final responsibility and protect the strict separation between editorial staff, on the one hand, and management and shareholders, on the other. However, present-day practice shows that the editor-inchief’s role is shifting away from editorial responsibilities to general management. The litmus test for whether editorial by-laws really function well is not taken until things begin to go badly for the news medium concerned.

Rules or by-laws provide for the formal separation between editorial and commercial considerations. The majority of the journalists interviewed are in principle opposed to any outside influence. Some news media tend to accept more non-spot advertising and advertorials or commercial specials for the job, real estate and travel markets. Such practice will make it more difficult to insist on respecting the editorial rules.

In the absence of formal rules underlying the selection of news or documents outlining a definition of what news is and what it is not, the meetings and discussions held by the editorial staff can be considered informal procedures for making the selection.

Equality / Interest Mediation

The overall market of national, regional, free and specialist newspapers is dominated by three large groups, as is the overall television market. Although less concentrated, the overall radio market too is dominated by just a handful of players. No figures on market shares are available for the Internet.

Three major players dominate the regional newspaper market. By contrast, concentration in the regional radio and television market is considerably lower.

Although the chief business of print media remains the production of a paper version, the Internet is increasingly used to offer complementary functions and services. All news bulletins of the public and private broadcasters are available online, offering the latest news.

The public broadcaster aims at inclusive broadcasting through which the largest possible number of groups in society, among them (ethnic) minorities, can make their voice heard. In spite of quite a number of subsidized actions undertaken to support newspapers for minorities, their future is far from rosy.

Pricing is highly flexible: news consumers can choose the subscription that best fits their budget.

The Dutch Media Authority publishes the Media Monitor, an annual report analyzing the ownership relations and markets pertaining to newspapers, television, radio and opinion magazines. In addition, the News Monitor is published periodically.

Most media conform to the Guidelines of the Press Council and the Code of the Association of Editors-in-chief and/or observe a behavioral code of their own. Ethical decisions are usually made ad hoc in discussions among journalists and editorial staff. The advent of Internet journalism is seen as one of the most important causes of the weakening of journalistic standards and values.

The Press Council, examining complaints about media coverage, is an organization for self-regulation. The News Monitor, funded by grants from the Press Promotion Fund, provides empirical material for the evaluation of news coverage.

Every newspaper has an online version with a facility to post a response. Various social media have intensified the trend of reacting to and participating in news distribution.

Most news media enjoy a culture of openness: their editors-in-chief are accessible and willing to listen to young journalists with a fresh view of things who make their views known, solicited or not.

Control / Watchdog

One leading example is the ‘Foundation Media Debate Bureau’, the website is another. Both invite media professionals as well as citizens to think about quality, reliability and diversity in the media.

The Dutch news media enjoy relative independence from power holders. There are examples of diagonal concentration involving a publisher and a broadcaster in the same group as well as an investment company as the largest shareholder.

On its website, the Media Authority describes the most recent situation as to media ownership relations.

The Dutch newsrooms engage in various forms of self-reflection on and appraisal of the work they do and the way in which they do it. However, most self-reflection occurs on an ad hoc basis and usually after the fact.

In general, the Association of Journalists controls the basic working conditions for professional journalists in the Netherlands.

One important source is government information, for which Dutch legislation on the public nature of government records is the primary tool, as it gives citizens (and journalists) the right to access government data. The way in which the law functions and the lengthy procedures involved have recently come under attack.

The media themselves decide on the basis of their distinctive characteristics to what extent they play their role as watchdog seriously.

Practically all news media offer their employees a chance to follow courses or complete their education. Due to economies and falling revenues from the advertising market, the possibilities are limited.

The worldwide financial crisis did not affect the time or the budget made available for investigative journalism. Even before the crisis economies had been imposed, mainly as a result of shrinking revenues from advertising and recent take-overs of broadcasters and publishers.

🇵🇹 Portugal

Overall points (max. 78):


Freedom / Information