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Lithuania – (F1) Geographic distribution of news media availability

Score in short:

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.

Score in detail:

All types of news media are widely available in the country. Although the reach of dailies in Lithuania is not as high as, for example, in the nordic countries or germany, it is significantly higher than in the countries of Southern Europe. According to statistics of 2008, the readership of dailies has remained similar to previous years and it was 95 %, which means that almost everyone in the age group between 15 and 74 years in the period of the past six months has read a periodical; moreover, 90 % of those who could be called decision-makers (represented by the age group 20-49) are regular press readers (TnS gallup 2009). Briefly, Lithuanians consider press reading an important activity.

Television programs in Lithuania are broadcasted via all kinds of electronic networks: terrestrial television stations, cable networks, multichannel microwave television distribution systems, wire and wireless broadband networks, and by satellite. In 2009, there were 1,300,000 households in Lithuania: 372,249 households used cable television, 24,372 households – multichannel microwave television distribution systems. Analogue terrestrial television in 2009 was already not the dominant technology it was in 2008 when it had over 50 % of users (Radio & Television in Lithuania 2009/2010).

Older age citizens are more active users of television than of the press, and children (between 4-14 years of age) on average watch television about two and half hours a day. The average amount of time Lithuanians spent in front of the TV in 2008 was 3 hours and 23 minutes. Statistically, men spend less time with TV than women do. Also, TV viewing time is seasonally affected: in the winter, people spend more time with television than in the summer (a difference of one hour), and television is watched longer on weekends than during the working days.

In 2008, the commercial TV stations were the most popular according to audience share (TV3: 25.8 % and LnK: 20.9 %), while the audience share of the public service broadcaster (the LTV) was 13.3 %. The public service radio program (LR1: 22.6 %) was the most popular in the country, despite the fact that its main audience is older than 50 years. According to statistics for 2008, over 20 % of the people in Lithuania considered the public service broadcaster (LRT) to be the most influential medium, and this indicator has remained unchanged for a number of years (Annual Report of LRT 2010).

Despite this expressed trust in the public service media, comparative data for five Baltic and nordic countries show that commercial television in Lithuania is the most popular in terms of use (česnavičius 2010). Lithuania clearly stands out from the rest regarding the overall size of this segment (56.2 %). Scandinavian countries are different in terms of the stronger position of the public broadcaster (30-40 % of the general audience) compared to an average of around 15 % in the Baltic region (Table 2).

Table 2. Total viewing time split by channel segments (5-year average, 2005-2009)

  National   Local & International
  commercial Public regional cable & satellite
Country channels (%) broadcasters (%) TV stations (%) channels (%)
Lithuania 56.2 14.4 10.4 19.0
Latvia 36.5 15.8 20.2 27.4
Estonia 39.4 16.7 20.2 27.5
Denmark 32.9 30.2 22.8 14.1
Norway 35.5 40.9 11.0 12.5

Source: Annual Report of LRT 2010.

Despite having a small audience, Lithuania also has a very dispersed audience in terms of which type of media (print, broadcast or Internet) and what kind of programs it uses for information and entertainment. Business leaders, for example, are most fond of news analysis and debate programs on news Radio (Žinių radijas); whereas people over 50 listen to public radio programs (LR1) and younger audiences are more active online.

Internet usage has been growing steadily since 2000. Today, the penetration has started leveling in the age group of young users, while in the group between 30 and 59 years, it is still growing. In 2008, for the first time since a decade of Internet usage measurements, it was noticed that young users no longer dominate the Internet audience.

In comparison to the Internet, media developments in Europe, Lithuania and the Baltic countries (especially Estonia) stand out in terms of Internet access and new media use. Internet penetration in Lithuania is above the European average (60 %), and the three Baltic countries have the highest figures for households connected to the Internet via FTTH (fiber to the home) networks. The top popular media online in these countries are the online-only news portals (Delfi has sister portals in each country) that do not have any connections to mainstream media such as dailies or broadcast stations (see Table 6). The Lithuanian Facebook community has over 700,000 members, which makes it the biggest and fastest growing Facebook community in the Baltic countries. As a response to technological challenges, few media (mainly newspapers owned by Scandinavian investors: Verslo žinios, 15 min) have designed their newspaper versions to be applicable for iPad. Another proof of online media’s public significance is the fact that over a dozen professional blogs in politics, media, economy, new technologies, and social issues are regularly monitored by different media monitoring companies. The purposes for monitoring vary, but this signals that business and politics already consider social media to be important opinion shapers. In sum, many different things are happening online, where we already can see the emergence of new and exciting links between journalism, civil society and democracy.