The Portuguese media landscape is plural and diverse. The press market is scattered across a large number of newspapers and magazines, mainly local and regional, mostly with low circulation and reach. The number of national generalist titles is reduced. Over the last years the television offer has increased and grown more diverse through subscription-based platforms, which include a growing number of thematic and premium channels. As a result of the reorganisation of the radio sector in the late 1980s, Portugal has a high number of radio stations, more than 300, spread throughout the national territory and mostly of local reach. Native digital editorial projects, such as exclusively online-based radio and television programs, are emerging more slowly.
In terms of consumption, the Portuguese media landscape is still characterized by the dominant role of television in comparison to other media. This is the widest-reaching medium in Portuguese society. According to the 2016 edition of the survey “Public and Media Consumption”, which provides a detailed picture of the Portuguese media practices, 99 percent of those surveyed regularly watch television, with no significant differences in terms of age or gender. Comparatively, 60.5 percent of respondents frequently use the Internet; 68.2 percent regularly access newspapers and magazines; 73 percent have the habit of listening to the radio.
According to Marktest, television is also the main advertising medium, absorbing 74 percent of ad investments (at list prices), at a wide distance from the press (9 percent), the Internet (8 percent) or the radio (4 percent).
The switch-off of analogue television and the transition to Digital Terrestrial Television occurred in 2012 but it was not followed, in the immediate years, by an increase in free-to-air television offer, which has remained limited to the five existing channels (RTP1, RTP2, SIC, TVI and ARTV, the channel of the Assembly of the Republic, centered on parliamentary activity). Since December 1, 2017, DTT platform includes two channels associated with the public service operator, RTP 3 and RTP Memória. Approximately a quarter of the Portuguese population only has access to the free-to-air channels, which is mainly due to economic reasons. At the same time, there has been a significant increase in the number of subscribers to pay-TV, which currently has a penetration rate of around 80 percent of Portuguese households. In fact, in recent years there has been a structural change in the audiovisual and communications market, with electronic communications operators dominating the pay-TV offer integrated with other services such as the Internet and telephone.
Portugal has historically been characterized by poor newspaper reading habits. This sector has been living on a downward curve in succession for several years, both in daily and non-daily segments. The number of copies sold continues to decline, and the decline in circulation has also affected the free press. The popular press, with a higher circulation, continues to be preferred by readers.
The media system is essentially controlled by media groups in terms of audiences, revenues and supply. This is due to the influence of the stabilisation of the democratic regime and the implementation of structural economic reforms with a liberalising orientation, in the mid-eighties, reflected in a policy of privatisation and a reduction of the weight of the state in the economic sector. This change was anchored in privatisation processes, concentration of media ownership on economic groups, and commercial orientation of editorial policies, with an impact on the reorganisation of the press sector, the reordering of radio space and the end of the state monopoly of television. The groups have adopted cross-media and multimedia strategies, with mono-media groups being less common.
The Portuguese media system is characterized by a considerable level of cross-media concentration. Impresa controls a generalist channel (SIC), several cable channels (such as SIC Notícias, the first 24/7 news channel launched in Portugal), the main weekly newspaper (Expresso) and newsmagazine (Visão) and several specialized magazines. Media Capital, owned by the Spanish company Prisa, holds the main generalist channel (TVI) and the most popular radio station (Rádio Comercial). Global Media Group owns the reference news radio station (TSF), two of the main daily newspapers (Diário de Notícias and Jornal de Notícias), a sports daily newspaper (O Jogo) and specialized magazines.
However, the traditional business model, based on an audience-advertising nexus, has been challenged by the fall in advertising revenue, a consequence of the economic crisis that has affected the country in recent years and of the channeling of large slices of advertising to new platforms, such as Facebook and Google. Companies are also having difficulties in monetising digital content and services. Accustomed to the freemium paradigm of the early years of Internet, users are scarcely available to pay for them. According to the Digital News Report 2017, payment for online news in Portugal remains low (9 percent), with slow growth in digital and bundled subscriptions. News aggregators such as Sapo.pt and Noticiasaominuto.com, the latter republishing a large number of articles produced by other media, are extremely popular among viewers.
This recessive effect has inhibited the emergence of new projects and the exploration of the potential of new technological platforms. It has also been reflected in the quality of programming and content. Companies restructuring processes, with the aim of creating synergies and making resource management more effective, has often been accompanied by a drop in jobs or a fall in wages.
In the period that followed the Democratic Revolution of April 25, 1974, the Portuguese media system was involved in a broader struggle for the definition of the political system, which favored, in the post-revolutionary years, a strong partisanisation of the press and militant journalism. However, the political and economic changes occurred from the mid-1980’s led editorial projects to adopt, in the words of Fernando Correia, “a commercial and industrial logic, from the perspective of which the proclaimed political neutrality and informative objectivity appear as part of strategies aimed at reaching the widest possible audience.”
Partisan press practically disappeared, with few exceptions, like the newspaper Avante!, property of the Portuguese Communist Party and produced by a professional newsroom. More critical perspectives point to a lack of pluralism and the alignment of the quality media with a sort of “dominant thinking” represented by the right-wing political representatives. See, for example, the article written by the historian José Pacheco Pereira, entitled “An increasingly less plural media”, published in the Público newspaper on January 21, 2017. However, it should be recognized that, after the stabilisation of the democratic system, the degree of political parallelism of the Portuguese media system is less notorious than in Spain or Italy.
It can also be emphasized that, from 1987 onward, journalistic practices developed under the sign of professionalism, as a dominant corporate ideology, which indicates greater autonomy of the media field (as regards to political power) .
The latest national inquiry of the Portuguese journalists attests to the high level of academic qualification in newsrooms: almost 80 percent of the professionals have courses at the level of higher education, with more than two thirds graduated in Communication Sciences or Journalism.
However, the profession is going through a time of greater vulnerability due to the precariousness of the work, low salaries and low autonomy vis-à-vis administrations and boards and the agenda of news sources and events. The widespread use of trainees in newsrooms is also an issue. The journalists declare that they face long working hours and difficulties in reconciling professional and personal life. Between 2007 and early 2015, the profession has suffered a reduction of 1,218 journalists (now, excluding the trainees, they are around 5,000). This was one of the most debated problems by the class in the recent Congress of Portuguese Journalists (12-15 January, 2017), a meeting that had not been held since 1998. Lack of effectiveness of self-regulatory mechanisms and failures to comply with ethical and deontological rules and standards was another widely discussed issue.
The State intervenes in the Portuguese media system as regulator, owner and funder. The Constitution of the Portuguese Republic requires the State to guarantee the existence and operation of public radio and television. The State owns the entire capital of Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (the company that houses the public television and radio) and 50.1 percent of the capital of Lusa, the main Portuguese news agency.
The regulation of the sector, including the press, is ensured by Entidade Reguladora para a Comunicação Social (Portuguese Media Regulatory Authority - ERC), an independent administrative entity held accountant before the Parliament, which was created in 2005. ERC has a wide range of powers and responsibilities, ranging from the protection of fundamental rights and the guarantee of the freedom of the press, to the promotion of diversity and pluralism.
The State also acts as a funder, managing a system of incentives to media in areas such as technological modernisation, digital development, employment and professional training or media literacy and education. These subsidies mainly benefit the local and regional media, in a situation of greater financial fragility, but which ensure an irreplaceable public service mission within their respective communities.