Media legislation

Media regulation, legal framework revision, local and regional media public grants, property media concentration and political pluralism are major concerns of political representatives in the last two decades, expressed in public policies applied to media sector.                   

Cavaco Silva governments (1985-1995) brought a media policy characterised by privatisation and liberalisation. Cavaco Silva’s cabinets decided, between 1985 and 1995, to open the television sector to private initiative and to legalise hundreds of local radios which spread all across the country since the 1980s. The same liberal policies, which meant the progressive withdrawal of the state from the media sector, were applied to the press market (for instance, Diário de Notícias and Jornal de Notícias were privatised).          

After Antonio Guterres’ six-year socialist governments (1995-2001), the XV Constitutional Government Program, conducted by José Manuel Durão Barroso (2002-2004), once again put forth more liberal policies for the media sector.  A deep reorganization of the public media service took place, with the creation of a holding that added the previously separated radio and television companies. A controversial debate was generated by the possibility of privatizing one of the free-to-air public service channels, a scenario that did not happen. In fact, the public service media model is a sensitive issue in Portuguese society. 

In 2005, the XVII Constitutional Government, headed by José Sócrates, proposed the following major measures for the media sector: the creation of a new media regulator, the prevention of more relevant State economic participation in media enterprises besides RTP Group and Lusa, new legislation to control property concentration and abuse of dominant position, the limitation of horizontal, vertical and multimedia property concentration among media companies; the transition to digital platforms.           

On the other hand, the revision of the Journalists’ Statute in 2006-2007, was followed by intense controversy within the professional journalists’ milieu, who criticise the virtual shrinkage of the protection of confidential news sources. Journalists were also in profound disagreement with the creation of a professional ethics committee within Comissão da Carteira Profissional dos Jornalistas, the organisation which grants access to the profession. Such controversy did not stop the revision of the law and the ethical committee is already in function.

More recently, the Parliament passed a law that regulates the promotion of transparency of ownership, management and media financing. The bill aims at promoting freedom and pluralism of expression and safeguarding editorial independence from political and economic powers.