The media market in Greece is characterised by digital fragmentation, lack of trust in news, high perceptions of undue influence, and high use of social media for news.
Perceptions of media bias have been central in the political debate during the past year in Greece. The controversy over the government’s payments to particular news organisations for broadcasting COVID ‘stay at home’ messages in 2020 intensified, as a parliamentary inquiry examined the process. Journalists and watchdog organisations like Vouliwatch have been asking the government to release the confidential criteria behind the funding. This discussion follows a long tradition of vague criteria for state support for news organisations in Greece. At the same time, the case of an alleged attempt by a minister of the previous government to interfere with the TV licensing process is expected to reach a special court. In this environment, it is no surprise that Greece has the lowest share of citizens thinking that the press is free from undue political (7%) or business (8%) influence across 46 countries.
The online news media market in Greece is fragmented and heavily disrupted: the audience’s attention is divided between many news sources and the legacy news market has been disrupted by pure-players such as Newsbomb and News247. Many digital-born brands are news websites created by journalists who became prominent while working for legacy news organisations. The majority of news brands in Greece still prioritise page views over building loyal audiences, partly explaining why there is not a culture of payment of online news in Greece. On top of these problems for news media organisations, the percentage of those very or extremely interested in news in Greece fell by seven percentage points (pp) during the past year, as it did across most countries, partly due to COVID-19 news fatigue.
Publishers are investing in podcasts. While last year there were mostly digital-born and digital-savvy news organisations experimenting with podcasts, this year saw legacy news organisations like Kathimerini entering the market with current affairs discussions. Charts οf the most successful news-related podcasts suggest that listeners prefer opinionated discussions and documentary-style analysis of current affairs.
Social media news use is very high in Greece. Around seven in ten (71%) of online users get news this way each week, partly explaining the fragmentation of the online media market. Publishers allocate considerable time and resources in their social media distribution strategies, as platforms generate a large share of traffic to news websites. Despite the range of social media platforms now used for news, which include messaging applications, TikTok and Instagram, Facebook is still king with 53% of the online population using it for news.
During the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the discussion surrounding the role of social media in society intensified, particularly due to anti-vaccination personalities on Facebook spreading misinformation. After the Prime Minister called social media ‘a threat for democracy’ last year, the Parliament passed a law making it a criminal offence ‘to spread false news, capable of causing concern or fear to the public or undermining public confidence in the national economy, the country’s defence capacity or public health’. The law makes spreading misinformation punishable by a fine and imprisonment for three months or more. The first person to be arrested based on the new law was a prominent anti-vaxxer who spread misinformation on Facebook regarding COVID-19 and vaccines. His trial is pending.
The TV news media market is still strong in Greece, particularly for older age groups. The relaunch of MEGA TV saw the channel regain a leading spot in the list of offline news sources, with 39% of the sample saying that they have used it for news at least weekly. MEGA TV was bought and relaunched by Evangelos Marinakis, who has acquired many legacy outlets during the past few years. Broadcasters are relatively weak in the digital market, particularly when compared to newspapers’ or digital-born websites. In 2021, the public service broadcaster ERT launched its own news webpage called ertnews.gr. Open News also received a lot of attention partly because of its non-stop news coverage during major breaking events like the wildfires in August 2021, as well as the ties of its Russian-Greek oligarch owner Ivan Savvidis to the Kremlin.
The Russian invasion in Ukraine ended the official collaboration between the public Athens-Macedonian News Agency and the Russian state agency Rossiya Segodnya. The partnership, which was signed in 2015 under the previous Greek government, fed Greek news media with translated opinion articles from Rossiya Segodnya.
University of Liverpool
Smartphone use for news has overtaken that of computers in recent years. Use of TV as a news source fell by 7pp during the past year (pre-Ukraine war) partly due to COVID-19 news fatigue. Social media use is still strong.
Pay for online news
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Greece is well behind most countries for trust in news and there was a further decline (-5pp) this year. Trust in many news media brands also fell by over 10pp. The most trusted news brand is a generic local or regional outlet, reflecting the role of partisanship in the lack of trust in news.