In the aftermath of the pandemic, and with trust in news still high (2nd in 46 markets), overall interest in news fell significantly. Meanwhile, the rebranding of Media Capital-owned TVI24 news channel into CNN Portugal has changed competitive dynamics in a very packed market for TV news channels.
As media companies were still trying to come to terms with the impacts of the pandemic and the necessary changes to business models, 2022 started with damaging cyberattacks on several Portuguese media, including brands such as SIC, SIC Notícias, and Expresso. On the revenue side, however, despite the continuing decline in print income, Grupo Cofina, owner of Correio da Manhã daily newspaper and the Correio da Manhã TV news channel, reported profits for 2021 up by 165% (or €4.2m) on 2020. Grupo Globalmedia (Diário de Notícias daily and the TSF radio station) reported sales up by roughly 9% on 2020.
In the radio sector, Renascença Multimédia (Rádio Renascença and RFM radios) launched a new podcasting platform (Popcasts), both for their own podcasts and with the aim of attracting other publishers. Rádio Comercial, one of the market’s biggest players (24% weekly reach), launched Rádio Comercial Ucrânia, a bilingual digital radio aimed at refugees from the Russian–Ukrainian war living in Portugal.
In the TV market, Grupo Media Capital underwent structural changes which included the rebranding of the TVI24 news channel as CNN Portugal. Despite concerns that this might damage Media Capital’s position in the very competitive TV news market, in early 2022, in the wake of coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, CNN Portugal overtook its main competitor, Grupo Impresa’s SIC Notícias, to become the most watched TV news channel. During 2021, Media Capital also completed the sale of its radio network (Rádio Comercial, M80, Cidade, Smooth, and Vodafone) to the German media group Bauer for nearly €70m.
At the end of 2021, Google unveiled their Google News Showcase initiative in Portugal, in a partnership with about 30 media companies, including many of the biggest brands such as Jornal de Notícias, Observador, Público, Visão, and an assortment of regional outlets. Brands that were left out were unhappy and, as elsewhere, the initiative has fuelled discussion around news monetisation models in the age of platforms, and the power big players have as massive distributors of content.
Legacy print brands have tried to come up with strategies to meet the demands of audiences in the digital age. The 2019 Nonio initiative brought together all the major Portuguese news brands to create a single login system and might be one of the explanations for our data showing Portugal with a high proportion of people signing into news sites. But payment for news online remains relatively low at 12% (though the main publications report an increase in their digital paid circulation).
Digital piracy is another challenge. In November 2021, a Portuguese court ordered the shutdown of 17 Telegram channels due to illegal sharing of PDF newspapers, magazines, and audiovisual content – which together involved about 10m users. Alongside legal redress, the industry is running campaigns highlighting the impact of these practices on media companies and, indeed, journalism.
A big drop in interest in news also marked this year’s trends (down 18 percentage points, pp, from 2021) possibly due to what some saw as the excessive focus of news agendas on yet another COVID-19 wave over December 2021–January 2022. Researchers have found that COVID-related news saturation can shift audiences towards lighter content, either other kinds of news or entertainment (de Bruin et al. 2021).
With disinformation remaining topical, a new law came into force in May 2021, creating a Portuguese Charter on Human Rights in the Digital Age. Alongside ensuring basic rights, freedoms, and guarantees for citizens in the online environment, the legislation establishes that the state must protect citizens from people who produce, reproduce, and disseminate misinformation, in line with the European Action Plan against Disinformation. The law also provides citizens with a right to take complaints about misinformation to the media regulator. A controversial Charter of Digital Rights was criticised by experts, journalists, and some political parties, with some saying it marked a ‘return to censorship’.
Ana Pinto-Martinho, Miguel Paisana, and Gustavo Cardoso
ISCTE-IUL University Institute of Lisbon
Television declined as a source of news in the past year (down 5pp) as online (including social) has overtaken it. Print’s continuous decline means the percentage using it today is half of what it was in 2015.
Pay for online news
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Trust figures remain high, as in previous years, with public broadcaster RTP the most trusted brand. However, only about a third of respondents believe media are independent from external influence, whether commercial or political. The Portuguese remain very concerned about what is real and fake online (71%), with COVID-19 still the topic where people encounter misinformation most often online.