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Population: 6.9 million
Internet penetration: 70%
17th June 2024

As the poorest country in the European Union with a constantly declining population and very few people prepared to pay for news, Bulgaria offers limited business opportunities in the media sector apart from mergers and acquisitions. Each major broadcaster is owned by a telecommunications group that targets their subscribers with services focused primarily on entertainment, rather than news.

In February 2024 the United Group, a leading media conglomerate in Central Eastern Europe which owns the commercial broadcaster Nova Broadcasting Group (the top brand in terms of reach according to our research), acquired the last big independent TV provider Bulsatcom. But there are reports that United itself might be put up for sale by its major shareholder BC Partners.1 If this happens it will be the third change of ownership for Nova Broadcasting Group in exactly five years, indicating the intense but precarious development of the media market in Bulgaria and the region. When it comes to the online advertising market, revenues are split between the leading broadcasters and major platforms such as Meta/Facebook and Alphabet/Google, leaving little for anyone else.

However, with hardly any news companies even trying to charge for news via subscriptions or membership, there is a heavy dependence on advertising revenue – both from corporate and state organisations. These pressures are exacerbated by low and declining print sales. All media groups are looking for greater efficiencies and their negotiations for advertising contracts often test the limits of editorial independence. Print media, and commercial radio stations in particular, try to lure advertisers with advertorials and other special projects or partnerships that provide positive coverage of organisations such as banks, insurers, hospitals, and even universities in return for paying for advertising pages. 

Even the biggest media companies have to make editorial compromises when it comes to advertising revenues. In August 2023 one of the leading bottling companies polluted a river, effectively killing all fish downstream, but the two major broadcasters waited a couple of days to deliver the news. One never covered the admission of responsibility by the company, only reporting the remedial measures undertaken by them.

Low levels of trust in Bulgarian news are a longstanding feature and derive from a high degree of political polarisation – currently fuelled by differences over the Russia/Ukraine war – and a sense that media companies’ independence is compromised for economic reasons or by businessmen with close links to politics. 

Since May 2023 Bulgaria has been governed by a coalition between the former ruling GERB party led by controversial veteran Boyko Borissov and We Continue the Change, a party which built their campaign on promises to put Boyko Borissov in prison. Both parties agreed to alternate the post of Prime Minister after nine months, but the agreement collapsed in March 2024, with a new caretaker government installed and elections called for June.

Bulgaria remains a major arms supplier to Ukraine. The majority of the political elite and mainstream media support sanctions against Russia and aid for Ukraine, but a significant share of the population opposes those policies and reports low trust in Bulgaria’s government and Parliament.2 Abuses of power might help explain why. One recent example was when an adviser to the defence minister threatened staff in the emergency department of Sofia’s largest hospital, demanding priority treatment of his child. The news broke when a nurse shared the story on Facebook.3 Officials from the Ministry of Defence accused the latter of being a Russian agent, and focused their investigation on the leak before scrutinising the behaviour of the adviser.

In 2023 nearly 500,000 Bulgarians signed a petition, proposing that the adoption of the euro be put to a referendum but the constitutional court rejected this. The authorities are spending millions on a campaign to promote the euro, and that money benefits the major media companies. Meanwhile, on 31 March 2024 Bulgaria, along with Romania, became partial members of the EU’s border-free Schengen area but only for travellers by air and sea, rather than by land

Traditional media have launched podcasts or platforms for online news streaming but it is the journalists with a strong personal following who attract the greatest audience. These include former mainstream journalists with independent shows holding leading positions on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Patreon. Among the most successful are Martin Karbovski with his own channel, Genka Shikerova as part of Free Europe, and Peter Volgin as part of Bulgarian National Radio.

Stefan Antonov
Business journalist and former Reuters Institute Journalist Fellow

Methodology note

We introduced education quotas in 2023 to make data more representative of national populations. Part of the declines in reach in the source chart between 2022 and 2023 will be because there are more people with lower levels of education in our sample, who typically have lower interest in news.

Pay for online news



Trust in news overall



Trust in the news is down almost 10pp over the last seven years and remains one of the lowest in our survey. At the brand level, public broadcasters Bulgarian National Television and Bulgarian National Radio lead with 60% and 59%, respectively. They come under political pressure but follow legal requirements for fair treatment of all political parties.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 65.32

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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