Francisco Rui Nunes Cádima (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Marisa Torres da Silva (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Luís Oliveira Martins (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
The Portuguese case seems to be generally positive – there are no domains with high risk levels – though there are some problems to solve. With regard to the legal framework, there are various specific and general rules to comply with media pluralism. Portugal has a regulatory body that monitors the key issues of the media sector – transparency of ownership, media pluralism, PSM, etc. – through audits, reports and several studies.
Regarding the Public Service Media, there are positive expectations following the creation of the Independent General Council, in September 2014, but we have to wait to see the main results of this new supervisory body, which is responsible for choosing the PSM management board. However, there may be some generic situations to improve in the Portuguese media system, namely: the control of media cross-ownership; the issues of self-regulation, and the independence of the media, and the access to media of social and cultural groups, as well as local communities.
Figure 1 Media Pluralism Monitor 2015 – Portugal, results by Risk Domain
The Basic Protection indicators represent the regulatory backbone of the media sector in every contemporary democracy and they measure a number of potential areas of risk, including the existence and effectiveness of implementation of regulatory safeguards for freedom of expression and the right to information; the status of journalists in each country, including their protection and ability to work; as well as the independence and effectiveness of national regulatory bodies, namely media authorities, competition authorities and communications authorities.
|Protection of freedom of expression||18% risk (low)|
|Protection of right to information||31% risk (low)|
|Journalistic profession, standards and protection||17% risk (low)|
|Independence of national authority(ies)||Negligible|
‘Protection of freedom of expression‘ (score 18% – low risk). Freedom of expression in Portugal is constitutionally recognized. Regulatory safeguards have been put in place that seem to be effectively implemented.
Defamation is a criminal offence in Portugal, which may, in principle, pose risks to journalistic freedom. However, neither NGOs nor journalists have reported any relevant cases. With respect to online offences, such as public incitement to violence and hate speech or hatred for racist and xenophobic purposes, there are several cases (namely through readers’ comments in Portuguese online journalism) which indicate non-compliance with the recommendations  of the media authority (Entidade Reguladora para a Comunicação Social-ERC, see below). ‘Protection of right to information‘ (31% – low risk). The right to information, freedom of expression, and citizens’ rights are enshrined in the Constitution. There is an appeal mechanism in place in cases of refusals to grant access to information, which is managed by an independent administrative entity, the Commission on Access to Administrative Documents (CADA). It appears that this body receives a large number of complaints and/or requests for legal advice. There is evidence, such as delays, that this appeals mechanism is not implemented effectively .
‘Journalistic profession, standards and protection‘ (17% – low risk). There are some risks concerning editorial independence and/or respect for professional standards, which is partly attributed to lack of self-regulation and the absence of a Press Council that would check compliance with deontological ethics. Regarding the working conditions of journalists, we have noted irregularities in payments and internships, and, more generally, precariousness. There are indications (though no clear evidence) that commercial entities or the owners of the media company, influence, or seek to influence, the editorial content of broadcasters or the press.
The ‘Independence of the national authority‘ (negligible risk) . In Portugal, the ERC is the regulatory authority for the media. This authority is subject to independence safeguards, including rules to avoid conflict of interest, and has the power and duty to discharge its mission impartially and transparently.
The Market Plurality indicators examine the existence and effectiveness of implementation of transparency and disclosure provisions with regard to media ownership. In addition, they assess regulatory safeguards against high concentration of media ownership and control in the different media, within a media market as well as cross-ownership concentration within the media sector.
|Transparency of media ownership||38% risk (medium)|
|Concentration of media ownership||62% risk (medium)|
|Concentration of cross-media ownership||62% risk (medium)|
‘Transparency of media ownership‘ (score: 38% – medium risk). Media ‘sub-sector’ laws include transparency provisions. In the television sub-sector, the provisions are present in Laws Nos. 27/2007 and No. 8/2011 (Article 4). In the radio sub-sector, the provisions are included in Law No. 54/2010 (Article 3). In the press market, these types of provisions are included in Law No. 2/99 (Article 16).
The media authority (ERC) has been working to increase transparency in the Portuguese media sector, especially in terms of ownership. However, some media groups do not disclose complete and/or up-to-date information, namely Global Media and Newshold. The situation might improve in the future given that a new law of media ownership transparency (Law No. 78/2015) was approved in July 2015.
‘Concentration of media ownership‘ (score: 62% – medium risk). The MPM analysis shows that in Portugal, the laws that rule ownership are implemented within each media sub-sector. In the television sub-sector there are thresholds that are based on objective criteria. Law No. 8/2011 (Article 4-B), states that no individual or collective entity is authorised to control more than 50% of the total number of licenses for free-to-air broadcasting television.
The radio sub-sector has several specific thresholds, or limits, and these are based on objective criteria – Law No. 54/2010 (Article. 4). For local radio licenses, no individual or collective entity is authorised to control more than 10% of the total number of licenses granted in the country. For nationwide radio services, no individual or collective entity is authorised to control more than 50% of the total number of programme services that are eligible for the same geographical area and frequency level. For regional radio licenses, no individual or collective entity is authorised to control, in the same regional area, more than 50% of the total number of licenses that are eligible for that geographical limit.
In contrast to television and radio, the press sub-sector is based on ‘laisser-faire’ principles and policies. Press laws do not establish specific limits or thresholds for this sub-sector. Regulation considers qualitative, but not quantitative, standards. Within all the above mentioned sub-sectors, excessive horizontal concentration of ownership can be prevented via general competition rules (which take into account the specificities of the media sector).
‘Concentration of cross-media ownership‘ (score: 62% – medium risk). In recent decades, there have been significant corporate changes in the media sector that have contributed to higher levels of concentration.
In the television market, free-to-air services are currently provided by only three operators: RTP (state-owned), SIC (owned by the private group Impresa) and TVI (owned by the private group Media Capital). RTP is a public service broadcaster. SIC and TVI are typical commercial television operators.
The radio markets are more diversified, especially at the local level. However, Portugal has only four corporate groups with nationwide radio services: RDP (state-owned), Renascença (owned by the Catholic Church), Media Capital (privately-owned) and Global Media (privately owned).
The press sub-sector is also diversified at the local level. However, at the nationwide level, the newspaper markets are controlled by a limited number of privately-owned corporations. The dominant groups are Cofina, Global Media and Impresa. It is very difficult to estimate the market shares in the press sub-sector. No complete and/or up-to-date data are available for several of the corporations, namely, Global Media and Ongoing. In recent years, these operators have not complied with information obligations (ERC, 2014 and 2015).
The oligopolistic structures in the Portuguese media markets are characterised by some levels of cross-media concentration. The Impresa Group, the major player, is present in television, the press and digital content. The Media Capital Group, also a very important operator, is present in television, radio and digital content. The Cofina Group is present in the press, digital content and cable television markets. The Global Media Group is present in the press, radio and digital content. Sonaecom is a major telecommunications group, but it is also the owner of an important newspaper title (Público). Newshold is a recent group (created with investment from Angola) that has increased its presence in the press markets and which has also invested in the Cofina Group.
The Political Independence indicators assess the existence and effectiveness of implementation of regulatory safeguards against biased representation of political viewpoints in the media, and also the extent of politicisation over media outlets, media distribution networks and news agencies. Moreover, it examines influence of the state on the functioning of the media market, with a focus on state advertisement and public service media.
|Political bias in the media||6% risk (low)|
|Politicisation of control over media outlets||62% risk (medium)|
|Politicisation of control over media distribution networks||Negligible|
|State advertising||17% risk (low)|
|Independence of PSM governance and funding||Negligible|
|Independence of news agencies||50% risk (medium)|
‘Political bias in the media‘ (score: 6% – low risk). There are regulatory safeguards in order to guarantee that, in broadcast news, all of the political viewpoints that exist in the society are represented in a fair, balanced and impartial way. In relation to self-regulatory instruments, there are certain principles in the RTP Ethics Code that guarantee access to the PSM channels for political actors. There is some potential risk in relation to the proportions of representation during election campaigns, particularly in relation to the small parties, but we still need to see the results of the future application of the new law in relation to this specific matter (Law No. 72-A / 2015, July 23 – Establishes the legal framework for media coverage during election periods).
‘Politicisation of control over media outlets‘ (score: 62% – medium risk). There are some problems with the effective implementation of the regulatory safeguards against excessive ownership and/or the control of the media by politicians. In regard to transparency of ownership in the media sector, in some cases we do not know exactly who the Portuguese media owners are. It is difficult to acquire information about just who are the true owners of some media groups. To resolve this issue, as mentioned above, a new Law on the Transparency of the Ownership, Management and Funding of Media Entities, was approved by the Parliament on 2nd July 2015 (Law No. 78/2015, 29 July).
‘Politicisation of control over media distribution networks‘ (negligible risk). The MPM analysis indicates that there is no significant risk of the political affiliation and control of media distribution networks.
‘State advertising‘ (score: 17% – low risk). In general, there is no evidence of risk, nor of non-transparent rules relating to the distribution of state advertising in Portugal.
‘Politicisation of PSM governance and funding‘ (negligible risk). There is no significant risk relating to this issue. As already mentioned in the introduction, the PSM reform still needs to be tested. We will be able to evaluate the outcome of this reform in the coming years.
‘Independence of news agencies‘ (score: 50% – medium risk). With regard to the independence of the news agency, we do not have, in practice, any evidence of a pluralism deficit in the Portuguese agency Lusa. The Lusa Agency is, in any case, mostly funded by the State (50% risk).
The Social Inclusiveness indicators are concerned with access to and availability of media for different, and particularly vulnerable, groups of population. They assess regulatory and policy safeguards for access to media by various cultural and social groups, by local communities and by people with disabilities. Moreover, they assess the centralisation of the media system, and the quality of the country’s media literacy policy, as well as the digital media skills of the population.
|Access to media for different social and cultural groups, and local communities||50% risk (medium)|
|Availability of media platforms for community media||100% risk (high)|
|Access to media for the physically challenged people||Negligible|
|Centralisation of the media system||58% risk (medium)|
|Universal coverage of the PSM and the Internet||50% risk (medium)|
|Media literacy||67% risk (high)|
‘Access to media for different social and cultural groups, and local communities‘ (score 50% – medium risk). The Constitution safeguards access to airtime on PSM channels by different social and cultural groups. This is a duty that was assigned to the second PS television channel, RTP2 (Assembly of the Portuguese Republic, 2007). Additionally, in the Concession Contract for Public Service Television, Clauses 7 and 15, which applies to public service television and public service radio respectively, states that two programme services must be specifically aimed at the Azores and Madeira. Clause 11 lays down in a detailed manner the obligations of the programme services in television, including a minimum of daily regional news programs (AAVV, 2015).
In practice, we can say that PSM broadcasts, albeit to a limited extent, regional news programmes and local news. The Regulation Report of the ERC (2014) confirms the practice of access and diversity in RTP2, although it also states that there is limited pluralism (of programmes as well as of social and cultural groups) in the main PSM channel (RTP1).
‘Availability of media platforms for community media‘ (score: 100% – high risk). There is no tradition of community media in Portugal and the format is not regulated by the applicable legal framework. Community radio projects exist mainly on the Internet (Jedrzejewski & Oliveira, 2015; 255-257).
We must also underline that Portugal has no national minorities according to the definition used by the MPM2015 (Council of Europe, 2013), although there are “ethnic media” in Portugal, that have as their target audiences the immigrant communities in the country.
‘Access to media for physically challenged people‘ (negligible risk). There is a well-developed national policy concerning media content access by physically challenged people (Grupo de Reflexão Media e Deficiência, 2011). The obligation to facilitate accessibility for people with disabilities is a precondition for the awarding of the license required to operate public service broadcasters (Bachmeier, 2014: 20).
‘Centralisation of the media system‘ (score 58% – medium risk). The Portuguese media system is highly centralised. Despite the absence of exact and updated information, the market share of daily newspapers published regionally, local and regional TV and radio broadcasters appear to be very low, especially if compared against market shares of nation-wide media (ERC, 2010, 2009; Davim, 2012). The existent availability of open signal / free-to-air channels (both public and private) at the regional level is also ‘clearly below of what could be expected and desirable” (AdC, 2013: 48).
However, more recently, in 2015, the state implemented a new policy of subsidies for the support of the regional/local press (Decreto-Lei nº 23/2015), which may constitute a positive development for the media system.
‘Universal coverage of the PSM and the Internet‘ (score 50% – medium risk). The Constitution, along with the Television and On-demand Audiovisual Media Services Law 2007 and Radio Law 2010 guarantees the existence and operation of a public radio and television service.
However, the process of transition from analogue to digital television (Anacom, 2012) as well as the expansion of the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) network (WorldDAB, 2015) may indicate risks in relation to accessibility to Public Service Media (PSM), as population coverage stands below 98% in either case.
In respect of broadband coverage, the percentage of broadband network coverage in rural areas is 99% (IHS Inc. & Valdani Vicari and Associati Portugal, 2013), but broadband penetration is only 57% (Eurostat 2013). According to Net Index/Ookai (2015), the average broadband speed in download (33 Mbps) and upload (7 Mbps), can also be respectively considered of low and high risk.
‘Media literacy‘ (score: 67% – high risk). Policymaking in the domain of media literacy and media education in Portugal appears to be moving toward the right direction (Costa et al., 2014: 5-9). However, despite relevant initiatives taken by academics, civic society and the media sector itself to promote media education (Jorge et al., 2014: 168-171), we may say that national policies still have a long way to go. ‘There is a need for a formal structure dedicated to media education that can transform the fragmentation of projects and initiatives into a multi-stakeholder network with a strategy’ (Costa et al., ibidem: 25).
Based on the findings of the MPM2015, the following issues have been identified by the country team as more pressing or deserving particular attention by policy-makers in order to promote media pluralism and media freedom in the country. .
In media legislation, the concept of pluralism refers to several issues including market plurality, ownership and competition. However, academic and other studies on political pluralism in the media (carried out at a global level, not only in Portugal) lack analysis of specific content categories, such as the plurality of political voices (i.e., not exclusively within the political spectrum, but also voices of independent citizens, scholars, entrepreneurs, minorities, ethnic groups, civic associations, and NGOs). Research should give a stronger weight to this category of “other voices” in order to better understand the levels of political pluralism in the Portuguese media.
To reinforce the independence of the Portuguese regulatory authority for the media, the authors agree with concerns expressed by the Portuguese society, which suggest that members of regulatory authorities might be selected and nominated by the President of the Republic.
As regards the high levels of centralisation of the Portuguese media system, the authors recommend that the public authorities make available a larger number of open signal / free-to-air channels (both public and private) at the national/regional levels through the digital terrestrial television system.
Moreover, the authors suggest that the public authorities develop a consistent and long-term strategy in order to reinforce policymaking in the domain of media literacy.
In terms of ownership, the authors recommend the approval of a general media concentration law that:
(i) sets objective thresholds in order to address cross-media ownership;
(ii) promotes effective competition in media markets; and
(iii) protects content diversity in the TV and radio sectors.
The authors consider that the Portuguese public service operators (TV and radio) are necessary in order to overcome potential market failures, such as the lack of cultural programmes, to represent the diverse interests and needs of the Portuguese society and, more generally, to guarantee high programme quality..
Annex I. List of consulted national experts
Alberto Carvalho – Entidade Reguladora para a Comunicação Social
Estrela Serrano – Centro de Investigação Media & Jornalismo
Nuno Conde – Pedroso de Lima & Associados – Sociedade de Advogados
Paula Cordeiro – Rádio e Televisão de Portugal
AAVV 2015, Contrato de concessão do serviço público de rádio e televisão, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.rtp.pt/wportal/grupo/governodasociedade/contrato_concessao_pdf.php.
AdC 2013, Televisão Digital Terrestre em Portugal, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.concorrencia.pt/vPT/Estudos_e_Publicacoes/Estudos_Economicos/Comunicacoes_Electronicas_e_Media/Documents/TDT_final_Junho_20130617.pdf.
Anacom 2012, Relatório final. Grupo de acompanhamento da migração para a televisão digital terrestre (GAM-TD), viewed 11 August 2015, https://www.anacom.pt/streaming/GAM-TD_25+out2012.pdf?contentId=1142587&field=ATTACHED_FILE .
Bachmeier, C 2014, Barrier-free access to audiovisual content. A fundamental human right, European Audiovisual Observatory, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.obs.coe.int/documents/205595/7944996/IRIS+plus+2014-3_EN+LA.pdf/6212170a-bd35-48e8-99f7-b4b1cba2f1b5.
Cádima, F. R. 2012, A Televisão, o Digital e a Cultura Participativa, Media XXI, Lisboa.
Camponês, C. 2009, Fundamentos de Deontologia do Jornalismo – A Auto-regulação frustrada dos Jornalistas Portugueses (1974-2007), Tese de doutoramento. Universidade de Coimbra.
Carvalho, A. et al. 2007, Legislação Anotada da Comunicação Social, Casas das Letras, Lisboa.
Costa, C, Jorge, A & Pereira, L 2014, ‘Media and information literacy policies in Portugal’, ANR Translit & COST Transforming Audiences / Transforming Societies, viewed 12 August 2015, https://ppemi.ens-cachan.fr/data/media/colloque140528/rapports/PORTUGAL_2014.pdf .
Council of Europe 2013, Third report submitted by Portugal pursuant to article 25, paragraph 2 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/minorities/3_FCNMdocs/PDF_3rd_SR_Portugal_en.pdf .
Davim, M 2012, ‘Não se sabe quem vê a RTP Açores e a RTP Madeira’, Sol, October 2nd, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.sol.pt/noticia/60249.
Entidade Reguladora para a Comunicação Social – ERC 2009, Caracterização do sector da radiodifusão local, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.erc.pt/download/YToyOntzOjg6ImZpY2hlaXJvIjtzOjM4OiJtZWRpYS9lc3R1ZG9zL29iamVjdG9fb2ZmbGluZS8zMS4xLnBkZiI7czo2OiJ0aXR1bG8iO3M6NDY6ImNhcmFjdGVyaXphY2FvLWRvLXNlY3Rvci1kYS1yYWRpb2RpZnVzYW8tbG9jYWwiO30=/caracterizacao-do-sector-da-radiodifusao-local .
Entidade Reguladora para a Comunicação Social – ERC 2010, A imprensa local e regional em Portugal, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.erc.pt/documentos/ERCImprensaLocaleRegionalfinal.pdf.
Eurostat 2013, Broadband and connectivity – individuals, viewed 11 August 2015,https://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=isoc_bde15b_i&lang=en .
Grupo de Reflexão Media e Deficiência 2011, Relatório Grupo de Reflexão Media e Deficiência, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.mediaedeficiencia.com/download/YTozOntzOjU6ImFjY2FvIjtzOjg6ImRvd25sb2FkIjtzOjg6ImZpY2hlaXJvIjtzOjM4OiJtZWRpYS9maWNoZWlyb3Mvb2JqZWN0b19vZmZsaW5lLzI2LnBkZiI7czo2OiJ0aXR1bG8iO3M6Mjk6InJlbGF0b3Jpby1tZWRpYS1lLWRlZmljaWVuY2lhIjt9/relatorio-media-e-deficiencia.
IHS Inc. and Valdani Vicari & Associati Portugal 2013, Broadband Coverage in Europe 2013. Mapping progress towards the coverage objectives of the Digital Agenda. A study prepared for the European Commission DG Communications Networks, Content & Technology‘, viewed 28 June 2015, https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/pillar-4-fast-and-ultra-fast-internet-access.
Jedrzejewski, S & Oliveira, M. 2015, ‘Getting listeners involved: Rádio Ás, a community radio web project’, in Bonini, T. & Monclús, B. (eds.), Radio audiences and participation in the age of network society, Routledge, New York.
Jorge, A, Pereira, L & Costa, C 2014, ‘Práticas de educação para os media em Portugal’, in Eleá, I. (ed.), Agentes e Vozes: um panorama da mídia-educação no Brasil, Portugal e Espanha, Nordicom, Göteborg.
Mota, F T 2013 A Liberdade de Expressão em Tribunal, FFMS, Lisboa.
OberCom 2015, Anuário da Comunicação 2013-2014, www.obercom.pt.
Prina, F, Zavakou, A, Ghirardi, F & Colombo, S 2013, Minorities, media and intercultural dialogue [working paper], European Center for Minority Issues, viewed 12 August 2015, https://www.ecmi.de/uploads/tx_lfpubdb/WP_71_Final.pdf.
WorldDAB 2015, Country information – Portugal, viewed 11 August 2015, https://www.worlddab.org/country-information/portugal#coverage.
Constitution of the Portuguese Republic 2005, Assembly of the Portuguese Republic, Seventh Revision, viewed 11 August 2015, https://app.parlamento.pt/site_antigo/ingles/cons_leg/Constitution_VII_revisao_definitive.pdf.
Radio Law 2010, Law no. 54/2010, viewed 11 August 2015,https://www.gmcs.pt/en/radio-law .
Television and On-demand Audiovisual Media Services Law 2007, Law no. 27/2007, viewed 11 August 2015, https://www.gmcs.pt/en/television-and-on-demand-audiovisual-media-services-law .
Decreto-Lei nº 23/2015, Diário da República, 6 de fevereiro 2015, viewed 12 August 2015, https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/66443111.
 NB: It needs to be noted that this indicator has been found to be problematic in the 2015 implementation of the Media Pluralism Monitor. The indicator aimed to combine the risks to the independence and effectiveness of media authorities, competition authorities and communication authorities was found to produce unreliable findings. In particular, despite significant problems with regard to the independence and effectiveness of the authorities in many countries, the indicator failed to pick up on such risks and produced and overall low level of risk for all countries. The indicator will be revised for further versions of the MPM (note by CMPF).