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European Media Landscape

1. Media trends: EU27 country by country

Industry overview

Most media systems in Western Europe trace their roots to the mid-1940s and the rebuilding after World War II; their counterparts in Eastern Europe look to the early 1990s and the fall of Communism. Here the opening of markets gave rise to a dynamic media culture, as progressive young journalists replaced Soviet senior management. Many, however, are once again fighting for their independence amid renewed political and commercial pressures.

Today Europe’s media landscape is characterised by its blurred borders in both geographical and technological terms. What began with Radio Luxembourg broadcasting across frontiers is now a worldwide phenomenon, as media follows the strong pull of globalisation and digitalisation. Meanwhile, the fusion of news and entertainment has led to creeping ‘tabloidisation’.

In the final decades of the 20th century, only CNN and BBC could claim a truly international audience. With the advent of YouTube and online broadcasting, the ‘one-to-many’ model has been overtaken by the new ‘many-to-many’ paradigm. This offers “new opportunities to enhance individual freedom, cultural diversity, political discourse, and justice,” says Yochai Benkler. “But these results are by no means inevitable: a systematic campaign to protect the entrenched industrial information economy of the last century threatens the promise of today’s emerging networked information environment.”

In the new communications environment, ideological struggles are no longer the preserve of journalists, professors and politicians. Loose networks of dedicated bloggers are now a force for social change; but so too are groups of wealthy citizen journalists able to invest time and money for their own social or political purposes.

Duty, quality and freedom

Not all of these trends have benefited the journalism industry. The rise of free content and new platforms, combined with a growing taste for interactivity, has nurtured new ways of consuming news and entertainment. The result: old models are no longer enough to sustain the breadth of quality journalism as we know it.

Only the most innovative outlets with loyal followings are able to continue charging for their content – titles such as The Economist and Financial Times – and even then on a mostly ‘freemium’ basis. Others, such as The Times of London have lost up to 90 per cent of their online audience after putting up pay walls.

Meanwhile, many ‘quality’ papers and channels have been accused of dumbing down, as they seek to shore up their ratings and profitability by appealing to the lowest common denominator. The story is similar if less acute for Europe’s public broadcasters, under more and more pressure to demonstrate their value for money. To help relieve this pressure during the financial crisis, national governments have worked with the European Commission to review and ease restrictions on state aid for the media, notably in France, and Sweden.

Some lament the end of the ‘golden age’ of journalism, which in Western Europe and USA can in theory be traced from the early 1960s to the 1990s. Others deny it ever existed, heralding instead the wealth of networks and the ‘democratising’ potential of the blogosphere.

Nothing is simple in the European media landscape: some sectors are highly fragmented, while others are concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy individuals. Journalism clearly faces an uncertain future in terms of its overall quality, viability and independence. Yet despite its many problems, Europe boasts the freest press in the world, consistently occupying the top 10 places in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2009.

In detail

Click through for the EU27 + 14 Neighbourhood States, presenting the following in each country:

  • Traditional Media
  • Print Media
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Cinema
  • Telecommunications
  • New Media
  • Online
  • Digital media
  • Media organisations
  • News agencies
  • Trade unions
  • National media policies
  • Media legislation
  • Accountability systems
  • Regulatory authority
  • Media resources
  • Learning and support
  • Prime sources for detailed information
  • Development trends
  • References

Media centres and associations

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
European Union Representations (EU27)
European Union Delegations (Worldwide)
EU External Action Information Centre (EEAS)

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