Bosanski    Francais
 About Media Initiatives
 Media & Politics
 Media, Law & Policy
 Media, Culture & Society
 Media Market
 New Media
 Contemporary Journalism
 Special Reports
 Media & Transition
 Media & Elections
 mailing list
Special Reports -> Romania
16.04.2002: Alex Ulmanu

(This text was taken from European Journalism Centre – EJC.)


The years passed since the fall of communism in December 1989 brought about a revolution in the Romanian media similar with the profound process of change experienced by the entire society. After a relatively short period marked by a rapid and chaotic increase in the number of titles and circulation (1990-1992), followed turmoiled times. First, newspapers, which in general were too taken with politics and opinion, lost a large part of their readership. Then came the avenge of the sensationalist press, and the audiovisual boom. At the start of 2002, the Big Bang is not over yet. New TV and radio stations keep appearing, and the number of print titles is still too high for themarket. Journalism, as a profession, is probably the most dynamic in the Romanian economy, with journalists frantically changing jobs in search of better wages and working conditions. The coming years will hopefully bring the much needed quality that many of the Romanian media outlets are lacking at the moment.


The written press: even 20 daily newspapers in Bucharest

The Romanian press reached a peak in terms of quantity in 1996, with 1855 published titles, from which 106 dailies and 1781 other periodicals. That was up from only 36 dailies and 459 other periodicals in 1989, and 100 daily newspapers and 1094 other periodically published publications in 1994. In 1998, though, numbers went down: 1550 titles, from which 95 dailies and 1455 other types of periodicals. (figures from the 1999 Romanian Statistical Yearbook, published by the National Commission for Statistics -- now the National Institute for Statistics). No official figures were released for 2000 and 2001 yet, but the number of titles tends to go up around electoral periods (1996, 2000), when various political and economic groups invest in the press in order to gain influence with the public. The newspapers', TV and radio stations' budgets tend to go up around the same periods.

The Romanian press landscape appears to be overcrowded. But in spite of the inflation of titles, and the fact Romania has over 22 million inhabitants, circulation figures are not as impressive. There are over 20 dailies being published in Bucharest, most of them calling themselves national newspapers. However, only three or four can claim print runs and circulation over the 100,000 threshold. The most successful, and arguably the best Romanian daily, Adevarul, prints and sells around 150,000 copies a day; Evenimentul Zilei has a daily circulation of about 115,000 copies, approximately the same as Libertatea.Other important central general interest dailies are Romania libera, National, Ziua, Jurnalul national, printing 50,000-100,000 copies a day. Other newspapers, like Curierul National, Cronica Romana, Cotidianul or Realitatea, have smaller print runs and circulation. There are also several specialised newspapers. The most important are finance and business newspapers Ziarul Financiar (circulation: around 15,000 copies) and Bursa (no audited circulation figures available), and sports dailies ProSport (daily circulation: 70,000-80,000 copies) and Gazeta Sporturilor(25,000-30,000 copies). In the last several years, local newspapers have increased their quality and readership. Newspapers published in the major cities have a local or regional circulation. Their daily circulation varies between 2-3,000 and 30-40,000 copies (major cities in Romania each have several hundred thousand inhabitants, without reaching half a million, while Bucharest has over two million people). Cities like Timisoara, Iasi, Cluj, Brasov, Galati, Constanta, Craiova, Sibiu have two to five dailies, but usually only one, or, in few cases, two titles in each city authoritatively lead the market: Realitatea in Timisoara, Monitorul in Iasi, Viata Libera in Galati, Telegraf and Cuget Liber in Constanta.

Romania does not have any afternoon or evening newspapers. Mainly because of distribution problems, all Romanian dailies are morning newspapers. It would be too difficult, given the present infrastructure, to produce and sell afternoon or evening newspapers. Libertatea, which started as a Bucharest-only newspaper, used to be distributed in the afternoon, but it became a morning newspaper when it turned national. Evenimentul Zilei also had an afternoon edition several years ago, but it was soon terminated.

A separation of the Romanian dailies by the Western model, in popular (tabloid) and quality papers is hard to be made, although there are some clear examples of tabloid press. By format and content, Libertatea is clearly a tabloid. National, even though it is printed in broad sheet format, can also be considered popular, as well as, to some extent, Evenimentul Zilei -- although the latter displays a combination of sensationalism and quality information. Targeting mostly business-oriented people, Ziarul Financiar is the most clear-cut example of Western-like quality information newspaper, while Adevarul and Curentul are also aiming at being considered quality press. However, one can still find biased, unprofessional or sensationalist reporting in these papers.

The number of national weeklies decreased since 1992. Political debate and information weeklies have disappeared or have been converted into entertainment magazines. Among the few that remained are satirical weekly Academia Catavencu (weekly circulation: 55-60,000 copies), actually a very influential magazine focused on political and social news and commentary with a humourous twist; business weekly Capital (weekly circulation: around 40-50,000 copies); and Formula As (no certified circulation figures available, but the magazine claims over 200,000 copies sold weekly). The latter combines useful information on health care and domestic issues such as kitchen recipes, with feature on various issues, political editorials and stories on Romanian and international artists.

However, some of the most successful weeklies are the week-end suplements of important national dailies. Evenimentul de Week-end (Evenimentul Zilei) and Libertatea Week-end (Libertatea), sold together with the main paper, print 200-250,000 copies a week. TV guides are also among the best-sellers. ProTV Magazin, for example, sells around 130,000 copies a week.

In the last several years, the market for monthly specialised magazines has undergone serious development. There are several successful women's magazines (Unica, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Avantaje, Burda, Lumea Femeilor etc.), men's and adult magazines (FHM, Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler etc.), youth magazines (Bravo, 20ani, Popcorn, Super etc.), auto magazines (AutoMotor&Sport, Auto Show, Auto Mondial etc.), publishing from several dozen thousands to over 100,000 copies per month. Among the few general interest monthlies one could mention Flacara and Lumea Magazin.

For a comprehensive list of dailies and other Romanian publications and links to their Web pages, you can go to


The Audiovisual media: Cable Televisions take the lead

The audiovisual is the media field that developed the most after 1989. During the years of communism, the regime had suppressed one of the two public channels, and had reduced the national broadcast to two, then three ours every week-day.

At present, public television broadcasts through two national channels: Romania 1, a general interest channel, and TVR2, with a focus on cultural and educative programmes, and two international satellite channels: TVR International and TVR Cultural. There are also several regional channels belonging to the public television, with TVR Timisoara, TVR Cluj and TVR Iasi the most prominent.

The public television has come under criticism due to its hybrid nature -- it is financed from a tax called mandatory Radio and TV subscription, as well as money from the centralized budget, and through advertising. It has also been subject to criticism for political bias, as its status makes it easy to be controlled by the political power.

There are several important private competitors for the public television at national level, the most important being ProTV, Antena 1 and Prima TV. The first two have more viewers in the cities than the public television. Other stations broadcasting nationally via satellite are Tele7abc, Acasa TV, Atomic TV (music station), OTV and Realitatea TV.

There are over 100 local private TV stations functioning at present all over Romania. Many have formed local networks or affiliated with big Bucharest-based stations like ProTV, Antena1, Tele7abc and Antena 1. Big international names such as HBO, Hallmark, Fox Kids, Discovery, National Geografic, Animal Planet and Eurosport, distributed via cable, have programmes translated into Romanian via text or voice.

In 2001 the National Broadcasting Council reported 2,093,121 households, or almost 27 percent off the total number of households, subscribed to cable television. According to the Cable Communications Associations, quoted by AdMaker, however, the number of subscribers is over 3.3 million. This makes Romania the fifth country in Europe by number of cable subscribers. In Bucharest and other big cities, the percent of households hooked to cable TV can reach 80-90 percent. At one point, there were 700 cable distributors. Many of them merged or were taken over by bigger players. Big cable TV companies have also started offering other services like cable Internet access, and are prepared to offer telephony services when the monopoly of Romtelecom ends in 2003.

The most important TV cable companies according to AdMaker are Astral Telecom (also owner of Astral Internet and Kappa ISP and portal), with 650,000 subscribers, RCS (also owner of the RDS Internet Service Provider), with 550,000-600,000 subscribers, UPC (one of the first four major international players on the market, with a strategy centered on the cooperation with local operators), with 120,000 households subscribed, Terra Sat (especially powerful in the South-East of Romania), with 100,000 subscribers, Romsat Cable with 90,000 subscribers, CVR (offering a quality signal via underground cable, using the Romtelecom infrastructure) with 65,000-70,000 subscribers, and Mega TV (powerful especially in the East of the country), with 50,000 households subscribed.

Romanian subscribers to cable TV get 18-40 Romanian, European and American stations. The public radio has four national channels (News, Culture, Youth and Music), an international channel and ten local or regional channels broadcasting their own programmes.

The first private radio stations appeared in 1990, in Bucharest. They were FM stations broadcasting mainly music and hourly news bulletins. At present there are over 150 private local FM stations, the most important networks being established by Radio Contact, Radio ProFM and Radio Uniplus. FM stations are usually music stations with short news bulletins and few other shows. In 1999, the first licence has been issued for a regional private station. The tender was won by Europe Developpement International, a member of the Lagardere Group, which in May 2000 established Europa FM, broadcasting news and music all across Romania through a comprehensive network of FM frequencies. However, there are no AM private staTions as yet.


Web-based media / new media: below 5 per cent of Internet users

At a population of over 22 million, Romania's Internet population is estimated to be around 800,000 - 1,200,000. From these, half are heavy users, which means they access the Net at least once a week. Only about ten percent go online from home. Most do it from the office, from school, or from Internet centres such as Internet cafes. Broadband, cable and ADSL are usually too expensive for the average Romanian, which limits such options for big companies and NGOs. Home users connect mostly via dial-up modem. ANISP, the Romanian Association of Internet Service Providers, counting 25 members, which is about 90 percent of the ISP market, has managed to get the national telecoms operator Romtelecom to cut the data transfer daytime prices, first by 50 percent, then by 75 percent.

A Google search for Web pages in Romanian, with the .ro suffix, returned about 624,000 results, from jokes sites to auction pages to news sites.

Most Romanian media outlets are present online. However, many Web sites are poorly designed and maintained, and do not take advantage of the Web's possibilities to offer interactive content and frequent updates. Most Web sites' content is shovelware, that is, the newspaper's content is pasted on to the Web page. However, things are changing for the better, as proven by the recent redesign of the Web sites of ProSport, Adevarul and Evenimentul Zilei.

The biggest and most popular portals are (belonging to the Kappa ISP), Romania Online (associated with another big ISP, PCNet), Bumerang (a news portal), Apropo (relaunched as a general interest portal after it used to function as a Web data base for the Mediafax news agency), and

From these, only Bumerang, Romania Online and Apropo have significant journalistic content.

According to Web tracking service, the most popular news and media sites in Feburary 2002 are Evenimentul Zilei Online, (a directory of Romanian online media), Adevarul Online,, (the Web site of the Romanian public television),, and With the exception of Web directory, none of these sites is an exclusively online media outlet.

The Romanian Web can only grow. Exclusively online publications like news portal Bumerang, or Apropo, which is an expression of media convergence, since it uses resources from print and broadcast media belonging to the MediaPro group, are positive examples showing how Internet media outlets can have a distinct voice in the Romanian journalism.

Businesses, NGOs and government altogether are aware of the need to be present online. The government's Web site,, offers comprehensive information about the executive, as well as links to other state institutions, such as the presidency, the parliament, various governmental departments, and local administration.

The government and other political bodies certainly view the Web as a useful promotion tool. The Ministry of Tourism recently established a Web page called Dracula Park, to promote a controversial project for a Dracula theme park to be built near the medieval city of Sighisoara. And, during the 2000 electoral campaign, the most prominent parties and politicians used the Web to get their message through.


News agencies: Private Mediafax overcamed state Rompres

The most important news agency at the moment is Mediafax, a private organisation established 1991 as the starting point of the MediaPro group. Most media outlets subscribe to one or more of its services, including general interest and specialised news, photo services, and business information for companies.

Mediafax produces over 450 stories daily, covering the society, special events, economy, culture, politics, sport and entertainment. Ninety percent of the central media subscribe to the agency. Mediafax employs circa 150 reporters in over 40 Romanian cities, as well as in the US, France, Belgium, Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Moldova.

Rompres is Romania's state-run agency. Before 1990, it was known as Agerpres. By its status, Rompres is the official agency of the Romanian government. Its political affiliation with the government has caused much criticism, and its rather low quality coverage has lost it much of its clients. However, at present Rompres claims 90 media institutions (newspapers, radio and TV stations) subscribe to its services. The agency produces over 220 stories on Romania a day, and approx. 175-200 international stories covering all domains. It also broadcasts news in Hungarian for the Hungarian-language media in Romania. Most central and local administration are also subscribed to Rompres. The agency also has a photo service, producing and distributing 25-30 images on Romania a day. Rompres also distributes photos from EPA (European Press Photo Agency) and AP.

Rompres produces 14 daily, weekly and monthly news bulletins, offered in print or online. Besides media and governmental organisations, they are distributed to companies, embassies, NGOs in Romania and abroad. The agency also broadcasts to the foreign press agencies it cooperates with, as well as to the Bucharest offices of the international media, to diplomatic missions and public organisations, a cca. 10,000-word daily news service on Romania, in English and French.

Other, smaller, news agencies are Rador (a department within the public radio), AM Press and AR Press.


Media organisations: without united journalism union

So far, Romanian journalists do not have a representative union. Several small unions do exist within the public television and radio. There are over 40 media organisations, but few of them can claim to represent a large part of the Romanian journalists. The Association of Romanian Journalists (AZR) and the Society of Romanian Journalists (SZR) are among the best known.

The most prominent organisation in the Romanian media is the Romanian Press Club, in fact an employers' association protecting and promoting the economic interests of several central media institutions, and not those of the journalists working there.

The most active organisations fighting for the rights of journalists have been the Center for Independent Journalism, and the Media Monitoring Agency (MMA), which took the role of promoting freedom of expression and the right to information in the dialogue with the government.

MMA has established a network called FreeEx from which sparkled APPLE, that is, the Association for Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Expression. MMA and APPLE offer juridical assistance to journalists being sued for what they publish, and train lawyers and judges in European media law.


Main recent media developments

One of the tendencies visible in the past several years has been media concentration. There are several big players on the media market.

MediaPro is the biggest, comprising the ProTV and Acasa networks, the Mediafax news agency, the Radio ProFM network,, ProSport, Ziarul Financiar, Playboy Romania, the Buftea film studios, other print titles and media companies. However, due to obscure financial practices and the bad advertising market, the company has been experiencing difficulties, visible in the worsening of TV and radio programmes, lay-offs and limited activity. MediaPro remains, however, one of the most important media groups in Romania.

The Swiss group Ringier holds several titles, including the tabloid Libertatea, the financial weekly Capital and several other specialised magazines.

Another big player is Intact, owner of the Antena 1 TV network, as well as Romantic FM, the Jurnalul National daily and other titles. Its owner is a well-known businessman and party founder, who can afford to pay for the losses of his media empire with money gained in other businesses.

One of the economic developments of the last few years has been the increasing gap between the wages of regular reporters and editors, on one hand, and the top-level editors and managers, on the other. Ordinary reporters usually have monthly wages of around USD 100, while top-management people and high-profile journalists such as talk-show hosts or news anchors can earn from several hundred to several thousand dollars a month.

More and more media observers and, increasingly, media insiders, have been drawing the attention toward media corruption. The Romanian media industry reflects the Romanian society at large, and corruption is a significant feature.

As advertising or sales cannot ensure profitability for many media institutions, they do not actually function as lucrative entities, but rather as means of influence for political and economic groups. As such, those who control the media do not have a real interest in promoting professional journalists and journalism, since journalists who are not well trained and don't have high ethical and professional standards can be more easily manipulated to serve their interests.

However, competition, the entrance of international companies on the market (although rather timid yet), and the fact that journalism schools started to produce professionals, has been meaning better journalism and better media. The difference between tabloid and quality papers has become more clear (although not really clear yet), and TV and radio stations have been offering better and more diverse programming.

In TV in particular, in the last half of 2001 we have witnessed the birth of three new TV stations in Bucharest: B1TV, the first big Bucharest-based station aimed exclusively at covering Bucharest, a Realitatea TV, a news station trying to become a sort of local combination of CNN and Euronews, and OTV, an event-oriented, extremely poorly equiped television broadcasting long talk-shows and uncut accounts of daily events.

The main developments in the Romanian media, that seem to go on in the future as well, are an inclination from both print and audiovisual media toward entertainment-oriented material, rather then quality information (that is also expensive to produce); and the increasing success of specialised media, such as women's and men's magazines, computer publications, music or news television.


National media policies

Since 1990 there has been an ongoing debate over the possibility of a media law in Romania. Up to now, the Parliament has not adopted one, although there have been several projects concerning this issue. The journalists themselves were most opposed to a press law, arguing that it would only limit the freedom of the press and the public's right to information.

The audiovisual field is regulated by the Audiovisual Law adopted in 1992, with the National Broadcasting (or Audiovisual) Council established in 1990 as the sole supervisor of the Romanian TV and radio stations. The NBC has 11 members appointed by the parliament, government and president. It issues and withdraws broadcasting licences, issues rules or reglementations, and monitors the stations to see if these rules are respected. However, it does not have legislative initiative, meaning it cannot propose laws to the parliament.

The functioning of the Romanian public television and radio is also regulated by the law concerning the establishment and functioning of the Romanian Radio Society and of the Romanian Television Society (1994).

The right to information is recognised by the Romanian Constitution, and since the end of 2001 by the Access to Information Law, that obligates government institutions to make public any information of public interest.

A project for a State Secrecy Act has been discussed by the Parliament. Media organisations are worried that such a law would have a negative impact on the media, as those who publish information considered as secret are punishable even if they are not responsible for the leak of such information.

  Accountability systems

Self-regulation is virtually non-existant in Romania. There is no deontological or ethical code known or recognised by the whole profession. Even though organisations such as the National Press Club claim to have drawn such a code, most journalists are simply not aware of it. There is no Council of Honour recognised by the whole media to judge departs from ethics.

In the audiovisual, the National Broadcasting Council has the role of monitoring and sanctioning the broadcasters for breaking ethical and professional norms.


Prime sources for detailed information

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication studies within the University of Bucharest publishes The Global Network, a scholarly journal dedicated to communication and society in the post-communist period in Central and Eastern Europe. Articles on the Romanian media by sociologists, anthropologists, historians and media researchers can be found in all issues of the journal.

Up to now, "there is no competent and integrating, if not exhaustive, work dedicated to the post-totalitarian Romanian press, either in the country or abroad," according to Mihai Coman, head of the Journalism department within the University of Bucharest and editor of the Global Network.

Among the few sythesis texts, one could mention Peter Gross (1991, 1995, 1996), Ion Dragan, J.P. Lafrance (1994), Mihai Coman (1994 and 1995).

The National Audiovisual Council periodically publishes bulletins with a more technical content.

Up to now, there are no magazines dedicated to Romanian journalism. However, there are several dedicated to media and advertising, such as AdMaker.

Information about aspects of media-related law and freedom of expression can be found at the Web site of FreeEx (

For media monitoring, go to the Media Monitoring Agency (

Other information can be found in the Web site of the StartMedia NGO.


Alex Ulmanu, director of StartMedia, a Romanian media NGO, teaches journalism at the University of Bucharest and the "Media" University. He frequently publishes articles on media-related issues. Media Online 2002. All rights reserved.