weCAN Digest April 2020

Media monitoring of the latest news about the media and advertising markets of Central and Eastern Europe

Thousands rally in protest against mogul Czech PM
Several thousand people rallied in central Prague Sunday against the Czech Republic’s billionaire prime minister and the way his government treats public institutions. Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who has made his fortune as owner of the Agrofert food, chemicals and media holding, is facing police charges over an EU subsidy fraud.
March 1

Slovakia election: Anti-corruption party takes lead
The opposition Ordinary People party (OLaNO) has won a resounding victory in Slovakia’s parliamentary election on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment. With nearly all results counted, the party has secured almost 25% of votes.
March 1

Sorina Mihai (Porter Novelli Romania): The local PR landscape has still to find a balance between cohesion and diversity
[…] BR talked with Sorina Mihai, managing partner Porter Novelli Romania, about the agency’s performance last year and plans for 2020, how she sees the PR industry at the moment and the blurring lines between PR and advertising.
March 2

Tele2 closes the sale in Croatia
As communicated on 3 February 2020, Tele2’s Board of Directors intends to distribute the proceeds from the sale of Tele2 Croatia, along with additional cash available after re-levering growth in underlying EBITDAaL, through an extraordinary dividend of SEK 3.50 per share which will be proposed to Tele2’s Annual General Meeting on 11 May 2020.
March 3

Serbia Broadband expands Giga network
Serbia Broadband (SBB) has declared Nis the country’s sixth Giga city. As of the beginning of this month it has joined Belgrade, Novi Sad, Subotica, Gornji Milanovac and Kragujevac in eventually making digital TV and broadband at up to 1Gbps available to all its customers.
March 3

New threats and attacks prompt a toxic environment for journalists in Slovenia
A number of journalists reporting about alleged funding from Hungary of media close to the right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) has been facing attacks and threats to their life. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined the Slovene Association of Journalists (DNS) in condemning in the strongest terms the “intensive attacks” and calling on the authorities to guarantee a safe environment for journalists.
March 2

United Group seeks EU Commission’s nod to acquire Bulgaria’s BTC
The European Commission said that Dutch-based telecommunications and media company United Group, owned by UK private equity firm BC Partners, is seeking its anti-trust approval to acquire Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC).
March 2

TV channel for Ukraine’s occupied territories to cooperate with four media groups
Four media groups will form the content for a Ukrainian TV channel broadcasting in the temporarily occupied territories, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko has said.
March 2

Human rights and Greta on Hungarian state media watch list
Hungarian state media bosses told staff they need permission to report on Greta Thunberg and EU politics, and banned coverage of reports from leading human rights organizations, according to internal emails obtained by POLITICO.
March 2

EU court backs Google in case over Hungary tax declaration fines
Hungary’s system of fines imposed on Google related to the country’s tax on advertising is not compatible with EU law, the Court of Justice of the European Union said on Tuesday.
March 3

Moscow slams Estonia’s decision to strip Russian journalist of Schengen visa
The Russian Foreign Ministry has urged European human rights bodies and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to assess Estonia’s decision to strip Russian journalist Andrei Zakharov of the freedom of travel around the countries of the Schengen zone.
March 3

Expert: ATR channel cannot be abandoned now, whilst Russia occupies Crimea
“The state of Ukraine should respect its commitments to the Crimeans, to all Ukrainians interested in the return of Crimea and the well-established Crimean Tatar TV-channel ATR cannot be left to fail”, according to the head of the web platform Detector Media, known media expert Natalia Lygachova.
March 4

Ukraine’s Zelensky Fires His Cabinet
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine faulted his ministers for poor performance and for appointing foreigners to company boards, although Western donors have encouraged the practice.
March 4

Media pluralism in Poland and Hungary compared to France
Both countries have fallen in the ranking, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In 2017, Poland and Hungary ranked respectively 54th and 71st. By contrast, RSF’s home country, France, has risen from 39th to 32nd in the same period.
March 5

Russia Is Learning How to Bypass Facebook’s Disinfo Defenses
Since Russia’s stunning influence operations during the 2016 United States presidential race, state and federal officials, researchers, and tech companies have been on high alert for a repeat performance. With the 2020 election now just seven months away, though, newly surfaced social media posts indicate that Russia’s Internet Research Agency is adapting its methods to circumvent those defenses.
March 5

Facebook Extends Political Ads Rules to Balkans Before Elections
With elections due this year in at least three Balkan states, the social media giant has added five countries in the region to its list of states that must label any political or election-related ads clearly as such.
March 6

ENEX on media freedom in Serbia: EU doesn’t see expected progress
The European Union is especially concerned with the hate speech and fake news in Serbia, particularly when they come from the ruling party and key media,” Tanja Fajon, an MEP, and the chairwoman of the European Parliament (EP) Delegation to EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, told the ENEX, an association of the world’s leading commercial TV broadcasters’ conference hosted by N1 TV in Belgrade on Friday.
March 6

Media Group Ukraine sells to Lithuania
Media Group Ukraine (MGU) has entered into several agreements to sell its content to the Lithuanian broadcaster Lietuvos ryto TV. Commenting on the development, Irina Chernyak, director of the TV content sales department at MGU, said: “Recently, interest in Ukrainian content from the Baltic States, Lithuania in particular, has increased.
March 6

Polish President OKs $510M for Public Media Amid Campaign
Poland’s president has signed a bill earmarking nearly 2 billion zlotys ($510 million) to fund public television and radio, broadcast outlets that have become mouthpieces for the country’s right-wing government and given the president positive coverage as he campaigns for reelection.
March 7

Jacek Kurski to leave TVP
Poland’s five-member National Media Council (RMN) has voted unanimously to dismiss TVP president Jacek Kurski from his post.
March 8

Tomorrow, You’ll Buy Something
Central European media desperately lack a profitable business model that would allow them to survive without donations from their owners.
March 9

Slovenia stops the introduction of 5G technology
The Slovenian government has halted the introduction of 5G technology. According to Tanjug-based media in the region, the government has removed the AKOS regulatory agency’s strategy for allocating frequency spectrum for 5G from the agenda at the proposal of Minister of Administration Rudy Medved.
March 9

HGTV launches in Estonia
Elisa and Discovery have entered into a strategic partnership to bring HGTV into Estonia. Elisa will be the first operator in Estonia and Baltics to launch HGTV, in a landmark deal that also sees the channel localised in Estonian language for the Estonian audience.
March 10

Czech public broadcaster election marred by political controversy
The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed serious concern over attempts by the governing party to politicize the board of the Czech public broadcaster.
March 10

Poland’s TVP public television rift reveals PiS party split
After an ally of ruling party hard-liners was dismissed as public television head, President Andrzej Duda agreed to fund the state broadcaster. TVP has long been considered the organ of the ruling Law and Justice party.
March 11

Lithuania fights info war as it marks independence anniversary
Thirty years after independence from Soviet Union, some in Lithuania fight new battle to fend off Russian influence.
March 11

Watchdog: Press Freedom in Russia, Iran Under Attack From ‘Digital Predators’
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has included pro-Kremlin social-media users, Russia’s communications regulator, and an Iranian state body tackling cybercrime on its list of press freedom’s 20 “worst digital predators” that it says represent a “clear danger for freedom of opinion and expression.”
March 11

Ukraine investigative news platform hit with criminal probe
On March 3, journalists and editors from Slidstvo.Info, a Ukrainian member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), learnt their platform was being investigated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs as part of a criminal espionage probe.
March 11

Murder of Jan Kuciak: 13 judges arrested in Slovakia
Public officials with ties to the alleged mastermind of the killing have been charged with corruption and abuse of office. Business Marian Kocner is accused of maintaining a large bribery network.
March 11

A New 5-Hour Advertisement Records a Single-Shot Walkthrough of Russia’s Hermitage Museum
As travel slows due to the global coronavirus pandemic, a new advertisement released by Apple provides an expansive view of one of St. Petersburg’s most-visited institutions that’s accessible without having to venture into crowded spaces. Clocking 5 hours, 19 minutes, and 28 seconds, the single-shot video spans the Hermitage Museum in the nation’s cultural center.
March 12

Slovenian parliament confirms center-right cabinet of PM Jansa
Slovenia’s parliament confirmed late on Friday the 16-member cabinet of the center-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who has pledged to do everything to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in the country.
March 13

Romania president asks interim PM Oran to form government
Romania’s centrist President Klaus Iohannis on Friday asked interim Prime Minister Ludovic Orban to form a government and get a parliamentary vote of confidence as early as Saturday.
March 13

Journalists Tell Slovakia’s PM-elect: ‘Thanks, but No Thanks’
Plans announced by Slovakia’s prime minister-elect to fund investigative journalists to act as corruption watchdogs on government and state bodies have been dismissed as “a road to hell” by local journalists.
March 14

‘A Whole New Ecosystem’: Independent Journalism Learns To Survive In Putin’s Russia
The decades of President Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia have been unkind to the country’s independent media. Since Putin was first elected in 2000, the Kremlin has stifled independent national broadcasting, closed down or taken over other commercial media projects, exerted pressure on media owners and advertisers, pushed out foreign investors, and repeatedly blocked access to various nonstate Internet resources.
March 15

Serbia postpones April 26 elections as part of response to coronavirus outbreak
Serbia’s state Election Commission postponed on Monday the April 26 general elections because of the coronavirus outbreak and until a state of emergency is lifted.
March 16

Digital Services Taxes in Europe
Over the last few years, concerns have been raised that the existing international tax system does not properly capture the digitalization of the economy. Under current international tax rules, multinationals generally pay corporate income tax where production occurs rather than where consumers or, specifically for the digital sector, users are located.
March 16

Unknown beat journalist Slavi Angelov in Sofia
The editor-in-chief of 168 Chassis newspaper, Slavi Angelov, was attacked and beaten by several people in Sofia, BNR reports. According to media reports, the investigative journalist was attacked on the capital’s Dondukov Boulevard. According to initial information, the attackers were several. Police arrived at the scene and the area was torn apart.
March 17

Serbian pro-government expert calls for ban on social media
Serbian marketing expert Nebojsa Krstic called for an immediate ban on social networks, claiming that they are being used to spread false information about the coronavirus crisis.
March 17

Ukrainian Ad Agency Raided by Police and Accused of Aiding Piracy
As first spotted by TorrentFreak, Ukraine’s national and cyber police units have teamed up to take down a major ad company operating out of central Kiev that was found to be financing major torrenting sites with digital ads.
March 17

Russia deploying coronavirus disinformation to sow panic in West, EU document says
Russian media have deployed a “significant disinformation campaign” against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters.
March 18

Journalists and Media Not Included in Government Measures
The Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) and Journalists’ Union (SNH) on Wednesday released a joint press release saying that they regret that the government’s measures to ease the consequences of the crisis in the wake of the coronarivus pandemic do not include reporters and the media.
March 18

Serbia’s new Media Strategy: Light at the end of the tunnel or Potemkin village?
While some see the Strategy as “a good basis for further improvement of the media-related legal framework”, others fear that the offered solutions come down to nothing more than a “Trojan Horse for the Serbian media”.
March 18

Coronavirus misinformation goes viral in Ukraine
As more countries ramp up measures to slow the coronavirus pandemic, there is one thing that spreads faster than the virus: misinformation. In fact, there are so many false claims circulating about the new disease that the World Health Organization (WHO) has called it an “infodemic” and launched a myth-busting webpage.
March 18

Czech Republic prolongs DVB-T2 transition
The Czech broadcasting company, České Radiokomunikace (CRA), has temporarily suspended the transition to the DVB-T2 broadcasting system.
March 18

Under guise of Corona prevention: Governments’ measures threaten press freedom
Across Europe, governments are taking necessary steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. But some are exploiting the health crisis to repress critical questions and restrict journalists’ work.
March 19

Media union asks for a four-month tax holiday for private media
The Estonian Media Enterprises Association (Eesti Meediaettevõtete Liit) has appealed to the government to give media companies four months interest-free tax holiday in order to offset decline in advertising revenue.
March 19

Holographic digital signage soars into Estonia
Holograms are often a natural companion to digital signage. They can make a display come alive and make it feel like you are viewing a real person or object rather than just a video or image on a flat surface. This can, in turn, drive up both audience engagement and impressions.
March 20

Inside a pro-Trump YouTube disinformation network that spans Vietnam to Bosnia
YouTube removed at least 20 channels posting false or divisive content to generate ad dollars. The channels used voice-over actors to read scripts. At least one of them was hired on Fiverr, the freelance marketplace.
March 20

Tele2 Lithuania to revise ads budget, offer internet to hospitals, physicians
Mobile operator Tele2 Lithuania said it plans to revise its advertising budgets. The operator plans to focus advertising on local media, reducing advertising for international sources, such as Google and Facebook. Tele2 Lithuania is one of the largest advertisers in the country.
March 20

Open-source analysis: Foreign instigators and local amplifiers – Disinformation in Bosnia
In recent years, a few initiatives have developed in the Balkans to increase digital resilience against disinformation. At the same time, both the sophistication and the volume of disinformation and media manipulation efforts has risen substantially. A fast-growing initiative called Raskrinkavanje (“unmasking” or “debunking” in Bosnian) has led the way in identifying and cataloguing known media manipulation campaigns targeting Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as well as the wider region.
March 22

COVID-19 – Can you describe initial reactions in Serbia regarding media consumption and brand communication?
Even at a time of such great uncertainty over so many issues, some things remain certain, including that the DM team, working from home, will continue to follow carefully the impact of new developments on our partners’ and their business. Author: Marija Ilić, Account Director, DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions
March 23

Estonia created Suve, a state-approved automated chatbot to provide trustworthy information during the covid-19 situation
Suve is already working on the webpages of Government of Estonia, Estonia’s Health Board, Ministry of Social Affairs, Work in Estonia, International House of Estonia and Invest in Estonia – with other sites soon to follow. During the emergency situation in Estonia, Suve focuses on questions related to the crisis situation.
March 23

Tele2 Latvia to favour local media for advertising
Mobile operator Tele2 Latvia said it plans to reduce its advertising volume on Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube, and focus more on Latvian media.
March 23

OSCE Concerned About Measures Against ‘Fake News’ In Bosnia
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has expressed concern over the introduction of new measures against spreading panic and “fake news” regarding the coronavirus outbreak in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
March 24

Russian media regulator orders 2 outlets to take down COVID-19 reports
Russian authorities should stop censoring news outlets reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak and allow journalists to report freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
March 24

Putin’s Internet Censor to Lead Russia’s Largest Media Holding
Vladimir Putin’s long-time internet censor, Alexander Zharov, is taking over the helm at Russia’s largest media holding company. Zharov, who headed the country’s communications watchdog since 2012, was appointed chief executive officer of Gazprom-Media Holding on Tuesday, according to a company statement.
March 24

Vodafone TV debuts in Czech Republic
Vodafone has announced the launch of a Czech version of its digital TV service. Vodafone TV offers viewers a choice of three programme packages – Classic (over 55 TV channels), Comfort (over 110 TV channels) and Komplet (over 130 TV channels) – costing CZK150 (€5.43), CZK300 and CZK600 a month respectively, including set-top box rental.
March 24

Facebook prohibits advertising for medical face masks
Coronavirus news is spreading across all media, including social networks, and unfortunately, ads that are using the crisis to make unfair earnings have come along with these platforms. Facebook has therefore decided to introduce several new measures.
March 25

Ukraine’s ex-foreign minister arrested for murder
After an Ukrainian advertising magnate was found dead in the home of former Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, police detained the politician on murder charges. Kozhara and his wife claim the businessman committed suicide.
March 25

Nielsen Croatia: March 22 will be remembered for the highest TV viewing figures ever recorded in Croatia!
Week Eight (from 17.02 to 23.02 this year; it was from 18.02 to 24.02 in 2019) was the week before news of the first COVID-19 patient in Croatia hit, on 24.02. Average daily viewing figures that week were much the same as for the equivalent week the year before. Once COVID-19 appeared, however, TV viewing in Croatia spiked compared to last year.
March 25

Bulgaria, if coronavirus tests freedom of expression
Fines and prison for spreading “false news” about coronavirus, police access to sensitive phone and web traffic data: some norms of the COVID-19 “emergency package” by the Bulgarian government have stirred a debate on freedom and rights in the pandemic.
March 25

Croatia delays full switchover to new TV transmission system over coronavirus crisis
Croatia’s telecommunications regulator HAKOM said it has decided to push forward by at least six months the current May 25 deadline for complete transition to the new DVB-T2 HEVC system for TV transmission, because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
March 26

Russia Orders Twitter, Facebook to Delete ‘Fake’ Coronavirus News
Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it has asked Twitter and Facebook to delete “fake” stories surrounding the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
March 26

Checkmate: will the biggest Baltic Russian media house survive the storm
An alleged breach of EU sanctions, and a possible fine of up to 10 million euros, casts doubt on the future of Baltic Media Alliance, one of the largest media holdings in the Baltic countries focusing on local Russian-speaking audiences.
March 26

Minister on support of culture and mass media: no one will be forgotten
No one working in the culture and mass media industry will be forgotten during Covid-19 crisis, Latvian Culture Minister promised in an interview to Latvijas Radio in the morning of Thursday, 26 March.
March 26

OSCE Media Freedom Representative urges public officials in Slovenia to refrain from pressure on independence of public broadcaster
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, expressed his concern today regarding the accusations against, and pressure on, the public service broadcaster Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTV SLO), by the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša.
March 27

Slovakia green-lights Coronavirus tracking using telco data
Slovakia has approved a law which allows the government to monitor the movements of those infected by the Coronavirus. According to the FT, passed on Wednesday 25 March, the amendment will give Slovakia’s Public Health Office access to location data from the mobile phones of those quarantined, in order to try and contain the spread of the virus.
March 27

Central European Media: A Struggle to Shake off old Habits in the Digital Age
Fake news websites, nefarious chain mails, declining press freedom, polarized readers: Central Europe has experienced them all in the past decade. Just how bad the situation is, and how to improve media integrity, were the subjects of a conference arranged by the liberal Republikon Institute in Budapest on February 27.
March 28

Estonia: Coronavirus and the media
The Estonian media at first treated coronavirus as a foreign news story, initially focusing on the situation in China and Italy. As more cases of Covid-19 began to be registered elsewhere, especially in neighbouring countries, the media began to discuss more seriously the possibility that the virus could arrive in Estonia.
March 30

Record consumption of media in Croatia
More than 2 billion people have been isolated globally by the Coronavirus, which has also had significant implications for media consumption. The same results are visible in Croatia, and a review of the situation is provided by Dentsu.
March 30

Romania’s State of Emergency Raises Media Freedom Concerns
Campaigners are warning that media freedom could be curbed in Romania by state-of-emergency provisions that allow the shutdown of websites that publish fake news and exempt the authorities from answering urgent inquiries from journalists.
March 31

Hungary ‘no longer a democracy’ after Coronavirus law
Unlimited emergency powers granted to Prime Minister Viktor Orban have taken Hungary a step closer to dictatorship, critics say. How low can Orban go?
March 31

Poland: Coronavirus and the media
While many Polish media outlets are now subjecting the government’s response to the crisis to intense scrutiny, the coverage of the public service broadcaster TVP – controlled by the governing party PiS – is totally uncritical.
March 31


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