weCAN Digest February 2020

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

New Rules For Comparative Advertising In Ukraine: What’s New For Advertisers And Other Market Players?
On 12 November 2019, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Law of Ukraine “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine regarding Harmonization of Legislation in the Field of Comparative Advertising with Laws of the European Union” (“New Rules”). These New Rules entered into force on 11 December 2019 and introduce amendments not only to regulations on comparative advertising themselves, but also amend trademark law, the laws on protection against unfair competition, as well as consumer law.
Jan 2

Analysis: What happened at Postimees and its effect on the media in Estonia
Postimees is heading into 2020 without an editor-in-chief, short on strong journalists and in a situation where a conflict with the CEO is affecting the work of the editorial board in general. This might herald a fundamental change for the Estonian press in different scenarios.
Jan 3

China accused of buying influence after Czech billionaire funds PR push
The Czech Republic’s richest man is at the centre of a suspected foreign influence campaign by the Chinese government after one of his businesses financed an attempt to boost China’s image in the central European country.
Jan 5

Croatia elects centre-left challenger Zoran Milanovic as president
Croatia’s presidential election has been won by centre-left challenger Zoran Milanovic, who defeated the nationalist incumbent. The social democratic ex-prime minister vowed to heal divisions, and said his victory had brought “hope and faith”.
Jan 6

Bulgarian public service media under threat
Public service broadcasting in Bulgaria is currently facing some tough challenges. Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) recently came under the spotlight because of the political pressure that led to the temporary suspension of a senior presenter. Both BNR and Bulgarian National Television (BNT) have long suffered from chronic underfunding, and on top of this, both are struggling to compete with private media, which increasingly dominate the market.
Jan 7

Internet Info publishing company enters the print market, bought by IDG Czech Republic
Publishing Internet Info (publisher of Lupa.cz) enters the paper media segment for the first time. He buys a 100% share in the label from an American owner IDG Czech Republic, which publishes traditional technology magazines Computerworld, CIO Business World, Channel World, Security World, CFO World and HD World.
Jan 7

Protecting the Vulnerable
Postmodern relativism is a dangerous tool in the hands of authoritarian regimes. They are willing to undermine public trust within democratic institutions by spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories. One of the most vulnerable target group is the tech-savvy generation Z that is known to be “digitally native”.
Jan 9

Thousands took to the streets of Budapest in the close of 2019, protesting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s most recent step in his march against free expression in Hungary. But the restriction was a decade in the making. Since Orbán’s government came to power in 2010, the state of free speech in Hungary has plummeted. A new report details how dire the media environment has become. It is a dangerous harbinger for near neighbors like Poland if the trend continues unchecked in the region.
Jan 9

OTP in talks to sell unit in Slovakia
OTP Bank is holding talks with several competing banks on selling its unit in Slovakia, the press office of OTP Banka Slovensko told state news wire MTI on Thursday.
Jan 10

The filter bubbles that divide the Hungarian media
There has long been a sharp division in the Hungarian media between pro-government and government-critical camps. Since it came to power in 2010, the national-conservative Fidesz party has regularly insisted that the Hungarian media are characterised by a pronounced left-liberal bias.
Jan 10

Russian State News Agency Sputnik Shuts Estonia Operations
The Russian state-controlled news agency Sputnik said Wednesday that it is closing its bureau in Tallinn after nearly three dozen of its employees resigned saying they were facing pressure from the Estonian local authorities.
Jan 10

Survey: Over 60% of Slovenians use social media
As many as 82% of Slovenian residents aged 16 to 74 have their profile on at least one social media, which translates into 1.25 million people, or some 60% of Slovenia’s two-million population, shows the latest Media+ survey for 2019 by pollster Valicon. The most popular platform is Facebook, which had 995,500 users last year, followed by Instagram (450,500), Twitter (208,500), Pinterest (180,500) and Linkedin (161,000).
Jan 10

Stricter advertising rules for Lithuania’s social media influencers
New guidelines require that Lithuanian social media personalities clearly indicate when they promote products and services.
Jan 11

Ukraine language law: all ads on TV, radio, and in print must be in Ukrainian starting Jan 16
All advertising on television, radio, and in print from January 16 should be in the Ukrainian language, according to a statement released on the website of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting.
Jan 13

Google opens R&D center in Ukraine
Google has officially launched an R&D center in Ukraine, and it will be creating a new direction on the basis of CloudSimple. AIN.UA reported it, citing its own sources. It was stated that the Kyiv office is located in Astarta BC, where, according to the edition, about 30 people work.
Jan 13

Ex-soldier admits contract killing of Slovak journalist
A former soldier admitted in court on Monday killing a Slovakian journalist whose murder two years ago led to anti-corruption protests that brought down the government of long-time prime minister Robert Fico.
Jan 13

Ukraine’s Only English-Language TV Channel Shuts Down
“Ukrainian international state broadcaster UATV will cease the production of news and satellite broadcasting, starting from January 13, 2020,” UATV said in a news release. “As a result, several of the English language news presenters bid farewell to their jobs and to their viewers around the world.
Jan 13

MTS to sell Vodafone Ukraine to Bakcell for $734m
Russian operator MTS has entered into an agreement to sell Vodafone Ukraine to Bakcell, a subsidiary of NEQSOL Holding for an approximate $734 million. Under the terms of the agreement, MTS subsidiary Allegretto s.a.r.l. will sell its 100% stake in its Dutch subsidiary Preludium BV, which is a full shareholder of Vodafone Ukraine.
Jan 14

From internet to billboards, Ukraine’s advertising market continues to grow
Ukraine’s advertising industry grew by 25% in 2019 and, more encouragingly, its expansion will continue in 2020 at a rate of 18%, according to the latest report by the All-Ukrainian Advertising Coalition, Ukraine’s largest public association of the advertising industry.
Jan 14

French far-right site powered from Poland
France Libre 24 is a website made to look like a French news outlet, complete with French-language articles and an Eiffel Tower logo. Except those cues are deeply misleading. The platform, which publishes news stories on French politics and social affairs, is actually run by a group of Polish far-right activists who are linked to the right-wing Konfederacja party and former MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, according to research conducted by nonprofit group EU DisinfoLab and POLITICO.
Jan 14

President of Latvia: elaboration of Public Service Media Governance Law is important for quality of democracy
President of Latvia Egils Levits has submitted his comments on the draft Public Service Media Governance Law to the Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee which is currently preparing legislative initiative for the second reading in the parliament.
Jan 14

Making a Decisive Difference
In Latvia, support for public service media is strong but neither politicians nor people appear ready to invest more to keep standards of journalism high. Several battles are ahead, including over the funding model and the independent character of public media.
Jan 15

Regulatory Capture in Slovakia: Who Benefits Most
Thanks to the Constitution, Slovaks enjoy freedom of speech. Press publishing is not restricted in any way and censorship is forbidden in Slovakia. However, the Slovak media regulation remains a heavily politicized process that affects the environment in which journalists and media outlets operate, according to a new report in the Media Influence Matrix series published today by the Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS).
Jan 15

How has a news camera ‘incident’ led to questions about media freedom in Poland?
The Polish state-owned broadcaster, TVP Info, has accused the country’s Senate of violating media freedom. On Monday, Poland’s Senate said it had submitted an application to remove the press accreditation of a TVP Info journalist. It comes after an incident outside the Polish parliament building, where a Senate representative was hit by a TV camera. The incident was captured on multiple cameras.
Jan 16

Russia’s e-commerce market has grown very quickly in recent years, with a predicted forecast of approximately $31 billion expected for the end of 2019.
Jan 16

Yandex, Russia’s biggest search engine, is an on-ramp for child sexual imagery, experts say
Experts say the spread of images of child sexual exploitation online has reached unprecedented levels, calling the situation a major social crisis. While much of this material spreads through well-hidden channels, such as the so-called dark web, there is a major culprit hiding in plain sight: Yandex, Russia’s largest technology firm.
Jan 17

243 cases of violations of freedom of speech have been identified in 2019 by the experts of the Institute of Mass Information. Of these, 172 cases were related to physical aggression against journalists. As a comparison, in 2018, we recorded less of cases of violations of freedom of speech: 235.
Jan 17

ODMedia Group opens Poland office
The Dutch content services, aggregation and processing company for on-demand media ODMedia Group has opened an office in the Polish capital, Warsaw. Headed by Lukasz Brzezinski, who was formerly at Canal+ Group and Kino Polska TV, and effectively expands the company’s next-generation media and commercial aggregation services to the growing Polish market.
Jan 17

Ukraine’s President Zelensky refuses PM’s resignation amid tape scandal
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday rejected an offer by Oleksiy Honcharuk to resign as prime minister after an audio recording suggested the latter had criticised Zelensky’s knowledge of economics.
Jan 17

Prague City Hall is pushing ahead in its efforts to fight visual pollution in the Czech capital. After banning giant bubble blowers and ‘street artists’ wearing animal costumes from the city centre, Prague councillors have now focused on excessive commercial advertising and shop window design, which harm the visual image of the historic centre.
Jan 21

Romania’s media market to cross EUR 0.5 bln threshold this year
The Romanian media market grew by 7% last year, and will further expand by another 5.5%, to EUR 514 million in 2020, according to projections included by media agency Initiative in its Media Fact Book report.
Jan 21

In eastern Ukraine, an information vacuum – and a debate over journalistic standards
In Ukraine, it’s not that easy to find out what’s going on in Donetsk or Luhansk, how people live there and what they think – about December’s “Normandy Format” talks in Paris, for example.
Jan 22

Independent media developed in Central and Eastern Europe “in a dizzyingly short time frame” after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, a new Reuters Institute report says – but its future remains uncertain as a result of politicians’ hostility and ownership concentration under politically well connected moguls.
Jan 22

OTP in talks to buy Garanti BBVA’s Romanian unit
Hungary’s OTP Bank OTPB.BU is in talks to buy Garanti BBVA’s Romanian unit, Romanian online financial news outlet Profit.ro said, citing banking market sources. Sources in Hungary told Reuters on Wednesday that OTP was interested in the Romanian bank. Garanti is Romania’s tenth biggest bank by assets.
Jan 22

Holdis on the Media Situation in Romania
CMDS Researcher Dumitrita Holdis published three articles for the European Journalism Observatory about Romanian media. “When a Bucharest-based media NGO first suggested launching two community radio stations in remote rural parts of Romania, the proposal met with a sceptical response – both from the locals and the authorities,” […]
Jan 23

Osijek to become Croatia’s first 5G city
5G networks will be built in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek by December 31, 2020, announced Minister of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butkovic on January 23, according to a government statement.
Jan 23

Serbian ‘cable war’ intensifies
Telekom Srbija has claimed that United Media does not want a solution to the dispute with cable operators over the carriage of its channels. Quoting a letter from United Media to Supernova, the grouping of cable operators, disclosed by Prva TV, b92 reports that United Media is effectively seeking no further cooperation if its terms are not met.
Jan 23

Crimean Tatar TV ATR on brink of closing because Ukraine cuts funding
The only Crimean Tatar TV channel in the world is facing a new threat to its existence, this time posed not by the Russian occupiers of Crimea, but by the Ukrainian authorities. The serious drop in state funding has coincided with Ukraine’s extraordinary decision to axe the English- and Crimean Tatar- language services on the state-run UATV in preparation for a new Russian-language channel to broadcast to occupied territory.
Jan 23

Data from Behind Enemy Lines: How Russia May have Used Twitter to Seize Crimea
New research shows real-time social media data may have been a source of military intelligence for the Kremlin and potentially other governments
Jan 23

Digital advertising in Russia: ROI in 2018
Roistat published its research into ROI across popular digital ad channels in Russia for 2018 (available here in Russian), breaking down results across different advertising channels and industries.
Jan 23

U.S. warns of possible counter-measures against Czech digital tax
The Czech Republic could face U.S. counter-measures if it introduces a planned 7% digital tax aimed at global internet giants, the U.S. embassy in Prague said on Friday, after the Czech parliament gave initial support to the new tax.
Jan 24

Karácsony: Budapest to Challenge Fine for Scrapping Ad Contract
Budapest’s mayor, Gergely Karácsony, has defended his administration’s decision to scrap a contract for the use of advertising space on the capital’s public transport vehicles and amenities, and will challenge a large fine levied on Budapest’s public transport companies for reneging on contract.
Jan 24

Slovenia Prime Minister Marjan Šarec resigns and calls for new elections
Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec announced his resignation on Monday and called for new elections as the country’s coalition struggles with political deadlock. He said his minority government could not push through important legislation. The announcement came moments after his finance minister, Andrej Bertoncelj, also quit.
Jan 27

Russia Independent Media Rally to Cause of Jailed Journalist
Leading independent Russian media have issued a video appeal calling for the release of a journalist jailed on terrorism charges in Russia’s North Caucasus, arguing that the case is an attempt by authorities to silence a rare independent voice in the troubled region.
Jan 27

Estonia planning to achieve 5G connection in larger cities by 2023
Estonia is committed to achieving 5G connectivity in major cities and their periphery by 2023 and in transport corridors by 2025, the Riigikogu said on social media. Foreign Trade and Information Technology Minister Kaimar Karu on Monday gave an overview to Riigikogu committees of the current status of 5G issues, with the 5G frequency competition and the security of networks discussed as the two more significant topics.
Jan 28

Ukraine: RSF warns against ineffective and counterproductive draft bill on disinformation
Representatives of the media sphere and civil society attended today an open discussion to weigh in on a draft bill tackling disinformation. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), concerned that the proposed legislation could prove detrimental to freedom of information, puts forward its recommendations for the Ukrainian government and legislators.
Jan 28

US government files official protest against the Czech digital tax
The US government has filed an official protest against the planned 7% digital tax in the Czech Republic, according to Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, the Czech News Agency (CNA) reported on January 24.
Jan 28

Apple has a Vladimir Putin problem
In November 2019, Russian parliament passed what’s become known as the “law against Apple.” The legislation will require all smartphone devices to preload a host of applications that may provide the Russian government with a glut of information about its citizens, including their location, finances, and private communications.
Jan 29

Russia to charge five former policemen with framing prominent reporter
Russia arrested five former police officers on Wednesday on suspicion of planting drugs on a prominent journalist last year to frame him. Police quickly dropped drug dealing charges against Ivan Golunov after his arrest last June triggered protests by supporters who said police had set him up because of his investigative reporting.
Jan 29

Why journalists worry about Ukraine’s proposed media laws
Two laws regulating the media market in Ukraine are to be voted in Parliament in next several months. The Servant of the People party introduced the Media Law, while the Ministry of Culture drafted a separate Disinformation Law. In this video we will explain why one of them is generally described by media professionals as “good,” and why the other might be used to silence independent media.
Jan 30

Court says pro-government media merger was unlawfully approved
The Capital Regional Court ruled on Wednesday that the 2018 formation of a pro-government media conglomerate, the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA), was unlawfully approved by Hungary’s competition authority, and ordered the authority to conduct a competition review.
Jan 30

Media funding law changes labelled ‘censorship’ by Lithuania’s opposition
As the Lithuanian parliament considers to overhaul public funding to the media, some insist the new law will allow government censorship. Under the bill currently debated in the Lithuanian parliament, a new body, the Media Support Fund, would be put in charge of distributing public funds to media projects.
Jan 30

For Serbia’s Hungarians, More Forints and a Tamed Media
Allied with the leaders of both Hungary and Serbia, the main political party among ethnic Hungarians in Serbia has intruded on media freedom and taken control of huge funds sent from Budapest, to the detriment of democracy, critics say.
Jan 30

Serbian PM says Media Strategy adopted
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Thursday that her government had adopted the national Media Strategy to the year 2025. She wrote on her Twitter account that the working group that drafted the Strategy would continue work on an action plan for its implementation. “This is the first step we will remain committed to the job,” she wrote.
Jan 30

EC regrets drop in access to diverse media in Serbia
European Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero said on Thursday that the Commission regrets that Serbian citizens have less access to diverse media after the N1 channel was taken off state-controlled cable operators.
Jan 30

Viktor Orban’s Hungary is pouring money into Hungarian-language media, education, sports clubs and churches in Romania’s Transylvania, where more than one million ethnic Hungarians increasingly ‘live their lives as if they were in Hungary.’
Jan 30

OTP to boost market share in Romania to 5% over 5 years
OTP Bank wants to increase its market share in Romania to 3% by the end of this year and 5% in five years, CEO of OTP Bank Romania Gyula Fatér said in an interview with Romanian business daily Ziarul Financiar (ZF), state news wire MTI reports.
Jan 31

Serbia’s Independent N1 Portal Buffeted by Cyber-Attacks
The Serbian website of the regional media outlet TV N1 has been hit by a wave of cyber-attacks in the last few days, after launching a public campaign to support the channel.
Jan 31

Tele2 says Croatia’s anti-trust body endorses sale of its local business to United Group
Croatia’s competition authority has decided to approve the sale of the local business of Sweden’s Tele2 to United Group, a leading multi-play telecommunications and media services provider in Southeast Europe (SEE), Tele2 said.
Jan 31

Russian Zvezda TV channel’s journalist barred from entering Lithuania
Russia’s Zvezda television channel said on Friday its journalist Yulia Shatilova has been barred from entering Lithuania, with her visa being cancelled.
Jan 31

Why the Film Industry Is Thriving in the Russian Wilderness
As Hollywood prepares for the 92nd Academy Awards Ceremony, in a remote northeastern corner of Russian wilderness, the movie industry is just beginning to boom. Burnashev, 37, is one of a growing number of directors emerging from Yakutia, some 5,000 miles and six time zones away from Moscow. The region, which makes up a fifth of Russia’s territory, is home to one million people and is known for its vast natural resources, including oil, diamonds and coal.
Jan 31

Hungary’s captured media: What can Poland learn to defend freedom of press?
Independent media are a vital element of liberal democracy. Zselyke Csaky explains changes in the Hungarian legal and media market landscape and how media in other countries can learn to be more resilient against government pressure.
Jan 31

Independent media in Russia investigate and report on highly sensitive stories such as who poisoned former Russian-UK double agent Sergei Skripal or corruption at the highest levels of government. Instead of spoon-feeding state propaganda to the masses, they supply worthwhile information and high-calibre journalism to a critically-minded public.

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