Media Landscapes

Lithuania

Written by Audrone Nugaraite

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Situated on the Eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, Lithuania with 3.394 million inhabitants is the southernmost and largest of the three Baltic countries in terms of population, territory and economy. Lithuania shares borders with Belarus, Latvia, Poland and Russia (Kaliningrad). The capital of Lithuania is Vilnius (approximately 553,200 inhabitants). Administratively, the territory of Lithuania is divided into 10 counties. Counties are subdivided into 60 municipalities. Reform of the administrative-territorial division is under way.

Lithuania is ethnically and religiously homogeneous (Lithuanians: 83.5 percent, Roman Catholics 80.2 percent). There are 115 ethnicityes in total in Lithuania. The official language is Lithuanian, which is closely related to the old Sanskrit, belongs to the Baltic family of Indo-European languages and is the amongst the oldest languages in Europe.

On 11 March 1990, Lithuania declared the re-establishment of its independence. In 2004 Lithuania became a full member of the EU, also a member of the World Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Lithuania is member of the World Trade Organisation WTO (2001), and also part of the Schengen area since 2008. In 2008 direct parliament (Seimas) election the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrat Political Group was the leading party and a coalition government was formed.

Since regaining independence in 1990, Lithuania has made remarkable progress in terms of both its transformation to the democratic market economy and its advancement towards greater human development. Rated among the fastest-growing new EU member states before 2007, Lithuania has experienced a significant economic downturn triggered by the global economic crisis.

Before the political transformation in 1990, Lithuanian print media sector was the main tool of the party propaganda mechanism.  In Lithuania, the privatisation of the print media began in the 1990s when the government discreetly agreed to stop interfering with the media. The majority of the media outlets were privatised to journalists and employees. Several years later, when their price increased, most sold their shares to large publishing companies or foreign investors. Between 1989-98 Lithuania’s print media and its operational context were reshaped from a state dependent to a free mass media model.  The majority of  dailies and magazines were privatised or newly established,  and an independent printing and distribution structure was created.

During the last decade (1999-2009), a sufficiently stable print media system was established in Lithuania. However, like in most countries, the penetration of new technologies, ever-changing consumer needs, and the economic slowdown of recent years exerted an impact on certain changes in the print media system.

The newspaper market has not merely seen a further publication of the traditional dailies and weeklies (in total 327 titles), but also the emergence (2005) of the first free newspaper 15 Minučių (15 minutes, 100,000), which has proved to be among the most readable newspapers in the three major Lithuanian towns. Yet another new development in the Lithuanian print media system is the publication of free regional weeklies which are aimed not at advertising, but rather at the provision of information to0 people living in four ethnic regions of Lithuania (Mano Dzūkija, 10,000, Mano Suvalkija, 10,000, Mano Aukštaitija, 20,000 ir Mano Žemaitija, 20,000).

The number of national dailies published in Lithuania has remained the same over the last several years. Their total number is 14. The tabloid Vakaro žinios (Evening news, 66,000), which is the cheapest, with the price of only 0,13 euro cents, still remains the most popular national daily, boasting a national readership of 42.6 percent. The second place is taken by Lietuvos rytas (Lithuanian morning, 60,000) 39.0 percent and Respublika (36,000), accounting for 10.3 percent of the general newspaper target audience.

The town (regional) weeklies with the largest number of subscribers have retained their popularity. These are Kauno diena (Day of Kaunas, 30,000), Klaipėda (16,000), Šiaulių naujienos (News of Siauliai, 10,000). Yearly circulation of newspapers is 290,778 copies.

Even though the turnover of most dailies has been reduced by several units of text (1 unit of text equals 24 A4 format sheets), the publication of popular weekly supplements dedicated to TV programs (TV antena, TV guide) of the dailies is further pursued. Readers also tend to give priority to celebrity weekly Žmonės (People, 130,000). These publications enjoy 25, 5 percent and 25 percent of general readership respectively. 

Readability indicators of periodicals by periodicity and place of residence, which showed an increasing trend during the last decade, have remained almost on the same level since 2007. Surveys show that 95 percent of Lithuanian residents have read at least one issue of a certain periodical print publication, among them 91 percent rural dwellers and 96 urban dwellers. Furthermore, the following pattern has been identified during the last couple of years: readability indicators have been going down among the average urban readership and going up among rural readership. Urban readers have expressed a preference for dailies, whereas rural audience preferred weeklies.

The largest concentration of publications is observed in the Vilnius region, where 37 percent of all newspaper titles are being published. In 2008, print circulation was 87 newspaper issues and 22 journal issues per-capita. Compared to year 2007, it showed an increase of almost one percent. The economic crisis has exerted an impact on the reduction of publication print-runs. This is particularly true regarding national dailies, which due to development of information technologies, increased production costs and reduced advertising are facing a cumbersome situation. The situation is more favourable for regional and local newspapers which are most popular with residents of the regions as compared to the national dailies. They can generate specific content that matters to a regional or local audience and thus find it possible to survive.

Due to tough competition both on local and national levels dynamic changes are observed, with certain publications being closed down and new ones replacing them. During the last decade the number of newspapers in Lithuania has declined by one quarter, whereas the number of journals has gone up by one third. Journals under 587 titles are published in Lithuania. During the whole decade the number of specialised journals has been increasing. Among the most popular ones are monthly journals dedicated to women, leisure, sports and hobby. These are the journals Panele (Girl, 50,000) - 11 percent, Laima (22,000) - 10.3 percent, OHO - 7.6 percent of the average readership. Some are very small- with circulation of about 1,000 copies. The biggest magazines have the circulation of about 70,000 copies.

The largest parts of periodicals are published in Lithuanian: 303 (92 percent) newspapers and 513 (87 percent) journals and newsletters. Like in previous years, the Russian language is the prevailing language for newspapers published in other languages (18 newspaper titles). English is the predominant language for journals and newsletters (50 titles). In recent years, due to the reduced financial resources and Internet development the number of periodical publications in other languages has been declining.

A new trend in Lithuania is the publication of international illustrated science popularisation journals in Lithuanian language. In 2007 Scientific American lietuviškas leidimas (the Lithuanian edition of Scientific American) was launched, with 5,500-7,000 copies of print-run. Due to the economic downturn the issue of the publication was terminated at the end of 2008. Iliustruotasis mokslas (The Journal of Illustrated Science, 11,000 copies), was published by the business daily Verslo žinios, owned by the Swedish media group Bonnier Group. At the beginning of 2008, Lilita, the Latvian publishing company, known for publishing 3 journals in Lithuania, launched the publication of a new science popularisation journal Geo (1,0000 copies). In autumn 2009, Alma Littera, the leading book publisher and retailer in the Baltic countries, started the publication of National Geographic Lietuva (15,000 copies).

During this period all periodical publications have not only launched their web pages but also started developing their own web portals. These are the dailies Verslo žinios, Lietuvos rytas, and 15 min. One of the largest national dailies, Respublika, having launched its web portal in 2008, was the last Lithuanian newspaper which had been pursuing its activities without owning a web page.

New capital concentration trends have emerged in the market of Lithuanian periodical publications. Pursuant to the provisions embedded in the Law on Provision of Information to the Public of the Republic of Lithuania, banks, political parties, and political organisations may not be the producers of public information and/or their participants. Nevertheless, in summer 2009, the newly established company of AB Bank SNORAS – UAB SNORO Media Investicijos became the largest shareholder of the daily Lietuvos rytas, having acquired 34 percent of the authorised capital of the company.

The internationalisation process of print media market is further pursued. During the last decade the largest share of foreign capital invested into the print media sector, particularly the journal sector came from Scandinavian countries, Latvia and Estonia. In 2009, the operating profit (EBITA) gained by the Norwegian media group Schibsted in the Baltic region amounted to 21 million EEK, which is 27,5 percent less than the corresponding figures of the previous year. According to the statement made by the Company, macroeconomic environment exerts influence on its profitability. However, the Company seeks to maintain profitability by drastically cutting expenditure.

Private limited liability company Žurnalų Leidybos Grupė managed by the Norwegian-owned Schibsted, which also owns other popular women’s magazines such as Laima, Edita and Ji, is a serious competitor to the Ekspress Grupp in the Lithuanian magazine publishing market. The Estonian media group Ekspress Grupp has already purchased and publishes popular magazines in Lithuania such as Panelė (Girl), Moteris (Lady), Antra pusė (Second side) and Namai pagal mus (Home according to us), Aha, Naminukas. It should be noted that foreign companies, acquiring a periodical publication, later tend to acquire Internet advertisement portals functioning in the country (for example, real-estate, car portals, etc.).

The said decade has also seen changes in the distribution market of periodical publications. Previously owned by local investors, this market has also witnessed the entry of foreign capital. Though according to the Law on Competition the Finnish company Rautakirja, having acquired  the largest companies distributing print publications (Impress Teva, Lietuvos spauda and Kauno spauda), still does not exceed the  market share limit established in Lithuania, it still has become the largest distribution company, supplying the major trade centres, gas-stations and news-stands with newspapers and journals.

The problem of publication transparency still remains topical in the print media sector, and is related to data on owners, subsidiary companies and genuine figures on print-runs. Even though the amendment of the Law on Provision of Information to the Public, which came into force in 2006, legalised the audit of print-run reports, so far no mechanism has been developed to enforce it.

Due to increased costs, reduced income from advertising (more than one third of reduction), and development of information technologies, the print media sector has been exposed to the greatest pressure. These factors will have their impact towards a further development of this sector.

The Lithuanian radio service transmitted its first broadcast on 12 June 1926. During soviet time (1940-89) is was part of the soviet broadcasting system. Since 1990 the Lithuanian radio market is divided between one strong public broadcaster and several private broadcasters.  With a monopoly maintained until the beginning of the 1990s, LR1 (Lithuanian National Radio, currently the public, formerly the state broadcaster) has had a main impact on radio market. Radio listening is dominated by the LR1 programmes (17.3 percent total audience share), second is commercial broadcaster Lietus (14.7 percent), third is the commercial station M-1 (12.1 percent). The second public programme LR2 – Klasika (2003) lays the background on classical music, cultural and children programs. National broadcaster Lithuanian Radio is financed from the state budget and from advertising.

The radio market has also enjoyed stability during the last five years. The total number of radio broadcasters in Lithuania is 49, and these broadcast 55 different programmes. Among them there are 11 national, 8 regional and 30 local radio broadcasters. Most of broadcasters are terrestrial. Four stations are broadcast on digital analogue networks; a couple on satellite and cable networks also. Radio stations in Lithuania had broadcast the total of 416,000 minutes of advertising in October 2009. The volume of radio advertising has decreased by 26.7 percent in 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. The most stations broadcast in Lithuanian language.

The Lithuanian radio market is based on national capital. The most influenced is an industrial Achema Group concern, whose investment was the first case of local industrial capital investing in the media business. In 2004 it set up a media holding. Now this holding manages daily newspapers, television and 3 radio station: Radiocentras (5.2 percent audience share), ZIP FM (4.0 percent), Russkoje Radio Baltija (10.8 percent). In 2003, the first foreign  stakeholder - International entertainment broadcasting Modern Times Group (MTG) set up a new broadcaster - Power Hit Radio (format Contemporary Hit Radio/Dance, 4.1 percent current audience share). It could immediately reach a top-five-position in the three biggest Lithuanian cities.

All commercial radio stations are in fierce competition with each other. Experts estimate that the country’s advertising market cannot support the present number of radio stations. Like in other media, the revenue gained from advertising continues to decline significantly. Due to shortage of financial resources several radio stations had to close down (Laisvoji banga).

In 1990 the Lithuanian television suffered big changes like the rest of mass media. The television market began to develop after foreign capital (from the USA, Great Britain and Scandinavian countries) poured into Lithuania. During soviet time there was only one state television, broadcast in Lithuanian language. The state television Lithuanian Radio and Television Company (LTV) became public in 1990. Now it is a national broadcaster financed from the state budget, license fees and advertising. Management of LTV is accountable to the parliament via the Board selected by public organisations and state institutions. LTV runs two TV and two radio programs. Lithuanian Radio and Television Company also have an Internet portal.

The total number of TV broadcasters in Lithuania is 28 and they broadcast a total of 37 programmes. Today three national commercial channels (broadcasting five programmes) and the public LTV (with 3 programmes) compete among themselves in Lithuania. The daily reach of these TV channels is 66.6 percent of the Lithuanian audience share. During the last five years the most popular channels were the commercial TV3 and LNK, the main competitors on the scale of ratings in the television market of Lithuania.

In 2008 there were 1.3 million households with television sets in Lithuania, among them 372,249 households had cable TV and 24,372  were using a microwave multi-channel television (MMDS) service. The most popular medium is the free analogue and digital terrestrial television - 58 percent of all households. Cable TV has quickly developed.

During the last five years the number of Lithuanians able to watch multi-channel TV programmes (cable or satellite) has been gradually growing. In 2008 it reached 42 percent of the audience. As mentioned earlier, the Lithuanian TV market began to develop after the foreign capital investments following 1990. During the last five years new national investors appeared and displaced the long-lasting dominance of foreign capital. In 2003, one of the most popular channels, LNK, was purchased by the Lithuanian enterprise MG Baltic Investment. MG Baltic Media was an unknown player in the media business, although its parent company MG Baltic is a renowned player in the beverage industry.

According to status and ownership, Lithuanian television market can be divided into the few main groups. The first one of is the public/state funded television (LTV1, LTV2, with advertising allowed). Another group deals with local industrial capital stakeholders (LNK, TV1, and BTV). The third group deals with foreign capital. The Swedish Modern Times Group, which had bought TV3 in 1996, remains the only successful foreign company in the Lithuanian TV market.

During the last decade the television market has been stable. Only one TV channel underwent a change in ownership. This is Channel Five, which was acquired by the national capital media group Lietuvos rytas. Following the acquisition the channel was renamed as Lietuvos rytas. In 2008 the TV channel owned by one of the major Lithuanian media groups Lietuvos rytas incurred losses amounting to 5.365 million lt, that is, 3/4 times more than in 2007. TV revenue declined of 19.6 percent to 1.1 million euros. Lietuvos rytas TV obtained 1.764 million lt from advertising, and the decline in total revenue was predetermined by a reduction in the scope of advertising as a consequence of the financial crisis. Due to accumulated depreciation of fixed assets, increasing remuneration costs, and more costly broadcasts, the Company‘s costs compared to the year 2007 increased by 35.2 percent. By the end of 2008 Lietuvos ryto TV channel, the sole shareholder of which is the Company Lietuvos rytas, was viewed by 2 percent of the audience.

To reach different audiences, TV stations have launched sister-channels: TV3 initiated Tango TV in 2002. LNK broadcasts TV1 (2003), entertainment channel Liuks (2007) and Info TV (2007). Public channel LTV set up LTV World (2007) for Lithuanians living abroad. The new MTV Lietuva was launched (2006), only to be temporarily closed (2009). In 2008 Radio and television commission decided to grant UAB “Sporto komunikacijos” a DTT licence to broadcast the new programme “Sport 1” in Lithuanian language.

Throughout the whole Soviet period cinema was among the most popular spheres of art in Lithuania. The state had a monopoly of film production. After the new independence of the Lithuanian state (1990) both the structure and the funding of film industry underwent radical changes. Private film studios were created, taking over film production and distribution. The Law on Cinema (2002) was passed, defining the concept of national film, establishing funding procedures, distributing foreign films, and designating the Ministry of Culture as the authorised institution.

In 2008, after the Ministry of Culture launched a call for film project proposals. Seventy proposals were submitted: 13 feature full-length film production proposals for partial funding, 12 documentary full-length film production proposals, 15 documentary short film production proposals, 10 animated film production proposals, 4 film production extension proposals, 10 preparatory works and 6 film dissemination proposals. More than 2 million euro (8.09 million litas) were designated to fund the cinema projects. Lithuania has created more than one full-length and documentary film, which received awards.

Towards the end of 2008 Lithuania boasted 43 cinemas, 37 of them located in towns and 6 cinemas (individual film show facilities) in the rural part of the country. Three cinema theatres were located in the capital Vilnius and 2 cinemas in the second largest city Kaunas. In 2008 there were 80 cinema halls in Lithuanian cinemas, which could admit 20,200 viewers during one film show. In the rural part of the country 6 cinema halls could seat uo to 950 people; 1000 rural residents had 0.8 seats in cinema halls, whereas the same number of urban dwellers had 8.6 seats. In the same year the total of 3.4 million viewers visited Lithuanian cinemas, that is, 57,000 more than in 2007. 

In 2008 on-the-average Lithuanian cinema attendance was one visit per person. In 2006 this indicator was less than the average rate of the European Union member states: the average cinema attendance rate per Lithuanian resident was 0.7, whereas the respective indicator in the EU member states was 1.9.

Cinema market revenues keep growing. In 2008 the cinema revenues for ticket sales amounted to nearly 17.0 million euro (in 2007 about 10.0 million euro). The change in the revenues obtained in 2008 was determined by an increase in the average ticket price, which during the year was increased from 10.8 to 12.2 litas. 

In Lithuania films are distributed by four major film distribution companies. Films distributed by the companies ACME filmai, Forum Cinemas, Garsų pasaulio įrašai and Lietuvos kinas have the largest share of the market. In 2008 the total number of viewership in films distributed by the said companies amounted to 3.2 million (95 percent) of all viewers, with the total revenue collected amounting to 39.4 million litas (96 percent of all revenue); the remaining part of the market space was filled by film festivals and films by other distributors. In 2008 the major film distributors supplied 409 films to cinema theatres, out of which 151, or almost every third film, was a new production.

A major part of these films (107, or 71 percent) were made in the United States. They were watched by 78 percent of the national cinema viewership; 33 new European films were shown, 9 of them created in Russia, 7 in France, and 6 in the United Kingdom. In 2008 three new Lithuanian films were screened in the country, with 64,500 viewers (2.1 percent).

Changes on the Lithuanian communications market began in 1992, when Lithuania'a state telecommunications sector was restructured. In 1998 the state owned enterprise Lietuvos Telekomas was privatised by the consortium of Swedish Telia AB and Finnish Sonera Oy, Amber Teleholding A/S. The consortium acquired 60 percent of the Company's shares. In 2006, the Company's name was changed from AB Lietuvos Telekomas to TEO LT, AB.

Today the TEO LT holds a leader positions in the Internet, data communication, and fixed-line telephony markets. Fixed telephony revenues were continuously declining (as a result of fixed/mobile substitution). Fixed line penetration declined to 22.6 lines per 100 inhabitants at the end of 2009.

Lithuania's telecommunications sector is small but developing. In the past ten years the biggest changes in the industry was the step up from fixed line to mobile, and from phone services to Internet access. The Lithuanian telecommunication market is characterised by rapidly declining fixed-line subscriber numbers and a saturated mobile sector, serviced by three network operators (Omnitel, Tele 2, Bite) as well as a number of MVNOs.

Internet usage has grown significantly with the majority of users accessing the Internet via mobile phones. Most users use prepaid services. The pervasive adoption of broadband is so not only in the cities but in rural areas also. The use of mobile phone was indicated by 98 percent of persons aged 16 to 24 years of age, and by 54 percent of those aged 65 to 74. Triple play services are available from a number of operators, including the cable TV operators and fixed line incumbent TEO, which has hedged its bets in the digital TV market by offering both broadband TV (IPTV) as well as digital terrestrial TV based on the DVB-T standard.

Lithuania’s Internet service market moves to the opposite direction if compared to print or fixed-line markets. The changes in ICT market structure are observable. Proportions of fixed line are decreasing while mobile lines generate stable revenues, and Internet service revenues are gaining more and more share. The growing influence of the Internet is associated also with the falling circulations of print periodicals, especially those of national dailies.

The number of Internet users has been gradually increasing in the past five years. Internet user penetration was below 50 percent and broadband penetration was 22.6 percent (2009). It is evident, that Internet as a new communications medium has matured into a commodity available at least to one third of the population in Lithuania.

There were 2.103 million Internet users in Lithuania (2009). They are representing 59.2 percent of the population. In 2009, as compared to the end of 2000, this number increased by as much as 834.9 percent. In spite of this the rate of Internet use is low comparing to the EU average. The main network operators have already made significant investments in the recent past. They have developed their own national-wide networks, big parts of which are based on the newest technologies (HDPSA, WiMax, FTTH, and FTTB). Young people are the one of the most active groups of Internet users.

Radio, television and Internet are digital in the sense that they are distributed to the end users in a digital form. In Lithuania most traffic is net-operated: interconnection traffic amounts to 25 percent of all terminated traffic and network traffic to 75 percent. In 2009 42.1 percent of households are receiving analogue terrestrial TV; 55.6 percent of households are receiving non-analogue TV. About 92 percent of the territory is covered by terrestrial digital TV (95 percent of population).

Digital terrestrial TV development is greatly dependent on state policies. In 2004 the Government of Lithuania approved the model of digital television implementation in Lithuania. The gradual switch-off of analogue TV will start in 2012. Lithuania has allocations for 9 national DTT multiplexes and a few single stations; 4 national DTT multiplexes started being used in the middle of year 2006.

The remaining 5 national DTT multiplexes could be used for DTT, including HDTV, after the final switch-off of analogue terrestrial TV. The Lithuanian TV market, with a conditionally low multi-channel TV penetration, has quite a good potential for digital terrestrial TV penetration. However it must be pointed out that the lowest multi-channel TV penetration is in rural areas and small towns. So the digital terrestrial TV penetration will greatly depend on what policy is pursued in this field, on how much set-top boxes will cost and whether they will be subsidised by the state.

So in the nearest future the TV market will face rapid changes. Economic downturn might have a negative impact on the process of digital TV switchover in the country.

The are two national news agencies in Lithuania ELTA and BNS. Lietuvos telegramų agentūra (EltA) was established in 1920. During the soviet time it was part of the unified system of information services of the USSR – TASS (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union). In 1996, ELTA changed its status from a state-owned agency to an independent national news agency. At present, ELTA is a private company whose shares belong to three owners: 39.51 percent is owned by the State, 18.43 percent belongs to the media company Žinių partneriai, which is controlled by the owner of the daily Respublika Vitas Tomkus, and 39.5 percent belongs to the media group Respublikos investicija.

The monopolist position of the state-owned Lithuanian telegraph Agency EltA was broken by the new private News Agency Baltic News Service (BNS). In April 1990, a group of students from the Baltic States established a news agency in Moscow, which became the major source of Baltic news within several months. In 1991, its office was also founded in Lithuania, which was registered as an independent company a year later. Since 2001, the owner of the BNS has been the Finnish media group Alma Media. The leadership belongs to BNS.

There are two journalists’ organisations in Lithuania. The Lithuanian Journalists' Union (LJU) was founded in 1922 and until the war it was the member of the International Federation of Journalists. Now the Journalists Union has over 700 members (2009). Another organisation, the Journalists’ Society of Lithuania has about 100 members. The trade union movement among Lithuanian journalists is almost non-existent. Journalists’ Union of Lithuania and the Journalists’ Society of Lithuania function both as professional organisations rather than trade unions.

There are two more organisations dealing with media: the Lithuanian Newspaper Publishers Association that represents the publishers of national newspapers and the Association of National Regional and Urban Newspaper Publishers that represents regional press publishers.

Censorship of Lithuanian mass media is prohibited by the Constitution. Since the 1990 the media in Lithuania are not controlled by the state power. National media is regulated by the Law on Provision of Information to the Public, which was first passed in 1996 and last amended in 2006. The state is subsidiary only for the cultural and educational media through the Fund for the Support of the Press, Radio and Television. The Fund was established (1996) and is financed from the state budget. The Fund provides financial assistance to those media that submit adequate cultural and educational activity programming. The Fund allocates financial support by means of  annual tenders.

The Law on Competition of the Republic of Lithuania regulates relations concerning competition. It prohibits performance of actions, which restrict or may restrict competition, despite their form of economic activity, with the exception of those regulated by the Law or Laws on Competition for separate spheres of economic activity. Unless otherwise provided by the law, an economic entity is considered to have a dominant position in a market, when its market share makes up not less than 40 percent.

Lithuanian legislation contains no special provisions on media concentration and for media market regulation or an anti-monopoly law. Thus, by default the State allows both monopoly rights and cross ownership. As a result, large sectors of the media belong to one and the same owner (MG Baltic, Achemos grupė).

After strict censorship and directed media during the Soviet era, Lithuania adopted a very liberal system of media control. In 1996 it passed the Law on Provision of Information to the Public, which prohibited monopolisation, censorship and state-intervention. It was based on a system of self-regulation and state media policy handled by the ministry of culture. The revised version of the Code of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers, adopted in 2005, codifies the main ethical provisions.

There are two regulation bodies governing all media outlets: the ethics inspector (the ombudsman) and the Commission of Journalism and Publisher Ethics. The ombudsman weighs the nature of submitted complains basing his decisions on the Law on Provision of Information to the Public. The ombudsman is appointed by the parliament for a five-year term and is therefore a state officer. Both the Commission and Inspector have direct links to the government. The ombudsman is appointed by the parliament; the Law on Provision of Information to the Public regulates the commission.

The main regulator of commercial broadcasters is the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK) and The Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania (RRT). They concentrate on basic regulation and licensing of public and private broadcasters in the country. Most of these bodies are obliged by law to present their annual report to Parliament.

The Lithuanian self-regulation mechanism is close to ineffective. There are no critical debates about feedback and media accountability to the public.

Regulations of the Lithuania mass media are based on a self-regulation system. There are two main self-regulation bodies: the ethics inspector and the Commission of Journalism and Publisher Ethics. Self-regulation, aided by the Journalists’ Ethic Inspector and the Ethics Commission of Journalists and Publishers, is also part of the overall regulation system. 

Two main agencies govern the area of radio and television. The Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania is an independent institution with powers of regulation and supervision concerning the activities of radio and television broadcasters. The Commission is accountable to the Seimas (parliament).

The Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania (RRT) is an independent national institution regulating the communications sector in Lithuania. It was established under the Law on Telecommunications and the provisions of the European Union Directives. One of the main purposes of RRT establishment is competition promotion in electronic communications and postal sectors. Each year RRT submits activity and financial reports to the parliament and the government.

At present, three universities in Lithuania offer programs in journalism and communication studies, at both bachelor and master levels.  Journalism and media studies can be studied at the Vilnius University (BA and MA), Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas (MA), and Klaipeda University (BA). Šiauliai University offers professional education in journalism.

MA study programmes in the field of modern media studies are also offered by the two other universities: Kaunas University of technology and Vilnius Gediminas technical university.

Journalism training schools active cooperate with media industry mostly through student internships, course papers as well as agreements to organise joint courses, seminars and professional trainings.

Since 1999, the mid career training Lithuanian Journalism Centre has professional studies in Journalism and communication. The aim of this programme is to provide students with basic skills and knowledge necessary for starting a career in journalism and prepare for continuing studies in the field of media. The Lithuanian Journalists' Union provides occasional workshops, seminars and courses for journalists as well.

The most important source about media are the Annual Media reports (Metine žiniasklaidos tyrimų apžvalga) prepared by TSN – Galupp Lithuania. Another useful source is the annual bibliography report about print media Lithuanian Periodicals Statistics. The main source for detailed information about Lithuania is Statistical Yearbook of Lithuania published by the Statistics Department (Statistikos departamentas).

The political changes that occurred in Lithuania since the regaining of independence in 1990 exerted impact on all spheres, media system included. Thus, censorship was lifted and state ownership of media was abolished. During the last 20 years the number of different media has grown five times, compared to the Soviet period. The Lithuanian media market has become attractive to foreign investors, whose entry into Lithuanian media started from the TV market. Today foreign investment is mostly predominant in print media and Internet sectors.  An active acquisition of different types of media was launched by local financial industrial groups. In recent years, like in most other countries, the print media sector has faced  difficult challenges.

First and foremost, due to the development of new technologies, newspaper print-runs started to decrease. More and more people, in particular the young generation, prefer to use only Internet media. The newly established free newspapers started to actively compete for a place in the shortlist of three most popular traditional dailies. Global financial downturn has exerted a strong detrimental impact on the media market. The Government has abolished former VAT privileges granted to publishers for publishing and journalists‘ remuneration activities. The scope of advertising (with Internet as an exception) decreased of more than one third. The economic situation in the country and the reduction of advertising are an additional challenge to cope, along with issues such as media funding and media survival. Decreasing economic resources of media audience, changes in consumption pattern as well as priorities identified, lead to believe that the Lithuanian media system will experience further changes.

  • Annual Review of Media Surveys 2007
  • BALČYTIENĖ, (2006): Mass Media in Lithuania: Changes, Development, and Journalism Culture. European Journalism Review Series 8.Ber­lin: Vistas. 190 p.
  • Nugaraite, A. (2006): Media Markets in Central and Eastern Europe. Ettl-Huber, Silvia (ed): An Analysis on Media Ownership in Bulgaria, Czech Repulic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Wien: Lit, pp.25-31.

Audrone Nugaraite
Assoc. Professor at Vilnius University
Bernardinų g.11, Vilnius, lt-01124 Lithuania
Tel: +37052193037
Email: audrone.nugaraite@ij.vu.lt
Website