World Media 2006: Romania

Advertisers are preparing to up their budgets yet again, but corruption and government control of the media are a worry for potential inward investors attracted by Romania's vibrant economy.

There's never a dull moment in Romanian media, especially if you're a political reporter on one of the daily news-papers or you work in TV news. This is a country where political ethics are fluid, corruption commonplace and physical attacks on journalists not exactly unknown.

Romania signed European Union accession documents in 2005. Brussels suggested that the country could perhaps gain formal entry in 2007, subject to the implementation of several important reforms. We shall see.

Meanwhile, the economy continues to crackle with vigorous entrepreneurial energy, inflation is still under control, the basic rate of tax has recently been reduced from 25 per cent to 16 per cent and many Romanian advertisers are preparing to up their budgets yet again for 2006 and 2007.

This makes it an intriguing prospect for potential inward investors - although the business community's seeming reluctance to adopt more circumspect practices continues to worry some. It doesn't help that the government is not exactly a paragon of virtue where negotiation techniques are concerned - allegedly, it uses its public information ad budgets as a bargaining chip as it seeks to receive consistently positive editorial coverage.

There's a fine line to tread here - as incoming Western media owners are discovering. The Swiss-owned Ringier Group has on several occasions been in dispute with senior editorial staff at its Romanian acquisitions, who want more leeway to criticise the government. There have been bitter squabbles at both Libertatea (the top-selling national tabloid) and, more recently, Evenimentul Zilei.

To date, inward investment has focused on print media. Last year, BBC Magazines launched Top Gear, and now plans to follow that up with Good Food, both in conjunction with Media Sport Group; and Haymarket has a licensing agreement with Media Business Group, which publishes editions of Stuff, F1 Racing and Campaign.

The main inward investor in a diverse and fragmented broadcast market (as well as national and metropolitan channels, there are more than 100 private local radio stations) is the Nasdaq-quoted SBS Broadcasting, which last year acquired a controlling stake in Prima TV. Last summer, the government gave the go-ahead for a digital radio service and hopes this will in time be extended to create a digital terrestrial TV platform too.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= ROL 28,838. *Estimated Total TV Newspapers Magazines Radio 1994 45.1 35.0 4.5 1.5 2.0 1995 56.8 41.0 7.5 2.5 2.8 1996 92.3 67.8 12.0 4.6 3.6 1997 114.6 69.0 15.8 7.9 5.6 1998 215.5 130.9 40.0 15.9 7.2 1999 125.2 80.0 16.0 10.0 4.0 2000 127.7 76.0 20.0 11.0 4.5 2001 118.3 70.0 18.0 11.0 5.0 2002 125.5 75.0 20.0 12.0 6.0 2003 153.2 100.0 22.0 14.0 6.5 2004 204.0 130.0 30.0 19.0 12.0 2005 237.3 155.0 31.0 21.0 14.5 2006* 270.5 180.0 34.0 23.0 16.0 2007* 298.6 200.0 36.0 25.0 18.0 2008* 324.8 220.0 38.0 27.0 19.0 Total Outdoor Online Cinema 1994 45.1 1.3 0.0 0.8 1995 56.8 2.0 0.0 1.0 1996 92.3 2.5 0.0 1.9 1997 114.6 13.3 0.0 3.0 1998 215.5 17.0 0.0 4.5 1999 125.2 15.0 0.0 0.2 2000 127.7 16.0 0.0 0.2 2001 118.3 14.0 0.0 0.3 2002 125.5 12.0 0.0 0.5 2003 153.2 10.0 0.5 0.7 2004 204.0 12.0 1.0 1.0 2005 237.3 14.5 1.4 1.3 2006* 270.5 16.0 1.7 1.5 2007* 298.6 18.0 2.0 1.6 2008* 324.8 19.0 2.2 1.8 FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: Libertatea (daily, 260,000 copies) - Business magazine: Capital (weekly, 52,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: Practic in bucatarie (monthly, 336,000 copies) Top TV shows - Most watched TV programme (2004): Cei Mai lubiti - Best new TV format: The Bar. Reality show featuring 12 strangers who are brought together to run a Bucharest pub Major measurement tools - Circulation: Audit Bureau of Circulations - Readership: National Readership Survey - TV viewing: TNS AGB Main media owners - Newspapers: Ringier - Magazines: Ringier - Television: TVR (public), ProTV, Antena

THE LOWDOWN

Media topic du jour: Will the European Union agree to Romanian accession - and will that fuel a new bonanza?

Reigning media guru and why: Cornel Nistorescu. Less a guru than a one-man cause celebre, Nistorescu, the director of the Eventimentul Zilei newspaper, resigned in protest at interference from its new owner, the Swiss Ringier Group. Nistorescu is a campaigner for a freer media.

Media mogul to be seen dining with: Dan Voiculescu is a businessman, politician, raconteur and, increasingly, a media owner. He has a growing portfolio of media interests (both newspapers and TV), including Antena 1, an ailing TV station that he has turned around in dramatic fashion.

Car to drive: BMW Seria 7.

Phone to carry: LG U88330.

Whatever you do, don't say: Is it true the CIA runs a scheduled airline service out of here?

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