The Ownership Patterns Of Western Europe Media

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In cable delivery, the three major groups are NTL Inc., UPC/ UGC Europe, and Callahan Associates / Cable Partners, all with US ownership. Radio is still the mass medium with the least foreign or commercial ownership, i.e. the largest audience market shares is obtained by public radio stations. Although the press sector in Western Europe still remains predominantly national, in Central and Eastern Europe it is largely dominated by foreign media owners. Companies from Western Europe (e.g. WAZ, Axel Springer, etc.) expanded their operations in the 1990's, mainly by investing in existing media companies (the WAZ model usually includes a 50% shares and the 'golden vote' giving them decision making power in commercial matters), and then expanding the number and type of publications. In Croatia, WAZ invested in this way at the end of the 1990's in the Croatian media company, Europa Press Holding, publisher of the daily Jutarnji list (around 30% daily newspaper audiences) and Globus, the leader on the market of political weeklies. In the weekly magazine press, EPH holds some 50 per cent of the audience market. The first-ranked by circulation among the daily papers, Ve?ernji list, was acquired by Austrian Styria, with the result that around 70% of the daily newspaper market goes to the media products owned by foreign companies. In Hungary, in 2001, 83% of the daily newspaper marked was owned by foreign investors. The Estonian daily newspaper market is wholly dominated by foreign companies (54% by the Norwegian company Schibsted ASA, 46% the Swedish Bonnier Group).

In commercial radio and television broadcasting in Central and Eastern Europe, it is American, and not European (in the publishing sector it is mainly German, Austrian, and Scandinavian companies) capital that predominates. Companies that have spread furthest in this part of Europe are Central European Media Enterprises (CME), Scandinavian Broadcasting Corporation, and News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch, with a smaller number of stations (but public plans for expanding). The largest West European commercial broadcasting company ' RTL (89% owned by the global media company Bertelsmann, and 7 % by WAZ), has recently expanded in Central Europe (in partnership with Croatian companies, it was awarded the second Croatian national commercial television concession in 2003).

Commercial offerings which are part of transnational media groups have nevertheless significant audiences in many European countries. The RTL Group, owned by Bertelsmann, has profitable television stations in ten European countries with audiences reaching 23-35 % in the four top countries. The Swedish MTG runs television stations in seven countries with national audience shares up to 23 %. CME is present in four countries with large audiences (from 20 to 48 %), SBS is active in four countries with audience shares of between 6 and 13 %, and News Corp. International is present in four countries, with the largest audiences in Bulgaria and the UK. Programmes from neighbouring countries also have significant audiences in spill-over areas.

In the newspaper sector, national publishers are dominant in most Western European countries (apart from Denmark, the UK and the French-speaking part of Belgium). In Eastern Europe, the situation is the opposite because almost all daily press markets are dominated by companies with foreign ownership.

Causes of concentration

Concentration of ownership is a general economic trend which is also found in the media sector. Media firms move into other countries when their home market is saturated, to attain critical mass, to pool resources and to share risks. In several cases firms have turned to other countries because the competition authorities refused to let them go ahead with a national merger for fear that it would create a dominant position or a monopoly. Transnational media concentration is established when someone has obtained a substantial ownership position within the media sector in more than one country. This form of Media concentration can be structured into three main categories, when analysing traditional media ownership patterns:


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