The Second Dirty Secret of Romanian Television

Well we’ve all arrived in a new year and I’ve found myself moving in new directions. On a personal note, I’ve committed myself in earnest to learning the Russian language, which has come in handy as I work on perfecting my technique for monitoring, interpreting and analyzing global media, particularly the world’s television news channels.

Assuming you can speak or at least understand all of the major European languages (roughly consisting of Slavic, Germanic and Romance tongues) and have the internet capacity and computer power to watch 10+ television channels, you will instantly discover something very strange: Romania is vastly overrepresented.

If you live in Romania (as I do) and speak the language, you’re likely to overlook this fact because it’s considered normal around these parts. But as you begin to explore the media of other countries in Europe, the magnitude of this oddity becomes readily apparent.

For example, France, a wealthy “western” country with a population of over 66 million has (as far as I can tell) just three 24-hour TV news channels: TV5 Monde, BFMTV and state-run France 24. Likewise Great Britain, with a population of about 63 million, has (as far as I can tell) just two 24-hour TV news channels, SkyNews and the state-run BBC.

It’s not much different even in Eastern Europe, with countries like Ukraine (population 45 million) having just two channels, Kanal 5 and 24 Ukraina. Poland (population 38 million) has at most four channels, state-run TVP Info, Polsat News, TVN 24 and TVN CNBC (business news only and off the air overnight, showing only ticker information).

Who is the fairest of them all?
Who is the fairest of them all?

Meanwhile little Romania (population 20 million), officially the second-poorest country in the EU has at least five 24-hour news channels (Realitatea, Romania TV, Antena 3, B1TV and Digi 24), possibly more if you count Transilvania L!ve (currently “on vacation”), OTV (online only at the moment), The Money Channel (business news) and state-run TVR News (which uses EuroNews feeds translated into Romanian for half of their content – was formerly TVR Info and a real 24 hour news channel and may become one again). In Europe, only Russia (with 5 channels that I’ve found, two of which barely qualify) has a comparable number of 24-hour TV news channels and worldwide only the indomitable United States surpasses Romania.

Of course even the tiniest and poorest countries have periodic news broadcasts on television, as well as newspapers, online news sites and news over the radio. But Romania is clearly #2 in the world (behind America) for the sheer volume of 24-hour news channels on television. Some 500 million citizens of the European Union are getting by with about 21 full-time news channels while Romania has at least 5 and as many as 9 channels.

I really don’t know why this is, as I’ve already shown that Romanian news channels lose money for their owners and are never profitable. I also have no way of accurately comparing the number of print newspapers that exist in Romania versus other countries but there is no doubt that there is a staggering number of them in this country. Walk by any news kiosk in Romania and you’ll easily find 10 plus newspapers not including domestic papers in other languages (such as Hungarian, German or English) or the international press.

Even here in little old Unicorn City there are so many local newspapers (and/or news sites online) that I can’t even remember them all, including City News, Stiri de Cluj, Ziar de Cluj, Monitorul Cluj, Faclia, Ziua de Cluj and Gazeta de Cluj, as well as the local editions of big newspapers (Clujeanul, Adevarul Cluj edition, etc). That’s at least nine (non-sports related) newspapers to add to god knows how many news sites (like News Cluj) and blogs, plus of course the “big” national newspapers themselves (EVZ, Adevarul, RL, Gandul, JN, etc) and the 5-9 television news channels plus of course the nightly news broadcasts (ProTV, Prima, Antena 1, TVR, etc) and we can’t forget the sports-only newspapers and TV channels and add to that the “gossip” and light news papers such as Clic! and Cancan, plus their various related TV channels (including the brand-new AntenaStars, competing with Euforia!, programming on Acasa and Prima as well as Cancan’s own video programming not to mention weaker competitors like Look TV).

Long story short: there is one hell of a lot of news in Romania.

What makes this doubly interesting is that while there is a ton of “news” (in whatever form) coming out of Romania, produced and created by Romanians in the Romanian language, there is almost no original entertainment programming. In other words, for every 100 shows that Romanians create, 99 are news (or news-related) and only one is something else (like a soap opera or comedy show). And even most of the non-news programming, including popular shows like Surprize, Surprize and Cronica Carcotasilor are just “rebooted” formats from Italian television. Of course, it is far easier and cheaper to have three or four people sit around a table and discuss the events of the day than write scripts and have actors memorize lines. Still though there are surprisingly few “reality shows” in Romania aside from “reboots” from American, British or Dutch shows, and scarcely any comedies (whether scripted sit-coms or stand-up type material). I’m also unaware of any police procedurals at all (like Law and Order or CSI), adaptations from famous Romanian books, sci-fi or thriller shows or even general dramatic entertainment aside from one or two soaps (telenovele).

Furthermore, when monitoring all of Europe’s television media, it becomes abundantly clear that Romanian news (of whatever type or flavor) is predominately focused on Romania itself. I’ve spent the past month watching television news (predominantly) from Spain, Britain, Czech Republic, Holland, France, Poland, Portugal, Ukraine and Russia and on none of those channels (as far as I’ve been able to ascertain) is there such an emphasis on domestic issues, celebrities and current events. The only other two countries that I’m aware of with such a high level of fixation on domestic happenings at the expense of the rest of the world are the United States (unsurprisingly) and India (which, to be fair, does have a billion residents and several ongoing civil wars and thus plenty of local news to cover).

However this glut of news came about in Romania, it goes a long way to explaining why Romanian politicians, ministers, police chiefs, business owners and other powerful people in this country are so insulated and relatively unaffected by what the outside world has to say or thinks. Here in Romania every issue is debated almost entirely from the context of what Romanians think or have to say on the issue, and the rest of the planet can go to hell, even if it’s the EU commission president Barroso, Viviane Reding (EU official in charge of monitoring Romania’s MCV reports) or even the IMF. If you follow Romanian news, you’d think the IMF owes Romania hundreds of millions of euros instead of it being the other way around!

To put it plainly, unless you’re a Romanian who speaks Romanian, nothing you say or do really means a damn and only Romanian cultural contexts (such as an irrational hatred/fear of Russia and love for the USA) are taken into account when making policy decisions. By whatever means or process, the multilingual Romanians who embrace a wider worldview have been largely pushed out of the debate and do not play any significant role in shaping this country’s views.

For a long, long time I always thought that the name “Romania” for this country was an egregious error as people in this country have almost no cultural or historical connection to the Ancient Romans beyond the language but now I’m starting to see that I’ve been wrong.

It’s clear to me that most people in this country think that the sun rises and sets on the Romanian Empire and all those “foreigners”, whether Chinese tourists or the Hungarian natives of Miercurea Ciuc, are just ignorant barbarians, their needs, culture, language and investment in this country reduced to being occasionally interesting items of interest, far less important and significant than what God’s favorite people, the Romanians, have to say or think on any given matter.


16 Comments Add yours

  1. Denis says:

    You forgot LCI and I-tele news channels in France, and TV5-Monde is NOT a news channel. It’s generalist. So we have : LCI, I-Tele, BFMTV, France24 FR and you could include also BFM-BUSINESS.



  2. Dragos says:

    So basically you are saying the we all are just some ignorant bastards that do nor give a damn about anything else but our self… Ohhh if this could only be true. You still need to learn stuff about this country!


  3. Adding a more in depth look at the news channels: the vast majority of the information in the news channels can be traced to the same source, which usually is a news agency or a government agency press release/declaration. Further, a common practice is to copy original content from one company and add 2-3 lines of own work; let’s say Digi24 comes up with original information in an interview, it will be copied by a majority of other big news media and related to as “individual X declared for Digi24 information Y and Z in an interview”.

    Third, the majority of news and entertainment media is owned by 3-4 large corporations or have some sort of connection to them. Like Intact Media Group, which owns all the Antena channels, plus the Jurnalul National, several radio channels and magazines; thus, content appearing in one channel will most likely be transferred to all others.

    Lastly, independent media exists, albeit on a very small scale. Usually young people and intellectuals are aware of them and relate to them in social media; unfortunately I consider it to be to small yet to have a real impact and affect the climate of news media in Romania.


  4. Alexandra says:

    That’s a very “cute” article… but one question presses: WHERE ARE THE FACTS? When writing something like thins and if you want to be take seriously (as I presume you do, since you say you’re investing so much time into this “study”) – then you have to present facts, proof, concrete data. It’s not that I don’t believe you – but this article isn’t any less Romania centered then all those news you were talking about. Please dig a little deeper and actually make some palpable statements, because all I see now is your frustration with the country and not concrete proof of what you’re saying. Also, again, if you want to be taken seriously, lose the photo – associating Romania’s narcissism with a woman looking in the mirror is just reinforcing this country’s patriarchal system even more.


  5. Eunice says:

    I think it’s about time one adds the internet as a major factor in the bigger picture. No, not all Romanians are self-centered, as a matter of fact, I don’t see Romanians as nationalists at all. And while the TV channels are vaguely dull and domestic oriented, the internet is increasingly becoming a more convenient source of information & entertainment, and that should also be taken into account.


  6. Simona says:

    When I will be very very rich, enough to have my own television channel, I will have a channel that will broadcast local news from as many countries as possibile ( with subtitles in romanian, of course). Not for the news themselfs, but more as a cultural and sociological thing- to get a feeling how things are there, what kind of news they consider important, what is the atitude towards various news, how they present it etc.
    (yes, i can watch them online now, but it is not the same thing, it is much easier to turn on the tv and watch the news from suriname or laos while you are puting on the make-up or preparing dinner, than to actively think about a far away place, than find an online news channel and either not understand a thing because of the language, or find something in english, that may not be “the real thing” since it is made for the foreigners)


  7. Ana Dragota says:

    its because now they can..ha!


  8. Alina M says:

    I think Romania is largely managed by old commnunists using communistic methods like appointing people on key jobs based on their interests (central and local administration, judges), keeping people in the dark by not investing in science, technology and research, but funding religious cults, keeping them trapped in already chewed news, making them pepetuous social assistates, preventing them to learn how to access EU funds for whatever by using outdated and complicates websites and ill-intended people at local agencies that never give usefull information to those interested (because local politicians and their relatives need to be the only ones to use EU funds, otherwise there wouldn’t be anybody available to work for shitty salaries on their factories or companies).

    Also, you must know that the lack of information about other nations doing things in other ways keeps people blocked in reinventing the wheel, rather than ousting cancerigen methods of administration and government.

    Educated and young Romanians refuse to watch Romanian TV for this exact reason, they do not want to be inculcated in the fatalistic and bellybottom-of-the-Earth dogmas preached by all politically controlled media, they do not want to live in misery and unhappiness. I understand them as I rely on foreign news providers although I’m not young anymore.


  9. Tom Lovelock. says:

    Whilst I agree (as a Brit living here) I dont think its anything particularly sinister,more historical,plus a bi blow of current media technology,historical because for fifty years Romania had no independent news,just the state mouth pieces so as children do the opposite of thier parents,Eastern European countries lap up any kind of news programming,and the channels themselves report on anything and everything ,no matter how trivial,its said that the TV mobile vans (plus a nice looking presenter) would turn up to the opening of an envelope .The current technology means you can pick up pretty much any channel any where in the world no matter where it originates (my package gives me 150 channels in many languages fro just about everywhere,(including China for gods sake) 24 hours a day,so channels just blast it out accompanied by hours of advertising on the assumption that some Romanian somewhere may be watching and may either be interested or more probably might buy whatever is being sold,and as you say news programs are cheaper to make,in the UK we dont so many indigenous channels mostly because the media is monopolised by big companies (Sky etc) and newspapers likewise,which is sinister,the UK press (or rather thier owners) do not like the EU so revile all it does at ever opportunity ,indeed if you read the Daily Mail (one of the bigger circulation papers) you would think that the UK was at war with Romania and the eastern countries right now,rather than them being fellow EU,NATO members and allies and trading partners as is never mentioned,diversity in the media is good (even if the programs often are not) monopoly is bad.


    1. eu says:

      no independent news for 50 years was also the norm for the rest of the countries around us and they re not even close with their channel numbers. so that s not the explanation


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