Photo: Recorder

The main political parties that currently form the government coalition in Romania, the Liberal National Party (PNL) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD), spent between them a total of some €18.5m (over RON 90m) on advertising in the media last year, according to G4Media, a local news outlet.

The money reached the pockets of prominent and influential media outlets. It was aimed to secure favorable coverage or, at least, to silence some media outfits, preventing critical coverage. Examples of media outlets paid by the two parties that ignored stories of corruption or controversies surrounding politicians affiliated with PNL or PSD abound.

Investigations carried out jointly by Europa Liberă, a U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster, and Recorder and G4Media, two Romanian news media outlets, have exposed a string of media outlets that broadcast or published content promoting PSD and PNL after receiving cash from the two parties. The content was not marked as advertising, but presented as news coverage.

In 2022, political parties in Romanian received state subsidies totalling €52.2m (RON 256m), money that, according to the law, they are supposed to use for financing their activities. The bulk of that sum went to PSD and PNL combined, according to the Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP), the official election watchdog in Romania.

The two ruling parties chose to spend most of their subsidies to fund media, a quasi-generalized phenomenon in the country that led to a significant growth in biased reporting blatantly favoring the two parties. The party financing also led to a rise in self-censorship among journalists reporting on politics. Most of the country’s mainstream media outlets accepted cash from the two parties. The few exceptions include outlets such as B1TV, a television broadcaster, Libertatea, a daily newspaper, and G4Media.

More specifically, PSD received roughly €20m (RON 98m) from the state budget last year, of which some €11m (RON 53m) was spent on financing media, according to data from AEP. PNL received €17m (RON 83m). Some €8m (RON 38.5m) of that amount was used to pay media outlets. Save Romania Union (USR), the main opposition party, was awarded a total of €9.2m (RON 45m) by the government. It earmarked €1m of that amount for financing media companies.