PolObs: Pandemia emphasizes need to think about support for the press

The emergency situation in Portugal today (and globally) due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led some media to open up access to paid content. On March 11, for example, the Público newspaper announced on Twitter that after opening “the coronary virus texts to all readers”, it also turned off “the paywall that limited the number of articles that each reader could read daily”. Five days later, on March 16, the Lusa news agency said it would open access to all news related to the new coronavirus.

The Observador, who also opened up access to information on the coronavirus, added, however, to the journalistic pieces a footnote with an appeal to the readers’ contribution, by means of the signature. “Never as now do we need you so much to continue to provide our service to the public in these difficult times we live in”. The same sign of concern showed the newspaper Público on March 21. In an open letter to readers, director Manuel Carvalho pointed out that “with hundreds of sales outlets closed, with advertising revenues falling sharply, Público’s future needs the support of its readers more than ever”.

At a time when the press financing difficulties are being discussed again, PolObs has just released a policy paper signed by Elsa Costa e Silva, who advocates the development of support policies for newspapers. For the CECS researcher, “the question is not whether the State should intervene, but in what dimension and in what modalities it should intervene”. Defending that there are economic and social reasons to justify the relevance of the support, Elsa Costa e Silva maintains that a support system for the sustainability of the press should also be articulated with a strategy to promote media literacy, involving schools and libraries.

The document is available free of charge at http://polobs.pt/estudo/apoio-a-imprensa/.

Elsa Costa e Silva is a professor of Political Economy of Communication and Journalism at the University of Minho. Her research interests focus on the concentration of media ownership, media economics and regulation. She published in several national and international magazines. She is the coordinator of the Communication Economics and Policies WG of Sopcom – Portuguese Association of Communication Sciences. She was a journalist for Diário de Notícias.

[Posted: 31-03-2020]