Majority of news neutral, biased news more anti- than pro-government, survey shows

Ljubljana – A survey of ten major news portals in Slovenia in 2020 has shown that the majority of news, except on the portal Nova24TV.si, is unbiased. Among articles that were flagged as biased, those that were critical of the government far outnumbered pro-government reporting.

“The majority of the analysed media has a recognizable political and ideological flavour. In general the government is treated in clearly less favourable terms than the opposition, leftist views dominate over rightist views,” says the study conducted by the Media Faculty, a private school, at the end of last year.

The study analysed news on the portals 24ur.com, siol.net, rtvslo.si, slovenskenovice.si, svet24.si, delo.si, zurnal24.si, dnevnik.si, vecer.com and nova24tv.si between May and September 2020, focusing on three topics: the government’s Covid-19 measures, media law, and migration crisis.

Except for Nova24TV.si, which was founded by members of the ruling Democrats (SDS) and whose reporting is clearly pro-government and anti-opposition according to the survey, the plurality of news on other portals is neither positive nor negative about political players.

“But there are significant differences regarding the relationship to political players in the sense of the ratio between support/opposition to the government/opposition, and regarding ideological orientation in terms of the ratio between news that has a leftist or rightist bent,” the researchers say.

For example, using the Janis-Fadner coefficient, a measure of imbalance in content analysis, the researchers found that balanced news ranged from around 50% for Večer, Dnevnik and Svet24, to over 60% for 24ur.com, the largest news portal in the country, and over 70% for Siol.net; for Nova24TV.si, only a tenth of the content was designated as neutral.

And while most major media had content in the low single digits that was designated as pro-government – except for Nova24TV.si (43%), Siol.net (14%) and zurnal24.si (10%) – the share of anti-government content was in the 30-40% range.

The majority of the media had less than 1% of content that was designated as pro- or anti-opposition, except on Nova24TV.si, where over 46% of content was designated as anti-opposition.

Sociologist Matevž Tomšič, one of the researchers and chair of the Association of Journalists and Commentators, told the STA, however, that anti-government news was “more or less on the same wavelength as the left opposition”.

The lack of balance by the majority of the media is not reflected only in the attitude to the political players but also in values. “They predominantly promote ideas that are seen as left in the Slovenian context.”

In general, Tomšič agrees that media should by default be critical of whichever government is in power, but he thinks that in Slovenia this depends on which government is in office.

“It would be interesting to determine what attitude the media had to governments led by leftist coalitions. We assume that the attitude of media to the government changed when the government changed, but to confirm this assumption additional analyses would be needed,” he said.