Photos: DarikNews.bg; Radka Mincheva
Maria S. Topalova
The media is a field that is difficult to analyze and summarize. Technology has completely changed the journalist profession and social networks - the news spread. Photography and videos have become new weapons in the hands of reporters and media critics seem to run after the changes, rather than to warn and prepare us for them. This is what I was thinking about while I was preparing for my conversation with the most prominent Bulgarian media analyst and chairperson of the Council for Electronic Media Professor Georgi Lozanov.
Professor Lozanov, at the opening of the Eighth World Meeting of Bulgarian Media you have become its dean since you attended the eight meetings. What is your impression of the Bulgarian media around the world? How are they evolving?
Unfortunately, amid the global economic crisis, I see an obvious trend towards a concern for survival, which replaces all other topics. A concern about how the media could plan resources and it has many aspects, which are far from being positive. Resources are being sought elsewhere, not based on the activity of the media, because the media become more difficult and smaller on these markets. These resources sought elsewhere have always been associated with some pressure or at least with interest from elsewhere and this is a problem. It is to some extent valid for our media around the world and is much more valid for the Bulgarian media in Bulgaria, unfortunately. And this affects the level of freedom of speech. Increasingly, the media are forced to serve not their audiences but those who can help them survive one way or another. This is the trend. Otherwise, I have always felt great sympathy for our media outside Bulgaria and, how can I put it, democratic optimism. Because they are the ones that make the Bulgarian culture a part of a modern cultural diversity. This is very important and the media are the most powerful tool.
What are the diseases Bulgarian media in Bulgaria suffer from? Is it only the lack of freedom of speech?
This is very general. The main disease is their shifting to uncivil forms, so to speak. It is starting from the tabloid press in the press and the marginalization of the quality press. I do not mean quality in the sense of a compliment but as a concept specifying certain professional rules of doing journalism. And it gets to the electronic media where things are under some control because there is regulation, of course. However, there the journalistic formats, the formats having a more critical look at government and the social world in general; non-conformist media thinking is currently in a quite unstable position. This is the problem. The problem is the withdrawal from this great luxury of civic, professionally made and expensive journalism.
How do the Bulgarian media cover the Greek crisis in your opinion?
They cover it in quite an egocentric fashion, influenced by the Bulgarian fear of whether this could happen in Bulgaria or if the crisis in Greece has further deepened - I do not know how far it can go, whether this would have consequences for Bulgaria. However, this relationship with its own fate shows in the first place that Greece is close in every sense, not just in geographical terms. We feel it close to us. Second, it makes the developments in Greece, the situation in Greece a topic on the agenda of Bulgaria. The crisis in Greece is a topic on the agenda of the Bulgarian media and this, of course, must be highly appreciated professionally. There are views and they are more critical, because firstly Greece is relying on external assistance and it has ended up in this situation alone and secondly, it has more requirements than actually trying to cope with its problems. I guess there is some kind of Balkan solidarity and a feeling that the European Union gives us a hope that easily becomes a utopia and the expectations remain unfulfilled. Therefore, there is some sympathy and psychological approach to Greece and the people protesting in the streets in terms of that. Nevertheless, there is something else, which is somewhat pragmatic and perhaps cynical - a little angry attitude to Greece. Because there is no doubt that, we are much poorer than the Greeks are even in times of crisis. This is perceived as injustice. All these moods go through the media. However, Bulgarian media is professional. What happens in the society in one way or another, goes through it through the filters of one influence or another, and reaches the audience back there. Therefore, that is the repertoire of responses to the crisis. However, the crisis does not lower the interest in Greece itself. The tourist interest and the typical post-transition perceptions that Greece is nearby, it is nice to go there and enjoy the life they live. We know that cars set off to Greece, not to the sea on holidays.