True Lithuania

Media of Lithuania

Lithuanian media is surviving an upheaval these days as a newspaper after a newspaper closes, dailies become weeklies and the audiences grow older. The main remaining dailies are "Lietuvos rytas" (leftist, anti-religious), "Vakaro žinios" (tabloid, conservative) and "Lietuvos žinios" (center).

At the same time, the share of internet news portals expands, despite them being notorious for liberal attitudes towards countless insulting comments under nearly every article (some psychologists even claim this became a new Lithuanian way to vent off anger). Main portals are delfi.lt (leftist), lrytas.lt (leftist, anti-religious), alfa.lt (centre-left) and balsas.lt (centre-right).

Magazines are doing better than newspapers. Veidas (conservative, laissez-faire) is the longest-running weekly of political insights. Most female-oriented monthly magazines are catch-all while male-oriented ones tend to have particular topics (automobiles, fishing, etc.).

TV has been hit less by internetization. Still, while the average viewing times change little TVs are no longer considered a necessity as some 40% of young people opt not to own a TV set and some take pride in this, associating television with cheap programming of the commercial stations (TV3 and LNK are two catch-all market leaders and both have many smaller specific-audience channels). State-owned LRT TV station provides less glitzy programs and is more popular among the old.

Radio is mostly used for music (especially while driving) by the youth while in other contexts a turned-on-yet-unwatched TV effectively serves as a radio.

TV stations are all national (Vilnius-based) and while important regional and local newspapers do exist Lithuania may be too small a country to have a strong regional media.

English, Russian and Polish media in Lithuania

Main internet portals own scaled-down English versions to cater for expatriate community and also there is The Baltic Times newspaper (joint with Latvia and Estonia). Major foreign media reports on key Lithuanian issues but lacking representatives and knowledge in the Baltics they usually base their articles on local media.

If you are interested only in the most important news and analysis, Truelithuania.com news section provides that.

Russian and Polish media are more widespread. Polish one is largely limited to the Polish minority in southeastern Lithuania (Znad Willi radio, Kurjer Willenskij daily). Russian media, on the other hand, is also enjoyed by some non-Russian people who grew up under the Soviet occupation and speaks Russian at near-native levels.

The aficionados claim Russian TV shows to be of higher budget and thus higher quality. Opponents have been quick to note anti-Lithuanian programming of some Russian TV stations. Both primarily apply to production created in Russia itself (which has a popularity far outweighing anything created by the local Russian minority).

History of Lithuanian media

The crisis of Lithuanian media goes further than print/internet divide. Back in 1990-2004 libertarian Lithuania media used to be the Fourth Estate in the strictest sense. Every opinion poll indicated that media was the most trusted institution (surpassing the church, army, and all the government agencies). Journalists seemed to be chivalrous "fighters for truth" and some even sacrificed their lives for it (Vitas Lingys was murdered for his articles on the mafia, his name still printed on every back-cover of Respublika newspaper he worked for). In the corrupt atmosphere of the era, only a fear of publicity could have prompted judges, prosecutors, and politicians to refuse mafia bribes.

Later, however, media grew increasingly partisan while several business groups consolidated their control over large numbers of newspapers, TV and radio stations as well as internet portals. Advertisement packages are now commonly believed to include media silence on the advertiser's wrongdoings. Confidence in media plummeted after people noticed one-sided coverage of some events (but still more trust it than distrust it according to opinion polls).

Whatever the current situation would be it is still lightyears in front of the Soviet occupation era (1940-1990) when the media was all nationalized and heavily censored. Crimes and disasters used to remain unreported to promote the "nothing bad happens in the Soviet Union" thought (even the Chernobyl disaster was initially hidden from the public, precluding anti-radiation precautions). Word of mouth thus used to be the "media" most people would rely on, in addition to ephemeral illegal press.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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