The history of media and journalism is an integral part of North Macedonia's history.
The first Macedonian newspapers Nova Makedonija and Mlad Borec and the National Radio were all founded in 1944 during World War II, when the Macedonian state was formed.
At the time, the symbiosis between the communist party elite and the media was no secret, but rather a form of open cooperation. Journalists were termed “social-political workers” whose main task was to communicate and explain to the audience the position of the party leadership, and to defend the Socialist system of the country.
The bloody unraveling of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia left the country with two media mastodons – Macedonian Radio Television, MRTV, which included the first and second channels of the television as well as Macedonian Radio, with several channels – and the news publishing company Nova Makedonija, which included another newspaper in Macedonian (Vecer), one in Albanian (Flyaka), one in Turkish (Birlik), as well as several periodicals covering different topics (Sport, Ekran, Kotelec, Osten and others).
In 1990, the first multi-party elections were held. In the new atmosphere of democratization and openness, the first private media were formed, which slowly but surely gained precedence over the state media.
The first independent newspaper in North Macedonia was the daily Republika, which appeared in 1991. However, it quickly went out of business after publishing only 218 issues. Thus, it is widely considered that the process of true pluralization of print media began when the private daily Dnevnik entered the market in 1996.
Dnevnik proved to be a real competitor to the state-run Nova Makedonija, resulting in the decline of the largest news publishing house in the country and its eventual privatization.
In 1991, the first private radio station began broadcasting. In 1993, the first private television station, TV A1, was opened. A1 soon overthrew the dominance of Macedonian Radio Television and became the largest and most-viewed medium until it closed in 2011.
There was a lack of regulation of the media sector until the first Broadcasting Act was adopted in 1997. Before that, more than 300 radio and TV stations were on air. The regulatory gap led to some media, especially televisions, being founded by people who were already leaders or top officials of political parties or directors or owners of newly privatized companies.
Even today, the owners of the largest number of the most influential broadcasters, especially those broadcasting at national level, are corporations with strong political or business backgrounds and with a variety of business interests, whose primary activities are, in fact, not focused on the media.
Hence, these owners use their media in support of their other business ventures. In addition, the media are often used as a negotiating tool to obtain lucrative government tenders by shifting editorial policy for or against the government, depending on what is needed in a given context.
The systemic clientelism of the media is primarily caused by two factors: the lucrative interests of the owners, on the one hand, and a large number of media fighting for survival in a small and poor market, on the other. This phenomenon peaked in 2008 during the time of the coalition government of VMRO DPMNE and DUI, headed by then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
By paying for the broadcasting of public campaigns, popularly called “government advertisements”, Gruevski's government rewarded those media that carried out propaganda in the interest of the ruling party. Conversely, the system closed or economically exhausted the media that did not cooperate with VMRO DPMNE’s interests. The situation escalated to the point where between 2008 and 2012 the government and the ruling VMRO DPMNE party became the biggest advertisers in the media.
The pressure on independent and critical media, their violent takeover and dismissals of journalists, as well as the arrest of the owner of the most watched television, A1, and the television’s closure, prompted the consolidation of the media community which articulated its dissatisfaction through protests, strikes and public actions throughout the Gruevski period, from 2011 until 2016.
Because of that, the issue of corruption and pressure on the media became a political issue. Therefore, in 2015, so-called “government advertisements” were formally banned by the decision of the former prime minister.
In 2017, the new Social Democratic government promised to promote media freedom and advocate for legal changes that would outlaw bribing the media with money from the state budget. The ban is in 2017, and the legal changes were adopted in 2018. However, under the pressure of the media themselves, especially the big televisions, the current government will once again return public campaigns to the media.
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Zaev's inconsistent statements about advertising in private media with public money. Vistinomer. 2021.
Government "advertisements" are back in play. Prizma. 2022.