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Communist Media Economics and the Consumers The Case of the Print Media of East Central Europe

The Case of the Print Media of East Central Europe by Ágnes Gulyás, Cantenbury Christ Church

by Ágnes Gulyás, Cantenbury Christ Church University College, United Kingdom

Studies on economic aspects of the me- dia usually focus on countries and me- dia sectors which operate in some sort of market-led system, while economic analysis of alternative media systems is somewhat less served in the research literature. This article examines the fea- tures and development of a media sec- tor in communist system from an eco- nomic point of view and considers to what extent consumer perspectives were taken into account in communist media. The subject is arguably not only interesting from a historical but the point of view of the legacies of the former regime after the collapse of the system as they have had profound im- pact on the economics and manage- ment of the media in all former com- munist countries. The focus of the article is on the print media of three former communist countries, Czecho- slovakia, Hungary and Poland as case study for the analysis.

Functions and Control of Communist Media

Communist media is usually perceived to be distinctively different from other types of media systems. Characteristic features include specific functions of the media, certain forms of media con- trol and particular ways in which me- dia production and consumption were organised in communist societies. These specific features were rooted in the ideological underpinning and dis- tinct historical developments of com- munist societies.

McNair (1991, p9) draws attention in his study on the Soviet media to the fact that the two men who are usually con- sidered to be founding fathers of the communist system, Marx and Lenin were themselves journalists. Both men regarded the media as powerful institu- tions in society which could play an important role in a communist revolu- tion. Marx viewed the media as poten- tial devices with which the proletariat would overcome its isolation and create

a communist society (McNair, 1991,

p13). Similarly, Lenin gave the media an important role in the organisation of communist society. He believed that the media were ‘not only a collective pro- pagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organiser’.

However, as McNair, Sparks and others point out neither man developed pre- cise ideas about the workings and man- agement of the media (Sparks, 1998;

McNair, 1991). The distinctive features

of the communist media system devel-

oped mirroring the particular politi-

cal, economic and social conditions in Soviet Union and other communist states, and subsequently were modified

as historical changes proceeded during the 20th century.

It is generally viewed that the mass

media in communist societies were in- tegral parts of the power structure and

were used as means of control and pro- paganda. Criticism of the regime was not permitted. Media content was cen- sored and many times carried some edu-

cational message. The dominance of political and educational functions of the media also meant that consumer perspectives, entertainment and com- mercial roles were of less importance. Martin and Chaudhary (1983, p27) argue that sensationalism, crime news and human interest stories were disapproved of and neglected unless there was a les- son to be learned. It is ‘the party, not the audience, that determines content priorities, and the Communist parties are interested in entertainment only in- sofar as it serves as a sugar coating for the indoctrination pills’ (Martin and Chaudhary, 1983, p233).

Although Western literature usually perceived the media of all former com- munist states as having the same fea- tures and structures, there were sub- stantial differences between the countries as a result of dissimilar his- torical developments, cultural back- ground and traditions. Furthermore, the media sectors of former commu- nist countries were not static and were subject to changes as political, eco- nomic and social conditions altered during the decades of communism. The countries which are the subjects of this case study were in fact among those whose media went through con- siderable changes as a result of politi- cal uprisings and economic reforms.

The main features of the media did not change significantly between different phases, but the level of censorship and the importance of other than political functions of the media altered. These changes were important especially in Hungary and Poland, because the roles of the media shifted towards somewhat more entertainment by the 1980s. Rea- sons for the changes in the media in- cluded the 1956 revolution in Hungary, the 1968 reform movement in Czecho- slovakia, the political changes in Po- land in 1970 and in 1980-81, and eco- nomic reforms which were carried out with different emphasis and enforce- ment in Poland and Hungary from the late 1960s.

different emphasis and enforce- ment in Poland and Hungary from the late 1960s. 74 JMM –

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www.mediajournal.org Media control in communist countries varied in form, degree and perceptibil- ity. Media legislation

Media control in communist countries varied in form, degree and perceptibil- ity. Media legislation was usually not very elaborate. Several authors point out that media laws and regulations were incomplete and in some areas practically non-existent in communist countries (see for example, Gergely, 1997; Bozóki, 1995). The lack of compre- hensive media legislation was a way to exercise firmer control. Informal rules and administrative tools worked better to oversee the operation of the media, while on the surface the regimes re- tained a ‘cleaner’ image. Communist media legislation was usually vague, and rights and provisions often contra- dicted existing practices of media con- trol. For example, in none of the three countries was private ownership in the media banned explicitly, however, a governmental decree required a licence to print before launching a new title or a publishing house. This licence was is- sued by the communist authorities and only state institutions and social organisations were entitled to apply.

There were different forms of media control in the three East Central Euro- pean countries during the communist era including formal and informal, di- rect and indirect, visible and hidden. The specific forms of media control al- tered to an extent as a result of politi- cal, social and economic developments. Control of media content was a perma- nent feature of the regimes throughout the period, although the severity of cen- sorship varied.

From the mid 1970s underground me- dia sector emerged in many communist countries. The three East Central Euro- pean countries, but especially Poland, had among the largest and most buoy- ant unofficial media sectors during the last decades of the communist era. The role of underground media was signifi- cant because it provided an alternative source of information and forum for public discussion. Social scientists in the region referred to the arena the unofficial media created as a ‘second publicity’ or ‘parallel communications system’ (see, for example, Giorgi, 1995; Jakubowicz, 1990; Kováts, 1995; Skilling, 1989). Underground publications usu- ally covered subjects which were taboo in the official media world. However, they rarely provide daily news informa- tion and did not aim to cater for enter- tainment. Jakubowicz (1990, p340) estimates that 60 percent of Polish samizdat books dealt with social and political issues, 25 percent with histori- cal subjects and 15 percent with litera- ture.

As a result of the emphasised educa- tional and propaganda roles of the media not only political and informa- tion content was closely watched, but that of entertainment as well. The au- thorities were keen to protect the read- ers from the ‘filth’ of capitalism and capitalist consumer society. Thus, for example, publishers were restricted from publishing books in areas such as horror, occult or pornography and sen- sational content was limited in news-

papers and magazines. Kováts (in Giorgi et al, 1995, p20) estimates that in Hungary 17 percent of the total cir- culation of periodicals was dedicated to cultural and entertainment content in 1986, while 74 percent to general information and politics.

Further forms of media control in- cluded certain economic and opera- tional practices such as restricted access to production facilities and materials, central planning of production and dis- tribution, central control of prices and politically decided state subsidies. Am- biguity of ownership of many press titles also played a part in the supervi- sion over the sector (Jakab and Gálik, 1991; Jakab, 1989). The owner of a num- ber of periodicals was not the company which published it, but a political or social organisation which was suppos- edly the founder of the title although many times they had little to do with the actual production of it.

Economics of Communist Media

The economics of communist media was markedly different from that of market-led media. An economic model developed by János Kornai is applied here for a closer examination of the system. According to Kornai (1993) the main mechanism which dominates the economy in the communist system is bureaucratic coordination. This makes it distinctly different from other eco- nomic systems in which market coor-

Table 1: The input-output flow between social sectors in communist system – the role of bureaucratic and market coordination in Kornai’s theory

 

user sectors

 
   

1 households as the buyers of consumer goods and services

 

state-owned

formal

informal

2 households as the sellers of labour force

supplier sectors

companies

cooperatives

private sector

private sector

households 1

3 with bureaucratic intervention

state-owned companies B B B+M 0 B+M cooperatives B B B+M 0 B+M
state-owned companies
B
B
B+M
0
B+M
cooperatives
B
B
B+M
0
B+M

4 with bureaucratic intervention

Notes:

B

= bureaucratic coordination

formal private sector informal private sector households 2 allocation of investment resources
formal private sector
informal private sector
households 2
allocation of investment
resources
0 0 M 3 M M 4 0 0 M M M B+M B+M 0
0
0
M
3
M
M
4
0
0
M
M
M
B+M
B+M
0
M

M

= market coordination

0

= no transactions

The grey areas represent those, which are applicable

to media sectors. Modification of the theory is felt

needed in the darker shaded areas.

B
B
B
B
0
0
0
0
–

Source: based on Kornai, 1993, p132,Table 3.1.

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dination, ethical coordination, com- munity and family coordination play important/dominant roles in the op- eration of the economy. In the commu- nist system these other mechanisms are present, but their roles are far less significant than bureaucratic coordi- nation. Table 1 illustrates how Kornai sees the roles of bureaucratic and mar- ket coordination in the input-output flow between social sectors. 1

Private ownership was not allowed in media markets, thus formal private sector did not exist. Underground me- dia arguably could count as an infor- mal private sector. However, market forces did not play a dominant role in their case as the main aim of produc- tion was not financial gain. Hence be- side market mechanism community, ethical and social coordination could be added in the areas represented in darker grey shade in Table 1.

In most aspects of media management and economics bureaucratic coordina- tion and central control were dominant mechanisms. Communist authorities determined media production, distri- bution and market developments. This meant that market indexes such as costs and prices did not carry ‘real’ mar- ket information (Gálik et al, 1990, p282). Paper, printing and distribution capacities were rationed and their costs fixed by the authorities. 2 The allocation of resources was decided not on the ba- sis of economic performance of a given publishing house, but on its political position and the political importance of its products.

The relation between state-owned me- dia companies and cooperatives as sup- pliers and households as buyers was somewhat different as the transactions between them were determined by both bureaucratic and market forces. While advertising played an insignificant role, consumers did have to pay a price for media products. Although newspapers and magazines carried some advertise- ments these were mainly classified ads

Table 2: Short-term behaviour of companies in market-led and communist systems Source: based on Kornai, 1993,Table 12.1, p290.

 

Private company in market- led economic system

State-owned company in communist economic system

Interest; aims of production

Mainly to increase profit and survive in the market

Mainly the recognition of the authorities; most important criteria is to fulfil central orders and plans

Market entry and exit

Decided in the market; free entry; business failure leads to market exit

Bureaucracy decides about every entry and exit

Budget limits

Firm

Soft

Price sensitiveness

Strong

Weak

Price fixing

Price decided by the company, subject to market conditions

Price decided by the authorities, but the company can influence it

Demand

Uncertain for the company; depends on market conditions

Certain for the company

Supply

Wishes to sell as much as possible of its products; tends to oversup- ply and excess capacity

Does not wish to sell more than agreed in plan; no oversupply and excess capacity

Acquisitions of inputs

Restricted

Tends to oversubscribe

and revenues from advertising were not substantial in the finances of media companies. In Hungary, which country was probably the most relaxed in this respect, 10 percent of the revenues of national dailies came from advertising during the second part of the 1980s (Jakab, 1990, p263).

Consumer prices of media products were set centrally. Their costs were clas- sified as ‘fixed-price commodities’ and for political reasons they were kept low and did not reflect the ‘real’ costs of production and distribution. Books, newspapers and other periodicals were cheap relative both to wages and to other consumer products. Prices were low in order to make these products accessible to everyone so the political, social and cultural messages of the au- thorities were disseminated to the larg- est possible audience. The price policy differentiated between categories of media products prioritising education- ally and ideologically important areas. Thus, for example, textbooks and chil- dren books were much cheaper than other types of books.

As a result of distinctive features of communist media economics the op- eration and business pressures of com-

panies were markedly different from those in market-led media systems. Table 2 summarises the main differ- ences in short-term behaviour of com- panies in the two systems.

Table 2 illustrates that most aspects of business operation of companies were determined or influenced by the au- thorities in communist system. Gálik (1995, p3) lists parameters which were prescribed for media companies by the authorities: the amount of newsprint available, the average number of printed copies, the price of a copy, the highest possible proportion of unsold copies, the tariff of distribution per copy and the total amount of salaries. An important aspect of communist media economics was the central con- trol of the finances of companies. Me- dia firms financed their operation from the sales of their products and subsidies from the state.

Media production in general was not a lucrative business in communist East Central Europe. Milkovich (1981, p19) and Villányi (1985, p101) reckon that 90 percent of book titles in Hungary were published with different degree of state subsidies during the late 1970s and the 1980s. Communist authorities

of state subsidies during the late 1970s and the 1980s. Communist authorities 76 JMM – Vol.

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www.mediajournal.org provided substantial financial support to media businesses, however, at the same time they removed

provided substantial financial support to media businesses, however, at the same time they removed any ‘profits’. The finances of whole industries were organised in a redistribution system where financially successful firms cross-subsidised loss-making compa- nies. Cross-subsidising also worked within companies, whereby losses of titles were covered with surplus of other titles. The system ensured that the finances of media companies were secured and firms did not have to worry about market risk, profit or bankruptcy. As financial security was provided, there were no real incentives for companies to be profitable or im- prove their financial performance. Communist media companies did not have to deal with related business ac- tivities such as marketing, promotion or distribution. In the book sectors, for example, there was a national whole- saler which took care of delivery, stock- ing and selling of books while publish- ing houses did not have to organise those aspects of the business.

Although bureaucratic coordination was the main mechanism it would be

a mistake to assume that media com-

panies were completely impotent organisations. They could in fact influ-

ence the success of the firm to an ex- tent ( both on paper and in terms of workload and work satisfaction for the employees ( its prestige and long-term development. The most important fac- tor in this was the ability of managers in bargaining. To receive paper and printing allocations from the authori- ties was one thing the amount and quality of these depended on the bar- gaining position of the company. To improve their bargaining position

companies often did not tell the entire truth to the authorities about their ca- pacities, input or resource require- ments (Kornai, 1993; Villányi, 1985). Many of the firms tended to paint a somewhat bleaker picture about their finances, and did everything to achieve

a production level which was neither

too low nor too high for the plans. 3

Structure and Development of Communist Print Media

The main structural features of com- munist media markets included high levels of concentration, limited compe- tition, state ownership, lack of vertical integration and central planning of market entry. These structural features were used as control mechanisms over the media. An interesting structural feature of communist media markets was the lack of vertical integration. Publishing houses, for example, were not permitted to own printing facilities or distribution networks.

Communist media markets were highly concentrated which was a result of bureaucratic coordination and had little to do with market competition and forces. Media production and dis- tribution were carried out by huge state-owned companies which enjoyed a monopoly in their field. This made political and financial control easier and more effective. In Poland, for ex- ample, a giant concern RWS Prasa- Ksiazka-Ruch (Robotnicza Spóldzielnia Wydawnicza Prasa-Ksiazka-Ruch; The Workers’ Publishing Cooperative Press- Book-Movement) dominated the print media sectors throughout the commu- nist era. In 1988 the concern published 74.6 percent of the newspaper titles 4 and 51.5 percent of the weekly titles, while giving 85.2 percent of the total circulation of newspapers and 70.1 per- cent of weeklies (Polish Publishing in Figures, 1990).

In Czechoslovakia print media compa- nies and markets were controlled sepa- rately in the Czech lands and Slovakia. In the former there were a few state- owned firms which dominated press and periodical publishing. The largest publishing house was Rudé Právo which published – among others – half of the total circulation of national dai- lies and most of the regional press dur- ing the 1970s and 1980s (Giorgi et al,

1995). In Hungary, four large state- owned companies dominated press and periodical publishing. These were Hírlapkiadó, Pallas, the Communist Party’s publishing house, Ifjusági, the Communist Youth Association’s pub- lishing house and Népszava, the Work- ers’ Union’s publishing house. During the second part of the 1980s the four companies together published all daily newspapers, 96 percent of the week- lies, 77.9 percent of the monthlies (Jakab and Gálik, 1991) and 65 percent of all periodicals with 96 percent of total circulation (Giorgi et al, 1995, p19). There was no competition be- tween the four publishing houses as each specialised in certain sectors.

Communist media markets were not only concentrated but segmented as well which further limited competi- tion between companies and media products. In magazine publishing, for example, most titles targeted specific groups such as youth groups, women, pensioners, certain industrial groups and the like and there was no other titles with similar target audience. Similarly in the book markets publish- ing houses were specialised: there was, for example, one publisher for children books, one for medical books, one for contemporary literature, one for text- books and so on. In the national daily newspaper markets the title of the Communist Party dominated. In the Czech lands Rudé Právo (Red Light), in Hungary Népszabadság (People’s Free- dom) and in Poland Trybuna Ludu (People’s Tribune) were the leading newspapers throughout the commu- nist period. 5 They were the most influ- ential newspapers with far the highest circulation figures. Apart from the or- gan of the Communist Party there was a national daily of the government, one owned by the National Front, one by the Trade Union and a few other major social organisations. In the regional press markets there was one title for each county which was controlled by the regional committees of the Com- munist Party. 6

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Figure 1: Number of press titles in communist East Central Europe 3500 3000 2500 2000
Figure 1: Number of press titles in communist East Central Europe 3500 3000 2500 2000
Figure 1: Number of press titles in communist East Central Europe 3500 3000 2500 2000
Figure 1: Number of press titles in communist East Central Europe 3500 3000 2500 2000
Figure 1: Number of press titles in communist East Central Europe 3500 3000 2500 2000

Figure 1: Number of press titles in communist East Central Europe

3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 Sources: various including Goban-Klas, 1994; Statistical yearbook, United
3500
3000
2500
2000
1500
1000
500
Sources: various including Goban-Klas, 1994;
Statistical yearbook, United Nations, 1990; Polish
Statistical Office as quoted in: Lojek et al, 1988;
Polish Publishing in Figures, XXXV: 1989; Statisztikai
Évkönyv, 1991; Kókay et al, 1991; Szecskö and
Fodor, 1973; Federálni Statistick_ Vrad, Historiská
Statisticka Rocenka CSSR, 1985; Statistická Rocenka
Ceskoslovenské Socialistické Republiky 1989.
0
1950 1955
1960
1965
1970
1975
1980
1983
1988
Poland
Czech lands
Hungary

Hungary

Hungary

Figure 2: Circulation of press titles in communist East Central Europe (million)

Note: a circulation figure is a total (global) year circulation of all press titles. 4000
Note: a circulation figure is a total (global) year circulation of all press titles.
4000
3000
2000
1000
Sources: various including Goban-Klas, 1994;
Statistical yearbook, United Nations, 1990; Polish
Statistical Office as quoted in: Lojek et al, 1988;
Polish Publishing in Figures, XXXV: 1989; Statisztikai
Évkönyv, 1991; Kókay et al, 1991; Szecskö and
Fodor, 1973; Federálni Statistick_ Vrad, Historiská
Statisticka Rocenka CSSR, 1985; Statistická Rocenka
Ceskoslovenské Socialistické Republiky 1989.
0
1950 1955
1960
1965
1970
1975
1980
1983
1988
Poland
Hungary
Czech lands

Figure 3: Circulation of daily/weekly/monthly titles in Hungary (million)

1600 Source: KSH, Statisztikai Évkönyv, 1996. 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 1951
1600
Source: KSH, Statisztikai Évkönyv, 1996.
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
1951
1955
1960
1965
1970
1975
1980
1983
1988
dailies
weeklies
monthlies

Figure 4: Book Title output in communist East Central Europe

14000 12000 10000 Sources: various including Bieñkowska et al, 1990; Zöld, 1987; Simek and Dewetter,
14000
12000
10000
Sources: various including Bieñkowska et al, 1990;
Zöld, 1987; Simek and Dewetter, 1986; KSH, 1991;
Statistická Rocenka Ceskoslovenské Socialistické
Republiky 1989.
8000
6000
4000
2000
0
1950
1955
1960
1970
1975
1980
1982
1985
1988
Czech lands
Hungary
Poland
1975 1980 1982 1985 1988 Czech lands Hungary Poland Figure 5: Number of published book copies

Figure 5: Number of published book copies in communist East Central Europe

300000 250000 200000 150000 100000 50000 0 1950 1955 1960 1970 1975 1980 1982 1985
300000
250000
200000
150000
100000
50000
0
1950
1955
1960
1970
1975
1980
1982
1985
1988
Czech lands
Hungary
Poland
1955 1960 1970 1975 1980 1982 1985 1988 Czech lands Hungary Poland 78 JMM – Vol.

www.mediajournal.org

www.mediajournal.org The performance and development of media markets in former communist countries reflected the

The performance and development of media markets in former communist countries reflected the characteristics

of communist media economics, struc-

tures of the markets and the specific functions of the media. Figure 1 and 2 illustrate the development of the press sectors in the three East Central Euro- pean countries during the communist era.

In Hungary and Poland the number of press titles increased during the period especially in the 1980s. In the Czech lands the number of press titles re- mained at roughly similar levels be- tween the 1960s and the late 1980s.

Circulation of press titles increased in each of the three cases during the pe- riod, however there were differences between the countries. In Poland there was a sharp increase in circulation fig- ures during the second part of the 1960s, while in Hungary and the Czech lands the growth was more gradual. In all three countries the increase for the whole period was quite substantial. Reasons for the differences between the three countries in aspects of press production included their specific po- litical and economic developments, particular media policies of the com- munist authorities and variations of communist media system.

A general feature of communist press

sectors was the overemphasised role of national daily newspapers. Figure 3 il-

lustrates the development of different press titles in Hungary in relation to each other. The overemphasised role of daily newspapers was maintained throughout the period.

Similar to the press sectors, the book markets of the three countries ex- panded considerably during the de- cades of communist era. Figure 4 and 5 illustrate the development of the book markets. The number of published book titles increased in Poland and Hungary during the 1970s, but de- creased during the second part of the

1980s as a result of economic and po- litical changes. In the Czech lands the number of book titles remained at comparable levels between the 1960s and the late 1980s.

The number of published book copies fluctuated more (see Figure 5). In the Czech lands book copies increased gradually after a slump during the sec- ond part of the 1950s. In Poland follow- ing a drop in the early 1960s the num- ber of published book copies grew considerably especially during the 1980s. In Hungary book copies in- creased continuously and expanded particularly during the 1970s. The ex- pansion, however, stopped by the mid 1980s probably as a result of general economic problems in the country.

The expansion of print media sectors in the three countries was secured by gen- eral economic development of the com- munist era as a whole, increasing living standards, specific features of the com- munist media system, relatively high levels of subsidies and a strong press and book culture. The development of print media sectors was determined by central plans and increase in produc- tion was subsidised by the state. In fact state supports were important factors in the rate of growth. The size of subsi- dies varied during the period in the

three countries depending on prevail- ing ideological pressures and particular political and economic situations.

Changes in media consumption and consumer trends were not always com- parable with patterns of support in communist media and cultural poli- cies. The prioritisation of certain politi- cal titles in circulation figures on the part of the authorities did not corre- spond to similar interest from the population in many cases. Kováts, for example, found that in the mid-1980s the over-prioritised communist daily Népszabadság in Hungary was read by one third of the population, while re- gional newspapers on average by 50 percent and the women’s weekly Nök Lapja by 34 percent (Giorgi et al, 1995, p21). Table 3 illustrates the changes in consumption of different media forms in communist Hungary. It is noticeable that television viewing increased con- siderably from the 1960s to the 1980s and the only media form which lost in popularity was cinema. 7

Summary

The article discussed features of com- munist media economics and in gen- eral the characteristics of communist media system. The print media of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland

Table 3: Media consumption in communist Hungary

Source: based on Köpeczi, 1986.

media form

media consumption – % of population older than 10 years of age

 

1964

1981

television viewing

65

94

radio listening

88

94

newspaper readership

80

87

periodicals readership

70

76

book readership

56

65

cinema

69

38

theatre

36

24

concert

5

11

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during the communist era were used as case study for the analysis. It was argued that the media had emphasised political and educational functions during the communist era and that bureaucratic coordination played a de- cisive role in the production and opera- tion of media sectors. It was shown that the authorities closely controlled me- dia production and operation by vari- ous formal and informal methods. Me- dia companies in communist societies did not have to respond to consumer trends as in market-led systems. Al- though consumer demands could not be completely ignored, they were mainly followed if they fitted with the political and cultural policies of the authorities.

Specific structural features of media markets which included high level of concentration, limited competition, state ownership, lack of vertical inte- gration and central planning of market entries were examined. The perfor- mance and development of communist print media in the three East Central European countries were discussed and it was argued that central plan- ning rather than consumer trends played significant role in the expan- sion of many media sectors during the communist era. It was also emphasised that the media systems of the three countries were not static and there were some shifts in media operation and production.

Notes

1 Although state-owned companies and coopera- tives dominated the economies of communist countries some sort of private sector did exist. The importance of the private sector varied from country to country and from period to period during the communist era. Hungary and Poland were characterised by relatively large and active private sectors by the mid 1980s, which were also referred to as the countries’ second economy. Kornai distinguishes between formal and infor- mal private sectors. By the latter one he means

the production of goods or services by individu- als for another for money or payment in kind such as private medical services, translating, typewriting, cleaning or transportation services (Kornai, 1993, p116).

2 There were some changes in the extent of which prices were fixed. In Hungary, for example, as a result of economic reforms certain prices were partly ‘freed’ during the 1970s and 1980s. Fixed prices for printing was abolished in 1979, which created some space for financial manoeuvres for the companies involved.

3 Kornai refers to this economic behaviour as ‘ratchet-effect’, which means that as a result of the built-in mechanisms of the communist eco- nomic and political system the central plan could only be fulfilled, and the next plan could only be increased (Kornai, 1993).

4 Polish statistics define newspaper as a periodi- cal published 2-6 times a week.

5 Circulation of Rudé Právo was 900,000 during the early 1980s, that of Népszabadság 750,000, and that of Trybuna Ludu around 1 million (Lendvai, 1981). In 1988 Rude Pravo had a circu- lation of 1,132,000, followed by Svobodneí Slovo with half million circulation and Zemedelskeí Noviny with 385 000 copies (Giorgi et al, 1995). In Hungary Népszabadság was published 720- 750 thousands copies during the second part of the 1980s, while the second largest daily Népszava had a circulation between 300-350 thousands.

6 Communist daily newspaper markets did not have popular titles similar to those which domi- nated Western markets mainly because of the different roles of the media. The closest thing to a popular press in the three countries during the communist era were evening papers such as the Esti Hirlap in Hungary, Vecerni Praha in Czecho- slovakia and Kurier Polski in Poland. The content of these titles was similar to other dailies, how- ever the articles were shorter and they contained more human interest stories. East Central Euro- peans could also try to ‘escape’ the official press line by reading a sports daily, which was pub- lished in each of the three countries. The devel- opment of these titles, however, was closely con- trolled and their circulation was not allowed to surpass any major title.

7 The numbers of cinema goers decreased in the Western world as well. The reasons, in both worlds, were the popularity of television, social changes and changes in the media industries.

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About the Author

ÁgnesÁgnesÁgnesÁgnesÁgnes GulyásGulyásGulyásGulyásGulyás (a.gulyas@cant.ac.uk) is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Canterbury Christ Church Univer- sity College, Canterbury, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on media economics, globalisation, international communication, communist and post-communist media.