According to a report by the Council of Europe for the book sector in Albania, theatrical, musical and cinema performances have practically come to a standstill in recent years and specific government help is needed. As a result, the main media for the dissemination of information and culture are radio, television, books and magazines. The growing number of satellite dishes in Albanian towns makes television to be by far the leading medium.
Today, there are 28 daily newspapers, but their individual circulation ranges from 500 to 20 000 copies. While the number of newspapers has doubled over the last five years, their total circulation has fallen by around 30%. The newest daily, “Shqip”, which was launched in March 2006, is actually the biggest. “Shqip” is an affiliate of the country’s biggest media group, Top Media, which controls the leading Top Channel TV, Top Albania Radio and Digitalb platform for satellite and terrestrial digital paid programmes.
Experts say that the crisis in the printed media market is due to newspaper editorial policies. In recent years, many big business companies have invested in this market, but they have tried to use the power of their media to put pressure on, or even blackmail the government. Other media have been explicitly backing the government. There is a growing concern in society that the media is being abused by their owners, often suspected to have links with the underworld, in their power games. As a result, more Albanians abstain from reading daily papers. Publishers may offer prices as low as 10 ALL (0.08 EUR) per paper, which is half of the lowest price applied to any paper in 2000, or may offer the paper plus a music CD for 100 ALL (0.8 EUR) or 200 ALL (1.6 EUR) for the paper plus a bestselling book. Nevertheless, sales continue to fall and more readers prefer to read any paper offered for free from their favourite coffee bar!
The situation with regard to book reading is little different. Readership figures are generally low and even the leading best sellers sell fewer than 2 000 copies over a two-three year period (according to publisher’s statements). Various interviews on this subject produced the following responses:
- in relation to average income, books are expensive; the average price of a book is approximately equal to an average day’s pay (500 ALL);
- older people read more than the young, who read very little or not at all;
- dedicated readers prefer more traditional narrative material, especially from the 19th century; and
- the events of 1997 have had a negative effect on library lending.
All the interviewees emphasised that until the 1990s, reading was the predominant cultural activity and had no competition from other media. This explains both the age range and the preferences of dedicated readers. Nowadays the purchase of books is held back for economic reasons, even for this readership group, while, at the same time, public access to books is hampered by the terrible state of the libraries around the country, many of which were damaged during the crisis of 1997.
Recent reports from the Book Publishers’ Association show a slight increase in book sales, mainly during book fairs. The book fairs may be considered as the “new fashion” in the book sector in Albania. At the end of October 2006, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture organised a three-day book fair, offering free exhibition space for all Albanian publishers and free admission for all visitors. The following week, the Book Publishers’ Association organised its privately managed book fair.
To date there have been no surveys and thus, there is no statistical data regarding the participation of national minority or immigrant groups in cultural life.