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Public Service Media and Audiences

Learn more about public service media and audiences.
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© University of East Anglia

In recent years, public media organisations have experienced shortfalls in fulfilling their ‘universal’ service as some younger audiences begin to doubt their relevance in the digital age.

One of PSMs biggest challenges is reaching young audiences as they turn away from public media towards alternative online entertainment services.

According to a report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ, 2019), which analysed the relationship between public service media news and audiences across eight European countries, they found that “the audience for public service news is old, educated, and politically diverse.”

The graphs below illustrate the main news sources used by people under-25 in six out of eight case study countries both online and offline in a single week.

News sources information

Source: RISJ, 2019

Young people in particular are turning away from PSM news as they increasingly rely on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube for sourcing news, despite social media not being news providers:

“Facebook is more widely named by young audiences as a source of online news than public service media in seven of the eight countries covered, and YouTube in six of eight countries covered.”

This is a worrying trend given the ability for misinformation and disinformation to spread more widely on these platforms. In 2018, BBC News conducted research into the spread of disinformation via Facebook and WhatsApp in India, which revealed that a mix of digital media literacy, identity and a need to be seen as credible were all reasons why “fake news” spreads easily on these platforms.

In short, the lack of verification taking place across these platforms should act as a wakeup call for PSM and other trusted news outlets on how best to either work with social media platforms to combat “fake news” or improve their presence as a clear source of trusted content on these networks.

Additional reading:


Schulz, A., Levy, D. and Nielsen, R., 2019. Old, Educated, And Politically Diverse: The Audience Of Public Service News. [online] Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Available at: [Accessed 22 October 2020]. Full report.

Public service media are struggling to reach younger, less educated audiences and risk “decline and ultimately irrelevance” (RISJ, 2019) – key conclusions

© University of East Anglia
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