Skip to content
European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

News deserts on the rise: study shows a fragile situation for local media

A comparative study on local media in Europe reveals an alarming decline in the number of local journalists and an expansion of geographic areas where accessing independent information relevant to residents is no longer feasible.

29 February 2024 | Publication - Video

"News deserts are areas where information on news and current affairs is lacking both in terms of quantity and quality (...) Understanding and tackling them is important because they threaten cultural, social, and political diversity, as well as civic participation", explains Sofia Verza.

Her work in the past year at the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom has focused on detecting, together with a network of researchers spanning all the 27 EU member states, the most pressing issues threatening the sustainability of local, regional, and community media.

Such media are key to empowering citizens to grasp and exercise their rights in the communities where they live, yet they are understudied. The pandemic, digital transformation, different economic crises, and changes in news consumption attitudes have altered these no longer robust media ecosystems to the extent that, today, the very existence of local media has become uncertain in many parts of the European Union.

Research results point out that the most pressing issues concern the intertwining of decreasing revenues and biased distribution of state advertising and subsidies to local media. Another urgent concern is the political control exerted via direct and/or indirect ownership of local media, a matter particularly prevalent in Central and Southern European member states.

On the other hand, the decline in the number of local journalists -which is widespread across the EU- largely stems from the growing tendency of centralising newsrooms in the main cities and the prevalence of desk journalism. Unsatisfactory working conditions for local journalists (especially for freelancers) and more online attacks are reported too.

The overall objective of this 'Local Media for Democracy' project is to revive a pluralistic local media landscape by improving local media knowledge and providing quality and comprehensive data so that policy-makers can develop relevant and useful media policies to support them. To this end, the team has built an interactive map with the main results for each country.

The full report can be accessed here.

Last update: 29 February 2024

Go back to top of the page