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Public broadcasters struggling to attract younger audiences, report says

The Reuters Institute comparison of eight public broadcasters found that Yle was most trusted by the audience it serves.

toimittaja pitelee mikrofonia
Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

European public broadcasters face an uphill battle against social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube which have caught the attention of younger news consumers, according to a review of eight European broadcasters published Tuesday by the Reuters Institute.

The public media assessment examined the reach of offline and online content, efforts to reach audiences under the age of 25, the reach broadcasters have among those with limited education, trust among audiences with diverse political views as well as trust in public media among people with populist and non-populist views.

Several of the eight public broadcasters reported declining younger audiences over the past three years. At the beginning of this year, some 27 percent of Finnish residents under the age of 25 consumed news from Yle on a weekly basis.

Yle editor-in-chief Jouko Jokinen said the company had created a network focused on creating news content specifically for younger audiences.

Meanwhile, Yle and other broadcasters are increasingly competing with a broad and ever-growing variety of digital news channels.

"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," a press release on the report stated.

"The main challenges facing public service media (PSM) today are clear. In addition to (1) competing with private sector peers for audiences, PSMs also (2) have to contend with platform companies who account for a large share of people’s media use, even as (3) political and social upheaval in many countries complicates the ambition to provide a shared, widely trusted, universal service," the report's introduction read.

Yle trusted by domestic audiences

The Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yle, was the public broadcaster most trusted by the audience it serves, the report found.

Apart from Finland, the national broadcasters that took part in the survey include Germany (ARD), United Kingdom (BBC), Czech Republic (Český rozhlas), Spain (RTVE), Italy (RAI), France (France TV/Radio France) and Greece (EPT).

Yle was found to have offered the most balanced news content in relation to viewers', listeners' and readers' political leanings, according to the report.

Yle was also found to be the most trusted. On the survey's trustworthiness scale of 1-10, Yle ranked 7.77.

Around 2,000 people from each of the participating countries took part in the survey, which was carried out earlier this year.

The report - Old, Educated, and Politically Diverse: The Audience of Public Service News - was published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and received support from Yle, the sole public broadcaster noted to have been involved in the effort.

However, the report's authors said the "data collection, analysis, and presentation have been conducted independently by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism."

The institute also noted the report's creators received comments and suggestions from Atte Jääskeläinen, Yle's former editor-in-chief.

Jääskeläinen resigned from the company in 2017, after a months-long discussion about Yle's independence, following controversial decisions over how to cover the Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's family links with a sub-contractor of a state-owned mining firm.

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