‘Countries with strong public service media have less rightwing extremism’


EBU report finds countries that have popular public broadcasters also have better voter turnout and press freedom

Countries that have popular, well-funded public service broadcasters encounter less rightwing extremism and corruption and have more press freedom, a report from the European Broadcasting Union has found.

For the first time, an analysis has been done of the contribution of public service media, such as the BBC, to democracy and society.

Following Brexit and the rise in rightwing extremism across Europe, the report shows the impact strong publicly funded television and radio has had on voter turnout, control of corruption and press freedom.

The report says that in “countries where public service media funding … is higher there tends to be more press freedom” and where they have a higher market share “there also tends to be a higher voter turnout”. It also says there is a strong correlation between how much of a country’s market its public service broadcaster has and the “demand for rightwing extremism” and “control of corruption”.

“These correlations are especially interesting given the current public debates about low participation in elections, corruption and the rise of far right politics across Europe,” said EBU head of media intelligence service Roberto Suárez Candel, who conducted the research.

“A strong and well funded public service media is not only about providing people with news, documentaries and entertainment – it’s also about contributing to democracy. While we can’t say that strong public TV and radio directly leads to greater democracy and less corruption, we have been able to show, for the first time, how these factors are connected.”

He told The Guardian: “One of the core functions of public service media is to deliver news, which is supposed to be independent. If they have appropriate resources they can invest in journalism and provide more quality news and the audience will trust them more.”

Other research carried out by the EBU’s media intelligence service also revealed that radio is the most trusted medium in the UK and across most of Europe.

Analysing data across 33 countries, 55% of European citizens trust radio the most, 48% trust TV, with the internet and social media less trusted in most countries, including Britain, than other sources.

“It doesn’t surprise us that TV and radio are the most trusted media sources”, said Suárez Candel. “People maintain a strong relationship with radio and TV, which are still their primary sources of information and entertainment. It is also not surprising that in countries with a high level of funding for public service TV and radio there tends to be more trust in the media in general – they produce good quality content and provide valuable information for society.”

The EBU is an alliance of 73 European broadcasters whose members include the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.


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