Publication Date: May 2024
Link: Final Report
Uncovering news deserts in Europe

Uncovering news deserts in Europe

Local Media for Democracy is a multidisciplinary research project aimed at assessing the state of play for local and community media in Europe, identifying news deserts in the areas and/or communities where these outlets are at high risk of experiencing challenges in the dissemination of diverse and quality information. An additional aim of this study is identifying which are the relevant dimensions for studying the phenomenon of news deserts in a European context, and offering examples of best practices in the organisation and innovation of local newsrooms throughout Europe. It entails a holistic approach towards the concept of news desert, interpreting it as an area that is lacking sufficient, reliable and diverse information from trustworthy media sources. Looking at the existence of local media and local journalists on the ground, the situation for news services in rural areas is increasingly problematic, due to both issues related to distribution and a decreasing number of points of sale, as well as to the digital shift coupled with an ageing rural population. Newsrooms and journalists are increasingly centralised in the main regional cities, while public service media, that are often entrusted with covering the entire national territory, has proven to be crucial in guaranteeing an adequate coverage of local areas, both geographically, and in terms of offering services in minority languages.


The main method used was the collection of data and information on a country basis through the answering of a structured questionnaire by the researchers. The questionnaire consists of 55 questions (variables) of legal, economic and socio-political nature, clustered into 6 indicators.

  • Granularity of the infrastructure of local media.
  • Market and reach.
  • Safety of local journalists.
  • Editorial independence.
  • Social inclusiveness.
  • Best practices and open public sphere.

Key findings

Most pressing issue concerns the intertwining of decreasing advertising revenues and a biased allocation of state advertising and subsidies to local media. Rapid digital transition paired with the unwillingness of the audience to pay for news i salso putting a strain on local media development and accessibility. Looking at the safety of local journalists, unsatisfactory working conditions are stressed, especially for freelancers and self-employed journalists, with online attacks particularly on the rise. Social inclusiveness appears to be problematic with regard to the coverage of marginalised groups, such as women, the LGBT+ community, the elderly, and people with disabilities, which are often underrepresented in news coverage.


The conclusions of this study are accompanied by recommendations for improvement in each specific cluster area, and addressed to key stakeholders: EU, Member States and local public authorities; journalistic organisations, journalists and newsrooms; representatives of academia; other stakeholders (depending on the addressed issue).


A recognized urgent issue to be addressed relates to the lack of data related to the economic and financial information for both local and community media, as well as locally focused audience measurements and more detailed research on trust, audience perspectives, perceptions and engagement within local media markets.


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