Local Media for Democracy project

The Local Media for Democracy project, funded by the European Commission, aims at supporting local, regional and community media in emerging ‘news deserts’ in Europe.

The final report ‘Uncovering news deserts in Europe. Risks and opportunities for local and community media in the EU’ is now available! The report provides an analysis of the status of local and community media across the 27 EU member states, signaling the existence or potential emergence of ‘news deserts’.

The existence of a vibrant and independent local media ecosystem that serves the public interest of its local communities is a cornerstone for our democratic societies.

Local, regional and community media are the key to empowering citizens to grasp and exercise their rights in the communities where they live, and they are better placed to gain the trust of their native audience and confront disinformation and misinformation. The robustness of these media ecosystems also serves as a meaningful indicator of media capture, a growing and most worrying phenomenon in Europe.

Today, however, the very existence of local, regional and community media has become uncertain in many areas of the European Union.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) with a consortium of partners, the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF), International Media Support (IMS) and Journalismfund.eu is launching the project “Local Media for Democracy” to help struggling local, regional and community media in the news desert areas in Europe by providing financial support and organisational capacity building.

The project started on 1 February 2023 and will develop over a period of 18 months. 

The overall objective of the project is to revive the local media landscape with measures to build resilience, independence, and sustainability by improving their capacity in innovation, business strategies, and audience engagement. Ultimately, it will contribute to building an enabling environment where a pluralistic and independent media landscape can thrive.

The project has four specific objectives: 1) to improve the knowledge base of the regional, local and community news media in the EU; 2) to provide quality and comprehensive data so that policy-makers make relevant and useful media policies to support regional, local and community news media, especially those in dire need area, e.g. news deserts; 3) to provide support (both financial and technical support) to improve startup, local and regional media’s capacity to reach underserved communities and audiences with new products and services; and 4) to help local, regional and community news media build resilience and independence.

These objectives will be achieved with two main activities: 

1) A comprehensive research and mapping of news deserts in the 27 EU Member States. The mapping will be carried out by the CMPF with the aim of defining and identifying existing and emerging news deserts in Europe, highlighting both challenges and good practices, as well as developing policy recommendations for media stakeholders and national and European policy-makers.  

2) A Media Funding Scheme will provide direct financial support and technical assistance targeting local, regional and community news media or initiatives in EU 27 Member States, especially those operating in areas defined as “news deserts” by the mapping. This action is expected to improve the operating capacity of the target media and initiatives (a total of ±30 grantees) to enable them to better serve their community with quality journalism. 

Local Media for Democracy grant programme

Applications for the Local Media for Democracy grant programme are now closed. Discover the media outlets and freelance journalists who were recipients of the grants from both the first and second rounds.

The grant programme will provide support to local, regional and community media who are struggling to serve the public interest in the so-called “news deserts” areas in Europe

These news deserts can be a geographic or administrative area, or a social community, where it is difficult or impossible to access reliable, diverse and independent local, regional and community media. In other words, news deserts can emerge not only where there are no media outlets, but also where there are newsrooms captured by economic, political or other interests. Read here our definition of “news deserts” for the scope of this project.

The media selected for this scheme will also receive technical and strategic mentorship support from media experts to improve journalism innovation, organisational capacity and business sustainability, managed by International Media Support (IMS).

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