Local Media for Democracy – methodology

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The project’s methodology

Local Media for Democracy (LM4D) 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 for a smooth dissemination of diverse and quality information.  

One of the final aims of this study is outlining which are the relevant dimensions for studying the phenomenon of news deserts in a European context, while informing about local and community media outlets and journalists in the EU countries, and offering examples of best practices in the management and innovation of local newsrooms throughout Europe. 

The theoretical part of the project, concerning the main definitions used across the research, such as ‘news deserts’, ‘local media’ and ‘community media’ applied to the European Union context, has been developed through bibliographical and desk research (please see the Glossary). It moves from the concept of ‘news deserts’ formulated by Anglo Saxon authors, and then contrast this concept to the actual situation of local and community media in the European Union to finally build a ‘news deserts’ definition that is context based.

For the mapping of ‘news deserts’ in the European Union, LM4D counts on the collaboration of country-based researchers who analyse the situation of local and community media in their respective countries, indicating the level of risk for local and community media outlets, and consequently signalling the existence or potential emergence of ‘news deserts’ across the 27 EU member states. For this part of the research, the main method used is the collection of data and information on a country basis through the answering of a structured questionnaire by the researchers (please see the Questionnaire).  

The questionnaire consists of 55 questions (variables) of legal, economic and socio-political nature, clustered into 6 indicators. It is built in a way that allows for the gathering of both quantitative and qualitative data, and for a cross-comparative analyses between EU member states. The data gathered with the questionnaire will be reviewed by CMPF researchers and will be compiled in the form of a final report divided into country sections.

The questionnaire is composed by 12 contextual variables, to be considered as independent variables for the purpose of this research (please see the Methodology). They cover general questions about the country size, population, general state of play in the local and community media sector. No risk score is associated to these questions.  

Following the above-mentioned section, the questionnaire is composed by 6 indicators aimed at evaluating the risks for local and community media, in the countries under study. These indicators are: 

  • Granularity of the infrastructure of local media: This indicator assesses the presence and offer of local and community media services in a country, as well as of local journalists. It is composed of 6 variables.  
  • Market and reach: This indicator assess the economic conditions, the viability and sustainability for local and community media in the country. It investigates revenues, supply distribution levels, subsidies, state advertising and market shares. It is composed of 13 variables. 
  • Safety of local journalists: This indicator assesses the situation for local journalists when it comes to their working and physical safety, also assessing the presence of SLAPPs or other forms of harassment. It is composed of 6 variables. 
  • Editorial independence: This indicator assesses the independence of local and media from political and commercial pressures. It investigates the risks of conflict of interest, the fairness and transparency in the allocation of state subsidies and state advertising, the diversity of news content, to name a few. It is composed of 8 variables. 
  • Social inclusiveness: This indicator assesses the extent and quality of news offered for and about minorities and marginalised communities, and whether local and community media meet the critical information needs of community they serve, and if they offer public interest news. It is composed of   7 variables. 
  • Best practices and open public sphere: this indicator assesses the actual existence of innovative practice for enhancing an open and thriving public sphere in specific communities, not only by professional media services but also, for example, through citizens’ initiatives and social media (“other media actors”, see the Glossary attached). It is composed of 2 variables, and the levels of risk for this indicator are coded differently (see the following paragraph).  

Country teams

Hover over the map to discover the researchers who contributed to the study in each country