Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Public Service Media in a Digital Media Environment: Performance from an Audience Perspective

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Abstract:  For decades, public service broadcasting has played an important role in the provision of news and information in many European countries. Today, however, public service media (PSM) are confronted with numerous challenges, including the need to legitimise their role in an increasingly digital media environment. Against this background, this study examines the audience perspective on the topic with an international comparative approach. It analyses the population’s assessment of, and attitudes towards, the performance of PSM. The aim is to identify what relevance is attributed to PSM by the public in the digital age and how they see PSM’s role in comparison to other more recent (digital) media offerings. An online survey was conducted in three specifically selected countries: Germany, France, and the UK. Overall, the findings show that respondents attribute a clear role to PSM and distinguish it from other media offerings in the increasingly digital media environment. They rate the information quality offered by PSM as higher than that of most other media offerings. Respondents are more likely to value social media platforms for entertainment purposes than PSM. The findings also reveal differences in the evaluation of PSM depending on PSM news use, interest in news, political interest, as well as on demographic variables. On the other hand, differences between the individual countries overall were surprisingly small, pointing to the fact that PSM across the countries sampled are—with deviations—perceived to be performing better than (most) other media, despite being confronted with changes and challenges in their environment.

Keywords:  audience assessment; comparative research; digital transformation; media performance; online survey; public service media


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© Annika Sehl. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.