COVID-19 Crisis and PSM: EBU-MIS publishes overview of audience performance and best practices

posted on 25 March, 2020   (public)

The more dramatic the crisis becomes, the more citizens turn to PSM

On 23 March 2020, the Media Intelligence Service, the research branch of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), published an overview of the impact of coronavirus COVID-19 disease on the audience of Public Service Media and how PSM are responding to the challenge of keeping citizens informed as the crisis unfolds.

Key findings in terms of audience include:

  • PSM TV evening news audience: in the most affected markets, the reach of PSM evening news went as far as doubling during peak days of  the COVID-19 crisis; worth noting also is that the daily viewing of young citizens increased of 20% on average. Figures show that the more dramatic the crisis becomes, the more citizens turn to PSM.
  • PSM online news audience: the PSM daily reach of online news websites also went up considerably: the more dramatic the crisis becomes, the more citizens turn to trusted content.

The report also presents a non-exhaustive summary of the measures that PSM have taken to react to the challenges of the pandemic by modifying their programmes and offers. The report highlights best practice examples of how some EBU members have fulfilled the traditional range of public service missions - inform, educate entertain - and also how they provided support which is particularly relevant in times of crisis.

  • Inform: examples include increasing the number of news broadcasts, providing prime-time special broadcasts, fighting misinformation, giving airtime to government declarations/press conferences, broadcasting medical advice from experts, dedicated talk shows or Covid-19 podcasts.
  • Educate: examples include increasing children and educational programming hours, spreading educational content throughout TV, radio, online platforms and social media, cooperating with education authorities or teachers' unions to provide remote schooling material, developing content helping parents to teach at home.
  • Entertain: examples include using archives to distract audiences, inviting artists to come up with new recordings. In Italy, RAI launched a new TV sports channel with archived sports events on air from midday to midnight every day.
  • Support: examples include stimulating local help across people in a community in times of confinement and quarantine or supporting creatives severely put at risk due to shrinking incomes. German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF, announced they would step in for fifty percent of the crisis-caused extra costs of production companies working on commissioned productions.

The report, prepared within a very short timeframe, focuses on news and is based on desk research and data provided by 18 PSM organisations in the following 17 countries:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

A further report with additional insights is announced for the coming weeks.

Source: EBU