Research by the Dutch Media Authority (Digital News Report Netherlands, 2021) shows that 90 percent of young people between 18 and 24 use social media to read news. Young people actively engage with news, spreading news or commenting on it. However, it also appears that young people are not or hardly interested in local media and local news, while an older target group is interested in news from the immediate surroundings.
Local media services are losing ground across Europe. Over the course of the last few decades, and more recently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional media services have struggled to maintain both their financial security and their thematic independence. Furthermore, media consumption is increasingly online – allowing it to be more national/worldwide in scope – whereas local media consumption is mostly confined to more traditional forms of media (e.g., printed newspapers). In fact, according to the EU’s Digital Media Plan “the proportion of readers accessing news from smartphones has risen from 39% in 2014 to 48% in 2020”, and in many ways independent journalism has been “drowned out” by the rise and algorithmic powering of other kinds of content, including disinformation, hate speech, and conspiracy theories. Though local media outlets have tried to combat the spread of disinformation and broaden their outreach by engaging in social media content production, they are unable to keep up with the fast-paced digital sphere and continue to see a decline in their viewership.
Research shows that young people are more concerned with the larger problems in this world such as climate and racism and less with issues that play a role at the local level. Young people feel more like world citizens and identify less with the municipality they live. As a result, they are less interested in local politics. Additionally, smaller, local issues are often not reported on in the national media meaning that local politicians are less accountable for their actions. Voters then make less informed decisions, as they lack the knowledge to decide if the incumbent did their job well, or if the challenger has a viable alternative plan. This also translates into a decrease in media diversity due to an increase in centralisation within the media landscape. This is especially concerning in member states where media freedoms are already endangered.