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COVID-19

REPORT

Public Service Media: Supporting Society Through Coronavirus

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and our place within it – for us all as individuals, as well as for our nations and how they relate to one another. It has been enormously painful and hugely disruptive, and its implications will be played out in ways we cannot even anticipate for years to come. 

But, with crises, we also invariably see more positive outcomes such as the emergence of a common purpose, solidarity, creativity, agility and innovation, which is what we would like to showcase in this report.

The EBU is the world’s largest alliance of public service media and this report shows how our Members have responded to the pandemic and helped meet the insatiable demand for content brought about by the lockdown. Our Members have been uniquely placed to deliver the trusted news, informed analysis, educational resources and high-quality entertainment that the audience has required in recent months. And the lessons they have learnt through this experience will undoubtedly shape them for years to come.

In this report, we’ve captured just some of our Members’ many initiatives to provide inspiration to others and highlight exactly why independent, well-funded public service media is as essential now as it has ever been in its nearly 100-year history.

Public service media has responded to the crisis and the audience, in turn, have responded to public service media. I think that’s a testament to all the work people have done, the efforts they’ve put in and the trust our audiences have in our output. This report is trying to capture just some of that.”

Noel Curran

EBU Director General

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01

KEY LEARNINGS

2020 has been a year like no other – public service media (PSM) has had to respond with extraordinary speed to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Internally that was difficult enough as media organizations had to work out how to reorganize newsrooms and productions for social distancing, as well as manage the cancellation of sport and cultural events and keep all staff safe.

But, as the world went into lockdown, EBU Members also acted with incredible agility and ingenuity to ensure that audiences were educated, entertained and - most importantly - kept informed as we all adjusted to a seismic change in the way we live, learn, do business and connect with each other.

02

AUDIENCE IMPACT

Audiences have turned in huge numbers to their local public broadcasters as the pandemic has unfolded across the continent. 

PSM news brands are already the most trusted news brands in 65% of European markets. 

Globally, TV news channels have been the most-used source of COVID-19 news and information and the second most-trusted source after government updates. For example, 86% of German PSM TV news users rate the coronavirus crisis coverage of ARD and ZDF as trustworthy – the highest attributed credibility of all media on offer. And 90% of Czech TV news viewers consider the crisis coverage of their public broadcaster trustworthy.

In contrast, while almost half of the population used social networks for news on the virus, only 14% rank it as one of the most trustworthy sources.

See the report

People turn to traditional media when they want news they can trust. The daily viewing share of PSM’s evening TV news bulletins increased by 20% in March 2020 (against Q1 2019). Perhaps most interestingly, given how we’re constantly told they represent such a hard-to-reach audience, that daily share was up to 44% when it came to 15 to 24-year-olds demonstrating how they also turned significantly to PSM during the crisis. 

See the report

Online, PSM News websites’ daily reach was up 2.6 times in March, while visits and sessions on PSM apps and news apps also doubled as people looked for regular updates on the crisis. 

Providing content for children, with schools closed due to the pandemic, has also been particularly important for PSM in recent months. 

On average, PSM reached 57% of kids every week with their TV services during March. Average daily TV viewing time of children’s content on EBU Members’ channels increased by 19 minutes in March and April (against the previous month). PSM’s online services also became increasingly important with kids websites’ daily reach up by 2.3 times in April-May (versus January-February).

Thanks to the fast actions of PSM in partnering with educational institutions, children and teachers were able to benefit from learning opportunities from home as many schools were unprepared to offer distance learning. PSM educational content reached 20% of kids in the first full week of lockdown in March. 

See the report

During the crisis, they have been supporting the wider creative sector – giving voice to artists and their experiences, increasing exposure for artists and providing alternative venues and offering financial assistance. At least 53 EBU Member organizations, from 33 countries, have provided some type of relief measures. You can find some of the many examples in our Member case studies below.

03

PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA CASE STUDIES

Select a Category

inform
entertain
education
connect
collaborate

DR (Denmark)

ULTRA NYT

ORF (Austria)

MULTI LANGUAGE NEWS SERVICES

Swedish Radio (Sweden)

MANAGING CORONA

France Télévisions (France)

ANSWERING QUESTIONS

DW (Germany)

TAKING NEWS GLOBAL

NDR (Germany)

DEMYSTIFYING THE SCIENCE

GPB (Georgia)

COMBATTING FAKE NEWS

BBC (UK)

BBC NEWS AFRICA MISINFORMATION HUB

04

DIRECTOR GENERAL INSIGHTS

Public service broadcasters have had to respond rapidly to the challenges posed by COVID-19. There have been challenges on many fronts – how to organize newsrooms with social distancing measures in place; how to maintain productions with people in quarantine and how to fill holes in schedules left by the cancellation of live sport and cultural events.

Despite all this, teams have mobilised to produce an astonishing array of content and services to ensure audiences were informed, educated, entertained and connected when they needed it most.

We asked Director Generals of public service broadcasters across Europe to tell us how they’ve responded to the coronavirus crisis and lessons they had learnt for the future.

Public service broadcasters have had to respond rapidly to the challenges posed by COVID-19. There have been challenges on many fronts – how to organize newsrooms with social distancing measures in place; how to maintain productions with people in quarantine and how to fill holes in schedules left by the cancellation of live sport and cultural events.

Despite all this, teams have mobilised to produce an astonishing array of content and services to ensure audiences were informed, educated, entertained and connected when they needed it most.

We asked Director Generals of public service broadcasters across Europe to tell us how they’ve responded to the coronavirus crisis and lessons they had learnt for the future.

Tony Hall, BBC

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Gonçalo Reis, RTP

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Cilla Benkö, SR 

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Jean-Paul Philippot, RTBF

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Gilles Marchand, SRG SSR

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Merja Ylä-Anttila, Yle

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Dr Alexander Wrabetz, ORF

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Tinatin Berdzenishvili, GPB

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05

EBU Insights

The coronavirus pandemic precipitated a period of unprecedented change and growth at the European Broadcasting Union. Along with our Members, we found ourselves facing a wide range of new challenges from the cancellation of our events to the re-negotiation of sport contracts, new demands for content and data, and the need for new formats to exchange ideas and learnings. We developed a wide range of new services and initiatives to help meet Member needs and support them in better serving their audiences. We also learnt a lot along the way. We asked our managers to share some of their experiences and learnings from the pandemic.

Discover all the insights by clicking on the arrows

Vanessa O’Connor

We’re in this together

Liz Corbin

When a crisis brings us together

Glen Killane

PSM reacted with speed to the sports lockdown

Madiana Asseraf

How we responded to the pandemic with children’s content

Matthew Trustram

COVID-19 inspires new EBU programme exchange

Pascale Labrie

Music played key role at height of COVID-19 crisis

Peter MacAvock

Never let a good crisis go to waste

Richard Burnley

COVID-19 – The Legal Challenges

Amelie Rossignol-Farjon

Key information on COVID-19 must be accessible to all

Nathalie Labourdette

Delivering learning online

06

WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP

Public service media has worked alongside many partner organizations to ensure citizens have had access to timely, accurate news and information about the pandemic; support with education while schools are closed; and opportunities for people to connect and support each other. It’s also provided a valuable alternative ‘stage’ for people to enjoy a wide variety of cultural activities from music to drama and art with venues shut down. And it has kept sports fans entertained despite the cancellation of so many live events. Some of our partners have shared their experience of how the European Broadcasting Union and public service media have supported them and society during the pandemic.

UNESCO

“It’s true public service in action. It’s the kind of partnership the world needs, especially now.

The mission is far more than a technical one – it’s about averting a generational catastrophe.

And this is why innovative solutions for learning must be developed, tailored to leave no one behind.”

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education

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ITU

“The high-quality, reliable and trusted news that public service news organizations produce is a powerful and important weapon in global efforts to fight the COVID pandemic.”

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU Director Telecommunications Development Bureau

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European Athletics

“I was delighted to see EBU Members exercise their ingenuity, sometimes in partnership with event organizers, to create new forms of programming to continue to inform and entertain their viewers, replacing the huge gaps left by the cancellation or postponement of most live international sport.”

Christian Milz, European Athletics CEO

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Wigmore Hall

“This sort of broadcasting of course, in the middle of a pandemic, is the essence of public service broadcasting and everything that BBC Radio 3 does so well and stands for.

We’re very grateful for this wonderful partnership.”

John Gilhooly OBE OSI, Wigmore Hall Chief Executive and Artistic Director

The BBC broadcast 20 concerts from the Wigmore Hall in June that were shared by the EBU Music Exchange throughout Europe and beyond

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