Public Service Broadcasters

Public service broadcasters (PSBs) feature prominently in many of our country profiles (see section 2). Particularly in Europe, some PSBs are facing accusations of biased news coverage, pressures over funding along with renewed questioning of their role in a digital world. Some PSBs – such as the BBC in the UK – are routinely accused of unfairly dominating the marketplace, in particular because of the possibility that they are undermining paid providers by offering free and unlimited access to online news content.

It is perhaps easy to forget that, despite their strong offline performance, some PSBs still struggle to attract comparable online audiences for their news coverage. In France, Germany, and Italy, the online offerings of PSB TV reach around 15% with their news output, compared to around half for their offline PSB services. In contrast, PSBs in Scandinavia, Ireland, and the UK are among the most used news brands both online and offline. In Austria, ORF news reaches 81% via TV and radio, and 53% online each week. PSBs also tend to feature highly on our lists of what people say is their main news brand (see country pages).


Broadcast Online
ORF (Austria) 81% 53%
DR (Denmark) 71% 49%
Yle (Finland) 70% 44%
BBC (UK) 66% 51%
NRK (Norway) 61% 45%
RTE (Ireland) 59% 42%
CT (Czech Republic) 67% 30%
Rai (Italy) 64% 15%
NHK (Japan) 57% 16%
ARD (Germany) 54% 16%
ZDF (Germany) 46% 16%
France Televisions (France) 35% 15%
Q5a. Thinking now about news on TV, Radio and Print (traditional media), which of the following brands have you used in the last week?
Q5b. Which, if any, of the following have you used to access news in the last week? Via online platforms (web, mobile, tablet, e-reader).

Base: Total sample in each country

As more and more people access news online, it is becoming harder for some PSBs to fulfil their mandate to serve all groups within society. In our 2015 report, we highlighted that some PSBs are finding it difficult to reach those younger audiences who have turned their backs on TV news. This year we focus specifically on online reach and break it down by age. We see that even amongst those PSBs that have a large online reach, audiences in Scandinavian countries and Ireland are slightly skewed towards older users. ORF in Austria and the BBC in the UK appeal to different age groups more evenly, with the BBC particularly popular with 18–24s.


18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+
ORF (Austria) 48% 51% 52% 55% 53%
DR (Denmark) 30% 39% 50% 54% 57%
Yle (Finland) 29% 44% 44% 48% 45%
BBC (UK) 59% 53% 53% 52% 46%
NRK (Norway) 37% 42% 46% 45% 51%
RTE (Ireland) 29% 35% 44% 46% 48%
Q5b. Which, if any, of the following have you used to access news in the last week? Please select all that apply. Via online platforms (web, mobile, tablet, e-reader).
Base: 18-24/25-34/35-44/45-54/55+: Austria = 232/350/371/405/642, Denmark = 238/231/349/460/742, UK = 220/206/293/400/905, Finland = 185/411/341/422/682, Norway = 242/344/399/426/608, Ireland = 181/462/426/360/574