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Public service media funding hit by covid-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has hurt PSM organizations who were only just starting to recover from the 2009 economic crisis and a decade of austerity. Many were at last forecasting stability or even a slight growth in resources in 2020. But, instead, Europe was hit with a sudden economic recession and audiovisual markets faced a steep drop in advertising revenues.

Two-thirds of our Members had to operate with funding levels that were below forecast in 2020 and almost a third saw a steep drop (3%+) in their predicted income. All this came at a time when audiences were turning to PSM in huge numbers for trusted news and information, educational resources and much-needed entertainment during lockdown.

Our new report, Funding of Public Service Media, shows that overall PSM funding has dropped by 1.2% between 2016 to 2020. When inflation is taken into account, this five-year drop turns into a massive contraction of 6.9% in real terms. This phenomenon is likely to be exacerbated with inflation on the rise across the continent.

A drop in PSM funding doesn’t just impact on our Member broadcasters – it has a negative impact on the whole of the European audiovisual sector.

We saw how, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, public service media played a critical role in supporting the wider creative industries. Our Members helped increase exposure for artists during lockdown; supported creatives through additional funding and found new ways to tailor creative content to meet audience needs.

The essential economic role played by PSM should also not be understated. A series of impact studies in recent years has demonstrated that one euro invested in PSM generates between 2.5 and 2.7 additional euros in the audiovisual sectors of the respective national economies.

Head of the EBU’s Media Intelligence Service Florence Hartmann said: “On average, citizens in the EBU area are paying just 10 EUR cents a day for all the services offered by public service media in their countries. And COVID-19 showed us just what a vital role they play.

“It is therefore critical that their financial sustainability is not jeopardized in the aftermath of the pandemic. PSM have a major economic role to play in driving the recovery alongside the entire audiovisual value chain and a major democratic role to play in reinforcing the European public sphere.” EBU

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