|Title||Plurality, policy and the local: can hyperlocals fill the gap?|
Over the last 15 years, the acceleration in media consolidation has presented a series of policy challenges around diversity of editorial output. While policy debates on national ownership limits and other regulatory interventions are important, developments at the local level are often marginalised. And yet, the direction of travel—towards more consolidation and more deregulation—has arguably been more debilitating for democracy at the local level, where the vast majority of citizens interact with hospitals, schools, transport systems and local councils. The decline of local media—including, in some towns, the wholesale disappearance of local newspapers—leaves citizens starved of information and local institutions less accountable. This article uses an existing conceptual framework for assessing whether and how journalism makes a real-life contribution to democratic life at the local level. Against this normative framework, it then assesses the contribution of hyperlocal media sites to local democracy. We present findings from the most extensive survey of the hyperlocal sector to date, a collaboration with research partners at Cardiff and Birmingham City Universities and Talk About Local, which analysed online questionnaires from over 180 local online media initiatives. Our research offers a unique insight into the funding, operational problems and sustainability of community media sites, and suggests they have the potential to fulfil a vital democratic and civic role. These data inform our conclusions and recommendations for policy initiatives that would invigorate hyperlocal sites and therefore provide a real alternative for otherwise democratically impoverished local communities.
|Journal citation||9 (3), pp. 332-349|
|Publisher||Taylor & Francis|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)||doi:10.1080/17512786.2014.943930|
|Published||09 Sep 2014|