Country Reports - Edition 2021

These are summarized results of the Media for Democracy Monitor – Edition 2021. After selecting a country, you will be presented with the assessment of its performance in each indicator, to which research members assigned values from 0 to 3. Alternatively, you can also compare the performance of all countries.

Please select a country:

ūüá¶ūüáļ Australia

Overall points (max. 90):

49

Freedom / Information

Due to Australia’s geography and population distribution, regional areas are less well-served than the metropolitan centres, where all media are available. Regional newspapers have significantly contracted, and this accelerated with Covid-19.

The Australian citizen is well supplied with news from different sources. However, the print media sector, already highly concentrated, is also in structural decline.

The Australian newspaper industry (print and online) is highly concentrated, impacting the availability of diverse news voices.

There are no written rules for newsroom democracy in the Australian media.

Media proprietors have long been dominant figures, also in newsroom decisions.

The strong position of Australian media proprietors protects the newsroom from external influence.

Although no formal rules on how to select and process news exist, informal rules are followed in the news selection and processing.

After decades of reforms and changed policies, women remain less paid, less promoted, and harassed.

Women in sports has seen greater coverage than ever, but there is room to expand how and how much the media is covering women and their concerns.

Misinformation is spreading aggressively on social media, and its impacts are reverberating in current crises.

Online harassment has become a mainstay of being a journalist online. Despite its implications for journalists, little has been done to stem the tide.

Equality / Interest Mediation

Australia has a high media ownership concentration on a national level for offline media, which tends to be repeated online.

Australia’s demographic distribution and resulting economy of scale have led to a high media ownership concentration on a regional level.

News and information formats are under pressure.

Australia offers an abundance of broadcast and print media in languages other than English.

Media are readily affordable in Australia but there is still a reluctance by some demographics to pay for news.

Australia has a number of monitoring instruments, but largely of a self-regulatory or co-regulatory nature.

The journalists’ code of ethics is well-known in the print industry but needs to be updated to better suit new online environments.

While the self-regulatory system is far from perfect, a fair attempt is made to implement it.

Though there is an ongoing level of interaction between journalists and the public, there is no formal participation mechanism in the news process.

There is evidence of internal diversity but little of internal pluralism.

Control / Watchdog

Australia has a number of independent observers of the news media.

Legal instruments to guarantee greater independence from powerholders are relatively new. However, defamation law continues to be used as another pathway by the rich and powerful to silence critics.

Data on media are rarely a topic of debate.

Most journalists receive professional training.

It is difficult to provide job security for journalists in this time of change.

The law provides access to public information, but practical problems persist.

Australia’s media sees itself as a watchdog.

Some mid-career training is on offer.

Commitment to investigative journalism is the Australian media’s way to brand themselves.

ūüá¶ūüáĻ Austria

Overall points (max. 90):

57

Freedom / Information

A wide and stable variety of news media is available to Austrian citizens. There is a small regional bias between rural areas and the Vienna-region. The distribution of news media remains variable concerning media types.

Newspapers and public service television remain the prime sources of information concerning political issues. Among the younger population, the digital internet platforms increase their news relevance. Overall, the interest in news is high, but gaps are widening between soft and hard news followers.

Editors-in-chief and journalists emphasized the predominant role of the journalistic research over news agency and public relation material. National and international collaboration is increasing.

Newsroom democracy is established by editorial statutes, which are common in Austrian newsrooms. But journalists have limited influence on decisions hiring the editor-in-chief.

The separation of newsrooms from management is formally practiced by all media organizations in this media sample and can be interpreted as common in the Austrian media system.

Editors-in-chief strictly denied the direct influence of external parties on newsroom work and content, although such attempts were occasionally reported. The amount of public advertising compromises on editorial freedom for some leading news media.

Institutionalized means of criticizing journalistic working habits only exist in a few newsrooms and are not regularly practiced.

Employment conditions among male and female journalists are equal in terms of conditions and pay.

There is growing sensitivity among journalists for gender equality in media content, but no formal rules apply.

Misinformation on digital platforms is of minor relevance and importance so far, and defence mechanisms are not yet developed.

Journalists generally rely on support and protection by their employers in case of harassment.

Equality / Interest Mediation

Ownership concentration on a national level remains remarkably high as a few big media companies divide the market among them.

On a regional level ownership concentration is remaining remarkably high. In most Austrian regions one newspaper is dominant; the public service broadcaster still dominates the local radio market.

Austrian news media provide for a large variety of different news formats, from headline-news online to long-reads in newspapers and background features on radio and television. All different categories are covered, including local, national and international news as well as politics, economy, current affairs, culture and sport sections.

The availability and institutionalization of minority media depends on whether or not the minority is legally recognized. Overall, a wide range of minority media are available; however, their reach is limited.

All news media have moderate sales prices compared to the average income of Austrian households. Prices for cultural expenditures have remained stable or even been decreasing over the past 10 years.

Publicly available institutionalized and independent media monitoring instruments are rare in Austria.

The self-governed code of ethics for print media is well respected. For audiovisual and internet-based media no national code exists (only company rules).

Self-regulation occurs rather informally; institutionalized or modified rules and procedures are rare.

Audience participation happens by posting comments online in some web-editions of newspapers and by analog letters to the editor. Austrian newsrooms are not open to citizens’ participation.

Most Austrian newsrooms do not have codified rules on internal pluralism, public service television being the exception. Leading newsrooms are undertaking efforts to extend the range of voices represented by the media.

Control / Watchdog

Self-observation by journalists in the media and public debates about journalism has increased. But apart from some independent initiatives, no systematic media observation is done in Austria.

By law, journalists’ independence is protected, but ownership structures limit this freedom in practice.

Ownership structures are transparent online, but some important information on media and advertising markets is lacking.

The share of higher education among journalists is increasing, but time and resources for professional journalism, as well as job satisfaction, are on the retreat.

Journalists stay for a long time with their employers and are formally well protected by several laws. Economic pressures affect experienced journalists.

Although the Constitutions guarantees freedom of information, the absence of a freedom information act impedes access to public information and exacerbates journalistic work.

Significant value is attributed to the watchdog function of media in Austria.

Supply of further education is abundant in Austrian newsroom, but course attendance is not.

Austrian newsrooms are positive and try to provide resources for investigative reporting to the extent possible, but funds are strictly limited.

ūüáßūüá™ Belgium

Overall points (max. 90):

53

Freedom / Information

All types of media are distributed and available throughout the whole of Flanders, with a broad variety of news offered by diverse media companies.

In general the interest in news is high, with a notable decline in interest in the younger generations. Although news consumption via traditional media is still popular, shifting to online media is on the rise.

In the news making process, news agencies are mostly used by the leading news media as a secondary or tertiary source. Internal content syndication is common practice.

Discussions between editors(-in-chief) and journalist take place on a daily basis. The majority of journalists stating they are heard in these discussions. Management elects new editors-in-chief, with journalist having no say in these decisions. A lack of guidelines and/or legislations to support and promote advancement of female journalists and journalists of minority groups remains.

The majority of Flemish journalists report a high degree of editorial idependence. However interviewees made mention of the sometimes ambivalent relationship between journalism and marketing. The lines between journalistic content and branded content seem to be blurring.

No interference from advertisers and sponsors in their daily news reporting was mentioned by Flemish journalist, but knowledge of income stream of their news brands is limited. Politicians trying to influence journalists, on the other hand, takes place regularly.

Every Flemish leading news media has their own procedures on news selection and news processing, with freedom to discuss strategies. Editors have the loudest voice and most of the times decide if an article is ready for publication.

Equal conditions of employment and benefits for both genders are ensured and even enshrined in regulations. However male journalists earn more and get promoted more often than their female colleagues.

No rules or guidelines regarding the promotion of gender equality in media content apply, with only the Flemish public broadcaster imposing gender quota. Our interviewees seemed to be aware of the underrepresentation of women in media, but none of them indicated the need for regulation or monitoring.

Concerns about misinformation is rising among Flemish journalists. Especially misinformation has become more prevalent on social media. Factchecking and double checking of information is seen as part of the job. A few Flemish organizations are specialized in factchecking.

Flemish journalists mention a rise of (online) harassment and intimidation, but knowledge on what to do against this and where to go to file complaints are limited.

Equality / Interest Mediation

Belgium as a whole has a very diverse multi-lingual media landscape, but with only very few overlap in brands and company ownership between notably the Dutch and French-language communities and media markets.

The Flemish media market is highly concentrated. In recent years, a wave of mergers and acquisitions led to the total number of leading media companies dropping from nine to just five.

Radio, television and newspaper news maintain a strong dominance in Flanders. Regular online news is catching up rapidly but is nearly all owned by legacy players. Online-only news media only operate in the fringes.

There are no news outlets directly targeting minority groups. Public broadcaster VRT does offer a portion of its online news offer also in English, French and German though.

The public broadcaster is funded directly through Flemish taxpayers’ money, whereas research has shown that Belgians pay considerably more for broadband access than their neighbours.

The Flemish government-owned media watchdog only assess the media market on economical parameters, but might soon be given the questionable task to assess the impartiality of the public broadcaster.

There is no code of ethics at the national, Belgian level, but rather at the Dutch and French speaking levels specifically. Journalists refer to these codes frequently and they are taught in journalism studies.

Most news media have their own editorial statutes, deontological codes, newsroom council ombudsmen or women. In case of unethical journalistic behaviour, citizens can file a complaint with the journalism councils in both regions.

Citizens cannot truly contribute to news reporting, and the option to comment on websites has been scaled back in favour of comments on social media.

There is a lack of designated rules and guidelines applicable to presenting opinions of journalists within the same newsroom. Overt diversity in viewpoints is most notable at the fringe online-only news media.

Control / Watchdog

Different independent supervisors scrutinize the Flemish (news) media, each of them monitoring a different field in journalism. Most of these ‚Äėcontrollers of the controllers‚Äô publish their findings and elaborate reports on platforms freely accessible to the public. Self-regulation is also common on the level of media organizations and their brands, with a few media organizations even installing an independent ombudsman.

Flemish media organizations enjoy editorial independence, as set out in the Belgian Constitution and the media decree. Journalists declare being satisfied with the level of autonomy of their redaction, nevertheless politicians trying to influence the press is common practice.

Data on leading news media are easily accessible online, only difficulty sometimes is unravelling the complex power structures and revenue streams.

The majority of Flemish journalist acquired a degree of higher education. However less time and resources for professional journalism are available. This contributes to a decline in general job satisfaction.

A lot of Flemish journalists worry about job security, eventhough professional journalists are protected by law. Due to the financial pressure journalists are more and more forced to work as freelancers, lacking protection measures. Older journalists fear being sacked because of their higher wages.

According to the Belgian Constitution and media decree, every Flemish citizen can request information from commitees or boards under the jurisdiction of the Flemish Government. However, Flemish journalists rarely make use of this feature, due to impracticalities and lack of usefulness of acquired information.

Flemish journalists declare being the watchdog of democracy is of utmost importance, with media organizations welcoming and supporting investigative journalism. However resources and time invested in investigative journalism is declining.

Additional training and education is offered by almost all media organizations. However they are not obliged to offer this and journalists cannot be forced to partake.

Resources for investigative journalism have substantially declined. Every leading news media trie to do investigative journalism, but the majority doesn’t have journalists working fulltime on longterm projects.

ūüá®ūüᶠCanada

Overall points (max. 90):

63

Freedom / Information

Because of Canada’s immense landmass and population distribution, large northern and rural parts of Canada’s regional areas are not well served by the news media when compared to the country’s large urban areas where considerable news media is available in both digital and analogue forms.

Despite challenges in smaller markets, Canadians have access to a wealth of news sources.

Canada‚Äôs English audiences have a wide ‚ÄĒ national and international ‚ÄĒarray of news sources. French-speaking Canadians have less. All Canadian news organizations have scaled back their foreign correspondents. Moreover, critics charge ‚ÄĒ and many of the journalists interviewed for this study concede ‚ÄĒ that Canada‚Äôs news media tends to index too much of its coverage to elite (non-diverse) sources.

There are no written rules for newsroom democracy in Canada’s media system.

The influence of media proprietors is more subtle than direct in newsroom decisions.

A fluid and divergent process of news selection does not lend itself to formal rules in Canadian newsrooms.

A fluid and divergent process of news selection does not lend itself to formal rules in Canadian newsrooms.

The challenge of addressing gender equality in a structural way in Canada’s news media remains a challenge.

Acknowledging gender inequalities in media content is not enough. Canadian news organizations need to approach the problem of promoting free expression and the inclusion of diverse voices in a more meaningful and structural way.

While Canadian newsrooms are worried about disinformation and misinformation, there are few recent examples of coordinated efforts to misinform the population.

No specific laws protect Canadian journalists against online harassment. News organizations apply an ad hoc approach to helping their journalists when they become the target of online trolls.

Equality / Interest Mediation

The issue of news concentration has been the subject of successive government studies for 50 years, with very little change. The digital environment has provided a wealth of viewpoints, which can introduce new problems.

Local media continues to struggle but does not suffer from the same ownership concentration as the national news services.

There is great diversity of formats for Canadian news.

Efforts have been made to establish minority/alternative media sector within the wider news system.

Prices vary, but Canadians can access news.

There is no formal monitoring.

While most news organizations have a code of ethics or set of journalistic standards of practice during their work, there is no national code of ethics in Canada.

An established broadcasting self-regulator for private broadcasters.

While some avenues remain open, others have closed to greater public contributions.

A wide variety of rules and practices exist when it comes to ensuring that news organizations include a wide variety of perspectives.

Control / Watchdog

Several independent observers scrutinize Canada’s news media.

Legal instruments, democratic traditions and journalistic standards and practices protect the Canadian news media’s independence.

There is little discussion about media system transparency.

Most Canadian journalists receive professional training.

Job security is elusive in Canada’s news media.

While laws offer access to public information, problems with Canada’s freedom of information laws persist. Moreover, Canadian officials and the legal system often blunts journalists’ efforts to obtain information.

Canadian journalists see themselves as a watchdog.

Most media organizations offer some sort of training.

While many news organizations say they are committed to enterprising and investigative journalism, fewer resources are making it harder to produce good journalism.

ūüá®ūüáĪ Chile

Overall points (max. 90):

47

Freedom / Information

There is a large variety of media and access to them for the citizens in the country. Nationwide media coexists with regional media.

The protests that erupted in Chile emphasized the tendency that had been amassing for a frequent consumption of news, but tainted with distrust, especially online and via television, with a small readership of printed newspapers, and leaving the radio as the most credible medium.

Daily journalism includes mostly official sources, with nuances between each publication outlet, being TV the one that introduces more diversity with citizen sources. The daily agenda, work rhythm, and the part/counterpart logic, influence in the lack of deep reflection on source selection.

Media structure in Chile is hierarchical. Journalists can participate in the discussion of contents and may advance in their careers, but the editors and directors have the power to make decisions.

Internal pressure exists between management boards and editors-in-chief and directors, but it does not reach directly the journalists, who confirm the free exercise of their work. The protests in 2019 implied an exceptional internal pressure within the different media.

Chilean media depends highly on advertising, which has led to scenarios of low revenue implying firing journalists and editors. Even so, journalists defend their autonomy from the commercial areas.

Routine is the main element when selecting news, with relatively small space for reflection. Decisions are taken mainly in editorial meetings and the conversations between journalists and editors during the day.

There is a notorious gap in participation in higher positions, where women face larger work difficulties than men. There is also a difference in the salaries between genders.

The difference in sources and roles assigned to men and women is noticeable in Chile. This issue concerns academia and several entities. Despite the available guidelines is still not apparent in the journalistic profession.

Having teams dedicated to fact checking is still an emerging process within the Chilean journalistic routine. The social protests of 2019 promoted and accelerated the establishment of these practices.

The protection of journalists is irregular, depending on each individual employer and on the context.

Equality / Interest Mediation

There is one company dominating in newspapers, but ownership of media is diversified in the regional level.

A media landscape that achieves innovation, but it is still at an early stage as for the variety of formats and consolidation of the same.

There are media and initiatives for several specific communities, but usually they are born out of those same groups and tend to be niche.

Subscriptions to the main printed and digital newspapers are expensive for the average salary, but the rest of the media are affordable for the people.

There is more than one external instance, which functions in a case by case manner, but media do not self-monitor permanently for the citizenship.

There is more than one entity in charge of media ethics; however, they are not relevant referents for the daily exercise of journalism.

Internal self-regulation exists associated to a culture shared by journalists and editors within a medium, with clear dogmas, but are rarely written down.

There are limited instances for citizen participation in media and editors are critical of the quality of the discussion provided by the audiences.

There are no rules for internal pluralism, but there are opportunities for deliberation. In any case, in a polarized scenario, the issue of inner pluralism generates tension.

Control / Watchdog

There are different instances to oversee whether the media fulfills their journalistic function.

The industrial view that encompasses the Chilean media system has led to its property becoming mainly corporate. However, there are views about politics and society that reach the people in charge of the newsrooms.

By law, every media publishes information about their ownership, but only a few give more details.

Professional education is high at the university level. The work scenario is precarious, therefore, offers little time and resources for journalists to improve their skills.

Academics describe work conditions as ‚Äúprecarious‚ÄĚ. Wages are low. The crisis faced by this industry has enhanced this situation.

There is a law for freedom of information, but its positive evaluation is still under 50% by journalists. Specific knowledge is required to use it effectively.

There is a certain notion about the watchdog role of journalism, but tends to be relegated to specialized units or specific practices within daily coverage, where other roles are more dominant.

There is a large offer for journalists, but their work conditions do not allow them to specialize as much as they would want to.

There are some media that produce investigative journalism, but they have decreased for economic reasons.

ūüá©ūüáį Denmark

Overall points (max. 90):

71

Freedom / Information

A wide variety of news media are broadly available all over Denmark.

Public service television and online newspapers remain the prime sources of news and information in Denmark. Some age gaps in media use exist, particularly with regard to Danes under 25, who continue to consume news, but prefer to receive their news through social media.

Diversity of news sources is relatively high but limited by reliance on a single national news agency and a decreasing number of foreign correspondents.

Newsroom democracy in Denmark is well established. However, it is informal and carried out more in the professional culture rather than written down in formal, internal rules.

The degree of independence of Danish newsrooms is high; editorial decisions remain in the domain of the editorial staff, but there is increasing collaboration between editorial and commercial departments.

Danish newsrooms are well shielded from external commercial influence. The increasing relevance of native advertising does, however, pose a potential gateway for increasing external influence.

Most news media have formal procedures for news processing. For news selection, however, the formal procedures are far less detailed.

Gender differences in terms of salary and positions persist, albeit to a lower degree than in other sectors and in other countries. There is relatively little emphasis on achieving gender equality through formal rules and initiatives, but in recent years, awareness has increased and large media organisations are beginning to explicitly articulate their goals on internal gender equality.

Danish news media has no codified rules securing gender equality in media content, but an increased awareness of the issue exists.

There is high awareness on the issue of misinformation on digital platforms in Denmark; the actual amount of fake news and disinformation campaigns on social media appears, however, to be comparatively low. Defence mechanisms are in place, but they mostly rely on established journalistic fact-checking, while algorithmic and data-driven solutions are only slowly being tested by few media.

There is increasing awareness for the issue of online harassment, and internal policies to address the issue are in place ‚Äď although not always well implemented in practice. The trade union provides an ample level of assistance and guidance.

Equality / Interest Mediation

The level of media ownership concentration in Denmark is relatively high and primarily the result of Denmark being a small media market (as Danish is only spoken in Denmark).

There is a relatively high degree of media ownership concentration at the regional level in Denmark after a period of market consolidation in the last decade.

There is strong diversity in news formats in Denmark on all platforms and in both privately owned and public service media.

The only officially recognised minority group in Denmark, the Germans, have their own media. Other minorities are less visible and represented in the Danish media landscape.

Public service media are relatively affordable. Newspapers ‚Äď both print and online ‚Äď are relatively expensive.