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Plurality, Policy and the Local: Can hyperlocals fill the gap?

research-paper by Steven Barnett, published by Taylor and Francis

“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.”

Access the full article in Volume 9: Issue 3 of Journalism Practice.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash


Steven Barnett


Steven Barnett is Professor of Communications and an established writer and broadcaster who has been involved in policy analysis at the highest levels, both nationally and internationally, for the last 35 years. He has advised government ministers in the UK, has given evidence or served as an adviser on several parliamentary committees, has been called to give evidence to the European Parliament, and has been invited as keynote speaker at numerous national and international conferences.


9 September 2015
Published By
Taylor and Francis
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