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Audio Visual Science Audiences (AVSA). A comparative study

Final Report Summary - AVSA (Audio visual science audiences (AVSA). A comparative study)

AVSA is a European research project, which has worked between April 2008 and March 2010 under the leadership of the Free University, Department Communication of Knowledge/Science Journalism. The work was divided into four steps:

1. The project has described what science, and in what amounts, is actually communicated by radio and TV in Europe. It has asked for determinants, which influence the provision of science programmes. Three dimensions are found as being relevant:
A) The segmentation of media markets, with special emphasis on TV.
B) The degree of market forces, with special emphasis on public service TV.
C) Tradition of science reporting with special emphasis on public service broadcasting.
By applying these dimensions, the project identified countries whose media systems show characteristics that enhance the probability that a multicoloured picture of science in media appears - these are Sweden, Finland and Germany. These countries are characterised by relatively highly segmented markets, low market pressures on public service broadcasting and a strong tradition in science reporting. They must be distinguished from those, which show a less multicoloured picture of science and are restricted especially with regard to the volume of science content broadcast by audiovisual media - these are Great Britain and Ireland. The media systems in Spain, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania show characteristics that decrease the probability of the appearance of a multicoloured picture of science considerably. France, Austria and Estonia could not be classed to one of the groups due to various reasons.

2. The project has linked science programmes with their use by recipients. It was intended to clarify, how many people from different sections of the European public do perceive science programmes. It was expected that the approach would identify structural lacks with regard to the type of science journalism that is perceived by the public. The findings can be summarised as follow:
A) We lack innovative programme formats, by which new scientific findings are broadcast and by which big audiences are attracted.
B) We lack popular popularisation programmes in France, Bulgaria, Greece, Estonia and Spain. Whereas in France this is mainly due to scheduling, in the other countries mentioned we lack offers.
C) We lack attractive edutainment programmes particularly in Bulgaria, Greece and Estonia.
D) We lack attractive advocacy programmes on environment almost everywhere. The exception is Spain.

4. The project has linked science programmes with judgements of focus groups that helped to assess, how different sections of the European public perceive, what about science is offered by science programmes. All in all, we did not observe meaningful differences with regard to motives for engagement with science, expectations towards science in TV and judgements of the medium TV itself across countries. Hence, we found no evidence that allows for linking differences in science programme offers with different expectations of respondents across countries, which in turn can be linked to cultural differences or the like. Our findings suggest that respondents, who claimed to be interested in science and to use science in media frequently share very similar views across European borders.

The project has developed an action plan for facilitating public engagement with science. The main idea of all actions proposed is that political institutions concerned with science broadcasting as a means to facilitate greater public engagement with science need to shift their perspective from a largely science-centric one to more media-centric and audience-centric views. This implies taking fuller account of the constraints of media production, of the established expertise of broadcasting organisations and of individual programme-makers in making programmes that attract and sustain audience interest, and of audience needs and interests as reflected in patterns of media.