Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we gather five important news stories from the world of media in Europe and across the globe.

Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index, a measure of the level of media (un)freedom.

The general trend: press freedom has not been in great shape in recent years, and the pandemic makes things worse. Authors warn “the Covid-19 pandemic highlights and amplifies the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information”.

The Fix analysed the changes in Europe since 2015. The decline of press freedom in Central Europe is perhaps the biggest story. Poland leads this deterioration, but Czechia, Hungary, and Slovakia are not that far behind. On the bright sides, we see relative success stories in Southern Europe (especially Portugal, followed by Italy and Greece), and in Ukraine.

As the coronacrisis takes away advertising dollars, the media industry is increasingly turning for help to governments.

One obvious solution: beef up government spending on advertising. In the UK, the government is increasingly becoming one of the most important clients for news publishers, particularly thanks to the National Health Service’s ad campaign. New Zealand is also distributing some cash.

The US government does not provide specific financial help for the media (though some organisations do receive assistance through a general program for small businesses), but the calls to do so are increasingly loud and high-profile.

Did you miss news about media traffic?

Last week, we reported that the traffic bump from the pandemic might be over in the West. This week confirms this trend — but news traffic across the world is still growing. It looks like India is leading the trend. To show the scale, Indian news aggregator “UC News” showed an astonishing +338% increase last week.

These are tumultuous times, so people are looking for factual, trustworthy information. The Fix reports that fact-checking resources saw the highest spike from February to March: an incredible 223% increase.

According to CNET, even YouTube confirms this trend as users are increasingly watching videos featuring factual information. The company witnessed a 75% increase in people viewing videos from “authoritative” sources, such as governments or the WHO.

In the latest regulatory strike against tech giants, Australia is now requiring Facebook and Google to share ad revenue with Australian media companies.

Local authorities are hoping to create “a level playing field” as the two companies have been consolidating the advertising market. With dozens of Australian newspapers having stopped printing or applying pay cuts & layoffs, the media could certainly use some additional money.

Most publications experience financial hardship during this crisis, but not all food websites feel that. As people are staying at home, more readers are flocking to hobbyist publications, especially those devoted to cooking.
As Poynter points out in a recent article, “health, food, and home and garden titles, among others, have seen an abundance of readers and social media engagement in the pandemic”.