Media scholars and journalists expect local media to function as vital institutions for the creation and maintenance of a democratic political and public arena and a general sense of social cohesion and public connection (Aldridge, 2007; Couldry et al., 2007; Franklin, 2006; Rosenstiel et al., 2007). Taking a different angle, this paper tries to understand what kind of social role the audience wants their local media to perform. The material presented here relies on audience research and ethnographic investigation of the largest local TV broadcaster in Amsterdam (AT5), as well as on a basic production study of 17 local broadcasters in Rotterdam. It turns out that city residents of Amsterdam expect their local TV station to perform seven social functions: (1) supplying background information (unbiased, reliable, good-humoured, fast and multiperspectival); (2) fostering social integration, or giving citizens insight into how the city "works"; (3) providing inspiration; (4) ensuring representation ("voice", recognition and "mirroring"); (5) increasing local understanding; (6) creating civic memory; and (7) contributing to social cohesion, or a sense of belonging. We argue that local media do not only constitute a precondition for democracy by representing the city to its residents; to meet this standard, local TV broadcasters will also have to become more democratic themselves, in the sense of better representing local residents to the city and each other by supplying more nuanced stories about them. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.