The Reuters Institute Digital News Report has been released today. The annual survey aims to understand how news is being valued and consumed globally, with a particular focus on digital news consumption and the devices used to access the news.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has funded the inclusion of Ireland in the study, as part of its work on fostering media plurality in Ireland. The BAI commissioned the Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) to produce a specific report on the Irish results of the survey. With surveys conducted early this year, this year’s report gives an insight into changes seen in the Irish media industry after almost a year of living through the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s Irish report was authored by FuJo’s Colleen Murrell, Kirsty Park, David Robbins, and Dawn Wheatley. The report will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about how we consume media in Ireland and in particular it looks at how we engage with news and technology and our attitudes towards trust, disinformation, and paying for news.
The report also features some short essays including:
Colleen Murrell: Long Live Television: COVID-19 and trusted media
Dawn Wheatley: Diversity and Representation: Do audiences like what they see?
Dave Robbins: Key Decisions for the Future of Media Commission
Eileen Culloty: Media Literacy and the Future of Media
Roddy Flynn: Media Ownership in Ireland
Lead researcher, Professor Colleen M. Murrell said:
“Through the annual Digital News Report, and other major research projects, DCU’s Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) continues to build a critical knowledge base for the Irish media, and we look forward to reporting and contextualising this year’s insights at tomorrow’s event.”
Key findings include:
- Interest in news: Some 70% of Irish respondents said they were extremely or very interested in news, an increase of five percentage points on 2020 figures. The percentage of Irish respondents interested in news is higher than the EU average (60%); the UK (51%) and North America (54%).
- Sources of news: The number of consumers who cite television as their main source of news in Ireland has risen by eight percentage points to 41%. The next most popular source of news is online (excluding social media and blogs) at 29% (unchanged from 2020) and social media at 16%, down four percentage points on 2020. The number of consumers citing radio as their main source of news has fallen by four percentage points, to 9%, and the number citing printed newspapers has fallen by two percentage points, to 4%. There has been an increase across all age groups citing TV as their main news source, with the 18-24-year-old-age group recording the largest increase, up 13 percentage points on 2020, to 28%. This is largely at the expense of social media, dropping 15 percentage points to 31% for this cohort.
- Trust in news: Levels of public trust in news in Ireland have increased by five percentage points over the past year, with 53% of respondents expressing positive levels of trust in the news media, agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement ‘you can trust most of the news most of the time’. The level of trust in media is higher in Ireland that than the EU (45%); the UK (37%) and North America (37%).
- Neutrality in news: When it comes to whether the news media should take a neutral stance when reporting on social and political issues, the report found that older respondents prefer neutral news reports, with younger people more inclined to believe that, on some issues, strict impartiality is not desirable. More than half of respondents in every age category from 35+ believe that news outlets should try to be neutral on every issue, while slightly less than half held this view in the 18 – 24 (46%) and 25 – 34 (49%) age categories.
- Paying for news: The number of Irish consumers paying for news subscriptions or access increased by four percentage points, to 16%. Irish consumers are more willing than their EU (15%) or UK (8%) counterparts to pay for news. Some 17% of North American consumers are willing to pay for news, down one percentage point on 2020. There has been an increase across all age groups in those who have subscribed, donated, or paid a news organisation to view content. Of those who paid for news in the last year, those on lower incomes (less than €20,000) are more likely to access a single news source, with those on middle and higher incomes tending to pay for multiple news sources. Some 3% of middle- and high-income earners paid to access more than five news sources.
- Financial state of commercial news organisations: Some 37% of Irish respondents said they were very or quite concerned about the financial state of commercial news organisations in Ireland, compared with 28% in the EU; 26% in the UK; and 33% in North America. However, 34% of Irish respondents said they believe news organisations are either more profitable or roughly as profitable as they were 10 years ago. Some 29% of Irish respondents said they were unaware of the financial difficulties faced by the media. This compares with 35% in the EU; 51% in the UK and 41% in North America. Some 32% of Irish respondents were in favour of the Government providing assistance to struggling news organisations.
- Devices: In Ireland, the main device for accessing online news remains the smartphone (60% – up three percentage points); followed by the laptop or desktop computer (27%); tablet (11%).
- Fake news: Irish respondents were generally skeptical of news they see on social media, with 51% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the statement ‘you can trust the news on social media most of the time’. Some 75% of those in the 65+ age group said they were ‘concerned about what is real and what is fake on the internet’, compared with 55% of 18-24-year-olds.
- COVID-19: For Irish news consumers, COVID-19 topped the bill for false or misleading information seen in the last week (49%), followed by politics (28%), celebrities (25%) and climate change or the environment (19%). For younger cohorts (18-34-year-olds), ordinary people were cited as the most concerning sources for false or misleading COVID-19 information; activists or activist groups were cited in this category for 55+ age groups. Facebook, which remains the most popular social media platform for news, was the main platform that caused most concern regarding COVID-19-related false or misleading information (38%). In terms of COVID-19 information sources, 42% of respondents said they got their information from national health organisations (e.g. HSE); 40% cited news organisations and 38% cited scientists, doctors or other health experts. Some 36% cited the national government as a source of COVID-19 information.
- Diversity of representation: For the first time, respondents were asked for their attitudes around how well they feel they are represented in the news. Respondents were asked about six dimensions of their identity: gender; age group; ethnicity; where they live; political views; and social and economic class. They were asked if they felt there was enough coverage of each of these dimensions and, if they felt that coverage was fair. When asked about how their age group is represented, the 45-54 age group was most content (only 16% said there was not enough coverage); conversely, young adults aged 18-24 were most unhappy, with 34% saying there was not enough coverage. Of that same young adult category, 47% felt unfairly covered in news media, almost 20 percentage points higher than the next age category (28% among 25-34-year-olds). In terms of perceptions of fairness of coverage for “people of your social and economic class,” among those on low incomes, only 48% felt their social and economic class is fairly represented, compared with 69% of high earners. Meanwhile, 67% of those on higher incomes believe they receive adequate levels of coverage, while only 52% of those on low incomes felt the same.
- Gender Diversity & Reuters data: Diversity, particularly gender representation in the media is a key area of focus for the BAI. This year, in addition to the Digital News Report, the BAI has commissioned DCU to examine, in more detail, gender and diversity in the context of the Irish Reuters data since 2016. In particular, the BAI is interested in understanding women’s attitudes towards and engagement with news. This report will be published later this year.