Irish consumers are concerned about ‘fake news’ on the internet – Reuters Digital News Report 2019

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Some 61% of Irish media consumers are concerned about what is real and what is fake on the internet. This is one of the findings from the Reuters Digital News Report (Ireland) 2019, which was released today (12.06.19). This represents an increase of 4 percentage points on last year, when 57% of Irish respondents to the international study said they were concerned about ‘fake news’ on the internet. The Irish figure is considerably higher than the EU average of 51%.

This is the fifth year that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has funded the inclusion of Ireland in the  Reuters Institute Digital News study, as part of its work on fostering media plurality in Ireland. Now covering 38 countries across the world, the annual study aims to understand how news is being consumed globally, with a particular focus on digital news consumption and the devices used to access the news. The BAI has commissioned the Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo) at Dublin City University to produce a specific report on the Irish results of the survey for the last five years.  The data for the research was collected between January–February 2019, reflecting the same data collection timeframe for previous years.

The research found that more than a quarter (26%) of Irish news consumers made a decision not to share a news story in the last year because they doubted its accuracy. It also found that 22% of respondents had stopped using certain news sources because they were unsure about the accuracy of their reporting. However, Irish media achieved the highest rating for helping Irish news consumers understand the news of the day (59%), marginally ahead of the UK (57%) and well above the European figure of 48%.

The research also discovered that while 69% of Irish 18-24-year-olds were concerned about what is real and what is fake on the internet, this age group is also among the least interested in news and politics, with less than half (46%) saying they were very or extremely interested in news and just over a quarter (26%) saying they were interested in politics.

Other findings include:

Paying for news: Paying for news through subscriptions, donations and once-off payments remains flat, at 11% in the EU and 9% in the UK. In Ireland it stands at 12%, an increase of 1 percentage point on last year. Of those who do pay, the majority (51%) only have one subscription. The 25-34-year age group was most likely to pay for online news (19%) and the 55-64-year age group was least likely to do so (7%). Looking at online media subscriptions as a whole, when respondents were asked what they would choose if they could only have one subscription for the next year, video streaming services (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime) were the most popular (35%). Some 21% said they would not subscribe to any online media, and 13% chose an online sport event or channel. Online news came in fifth place (9%), behind music streaming (11%) and ahead of online gaming (4%) and online dating (1%).

Open vs closed social networks being used for news: While Facebook remains the most important social network for news in Ireland (37%), closed social networks, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are increasing in popularity for sharing or discussing news in some parts of the world. In Brazil, 53% of respondents said they use Whatsapp for news on a weekly basis (up 5 percentage points on 2018), with a similar figure in Malaysia (50%). In Ireland, that figure is 15%, up 2 percentage points on last year. For comparison, in the UK, 9% of respondents said they use Whatsapp for news, up 4 percentage points on the previous year. Elsewhere in Europe, the figure ranged from 3% in Sweden to 36% in Spain.

Sources of news: Radio remains the top first source of news in the morning for Irish respondents (33%), however, this is down 6 percentage points since 2016, when the question was last asked. Internet, via smartphone, has increased significantly over this period, up 10 percentage points to 31%. There was no change recorded in TV (16%) or printed newspaper (4%). Facebook was the top choice for smartphone users (35%), followed by news website or app (32%).

Podcasts: Ireland continues to lead the survey in podcast consumption, with 37% of Irish respondents saying they listened to a podcast in the last month. The EU average was 33%.

Commenting, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland chief executive, Michael O’Keeffe said: “The rapid pace at which technology continues to change the media landscape around the world presents particular challenges to those charged with ensuring that the regulatory environment remains appropriate. Over the past five years, the BAI has invested in the Reuters Digital News Report (Ireland), ensuring that Ireland is included in this international study. This investment has proved invaluable in providing timely insights into news consumption trends internationally and facilitates Irish comparisons.

“Strong digital literacy amongst Irish media consumers is essential in dealing with the challenges of the evolving media landscape. Enhancing this competency is one of the BAI’s strategic objectives and is an area in which we are taking a leadership role through the Be Media Smart Initiative. The research shows that Irish news consumers are becoming more aware of disinformation with over 60% expressing a concern about fake news. In addition, the BAI was pleased to note that Irish people are more positive about the value of the news media with 59% agreeing that it helps them understand the news of the day. The fact that radio is still the first source of news for Irish people in the morning is heartening.”

Director of FuJo, Dr Jane Suiter added: “Access to quality journalism is essential to a functioning democracy. While there is a very slow increase in the numbers of Irish people willing to pay for news online, overall, Irish people’s interest in news remains consistently high and their questioning of the veracity of news sources is encouraging, but needs to increase. Quality journalism is important to a cohesive society and in this turbulent time, news providers must continue to champion the idea that quality online news is a necessity, rather than a luxury.”

Read the full report

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