More young people switch to TV news

The percentage of young people citing TV as their main source of news has almost doubled in 2021, the latest yearly Reuters Institute Digital News Report for Ireland shows. The research of around 2,000 people across Ireland also found that WhatsApp is now the country’s most popular social media platform for any reason, and has now overtaken Facebook.

Irish news consumers are more interested in news and more likely to pay for news than their European or British counterparts. The report, supported by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), claims to be most extensive ongoing comparative study of news consumption in the world. The Irish data forms part of the larger survey, conducted in 46 countries.

Ireland’s participation has been facilitated for the seventh year by the BAI, with analysis of the Irish data by researchers from the Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) at Dublin City University. The report includes analysis of international and Irish trends in the online news audience, trust in news sources, and paying for news.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Interest in news: Some 70 per cent of Irish respondents said they were extremely or very interested in news, an increase of five percentage points on last year’s figures. The percentage of Irish respondents interested in news is higher than the EU average at 60 per cent, the UK (51 per cent) and North America on 54 per cent.
  • Sources of news: The number of consumers who cite TV as their main source of news in Ireland has risen by eight percentage points to 41 per cent. The next most popular source of news is online (excluding social media and blogs) at 29 per cent, which is unchanged from 2020, and social media at 16 per cent, down four points on 2020.
  • Radio and press: The number of consumers citing radio as their main source of news has fallen by four percentage points, to nine per cent, and the number citing printed newspapers has fallen by two percentage points, to four per cent. The 18-24-year-old age group recorded the biggest increase, up 13 percentage points on 2020, to 28 per cent – largely at the expense of social media, dropping 15 percentage points to 31 per cent.
  • Trust in news: Levels of public trust in news in Ireland increased by five percentage points, with 53 per cent expressing positive levels of trust, 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, the UK and North America.
  • 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 and upwards 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 per cent) and the 25–34 (49 per cent) age categories.
  • Paying for news: The number of Irish consumers paying for news subscriptions or access was up by four percentage points, to 16 per cent. Irish consumers are more willing than their EU or British counterparts to pay for news. 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. Only three per cent of middle and high-income earners paid to access more than five news sources.
  • Financial state of commercial news organisations: Some 37 per cent of Irish respondents said they were very or quite concerned about the financial state of commercial news organisations in Ireland, compared with 28 per cent in the EU; one in four in the UK and one in three in North America. However, 34% of Irish respondents said they believe news organisations are either more profitable or roughly as profitable as they were a decade ago. Some 29 per cent of Irish respondents said they were unaware of the financial difficulties faced by the media, compared to 35 per cent in the EU; 51 per cent in the UK and 41 per cent in North America. One in three 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 per cent – a rise of three percentage points); followed by the laptop or desktop computer (27 per cent) and tablet (11 per cent).
  • Fake news: One in two Irish respondents disagree or strongly disagreeing with the statement ‘you can trust the news on social media most of the time’. Three out of four people in the 65 and over age group said they were ‘concerned about what is real and what is fake on the internet’, compared with 55 per cent 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, followed by politics, celebrities, climate change and the environment. For younger cohorts, ‘ordinary people’ were cited as the most concerning sources for false or misleading information, while ‘activists or activist groups’ were cited by those aged 55 and over. 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.
  • Diversity of representation: Respondents were asked for their attitudes on how well they feel they are represented in the news. When asked about how their age group is represented, the 45-54 age group was most content. Conversely, young adults aged 18-24 were most unhappy, with one in three saying there was not enough coverage.

As well as the Digital News Report, the BAI has commissioned DCU to examine in greater detail gender and diversity in the context of the Irish Reuters data since 2016. The BAI is keen to know women’s attitudes towards and engagement with news and they have confirmed that a report on the findings is due to be published later this year.

The study was commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism to understand how news is being consumed in 46 countries. Research was conducted by YouGov using an online questionnaire in January and February 2021. Sample sizes in each country were assembled using nationally representative quotas for age, gender, region and education.

The data was also weighted to targets based on census and industry-accepted data. The total sample size was 80,155 adults with around 2,000 per country. Ireland has 92 per cent internet penetration and the sample size used in the study was 2,031. Full details on the Reuters Institute Digital News Report are available on the BAI website at

Pictured above is RTÉ newsreader Caitriona Perry. The report showed that the national broadcaster is the most trusted news source for Irish consumers, with 78 per cent of respondents saying they trusted the service. Consumer trust in local newspapers as a news source was up by four points to 75 per cent.

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