Big increase in young people using TV as main source of news – Reuters Digital News Report (Ireland)

BAI funds inclusion of Irish data in international report for seventh year

The percentage of young people citing TV as their main source of news has almost doubled in 2021. That is just one of the findings in this year’s Reuters Digital News Report (Ireland) 2021, which will be launched this morning (23.06.21) at an online event by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). The research of more than 2,000 people in Ireland also found that WhatsApp is now the most popular social media platform in Ireland for any reason, overtaking Facebook, and Irish news consumers are both more interested in news and more likely to pay for news than their European or UK counterparts.

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report is the largest 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 through sponsorship 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. This year’s report profiles Irish consumers and their interests and engagement with news and technology; their sources and devices; their attitudes towards trust, disinformation and paying for news; new data on brands, discovery and social media and the effect of COVID-19 on news media consumption in Ireland.

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.

Commenting, BAI deputy chief executive, Celene Craig said: “Facilitating a mix of voices, opinions, and sources of news and current affairs which enhance democratic debate and active citizenship is a key objective of the BAI Strategy Statement 2021-2023.  It is also key to ensuring a healthy news ecosystem in Ireland.  The Reuters Digital News Report is one of the most significant cross-platform content research projects running in Ireland that allows developments here to be viewed in an international context. This year’s report presents clear findings on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Ireland’s news ecosystem.  It provides insights into how society has adapted to the changes and raises questions about the longer-term impact of these changes on the ways news is sourced, accessed, consumed, and funded in Ireland. 

“The report also highlights the challenges, exacerbated by the pandemic, to sustaining a viable news ecosystem that serves, reflects, and embraces the diversity of Irish society and highlights that imaginative solutions will be required if plurality is to be sustained. While the report does not provide solutions to all these challenges, it provides clear evidence of the challenges and the pace of change. It also points to areas where further research and analysis would be worthwhile. The BAI continues to support this research, as it provides critical insights to guide the BAI in delivering a media landscape that it representative of and accessible to the diversity of Irish society.

Lead researcher Prof Colleen Murrell from FuJo said: “This last year has shown us just how important a role professional news gathering plays in informing the Irish population about crucial issues related to the spread of COVID-19. While it is sometimes thought that reporters are superfluous, because government ministers and scientists can now speak directly to the people via multiple media platforms, our data suggest Irish consumers want to see their elected representatives and senior scientists interrogated and their policies examined by professional journalists.

She added: “The research shows that 2021 has sent Irish consumers back towards trusted brands and made them more wary of disinformation and misinformation emanating from social media platforms. It is heartening to see a growing interest in news and politics – particularly among the young. We believe that the huge increase in the number of younger consumers citing TV as their main source of news may be linked to moving home and spending time with family members who have the TV on for health briefings and news bulletins. We hope that this focused research on Irish consumers will be useful for media owners, journalists, academics, teachers, those involved in media literacy and those who work in the area of media policy.”

The Reuters Digital News Report Ireland 2021 is available here. The infographic illustrating some key findings of the report is available here.


Media contact: Joanne Ahern / Thelma Harris, DHR Communications, Tel: 087-9881837 / 083-0517622.

All other queries: BAI, 01-6441200.

Notes to Editors:

  • The annual Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford is the largest ongoing study of news consumption trends in the world. The global report, covering 46 countries, is available at Research was conducted by YouGov using an online questionnaire in January / 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/industry-accepted data. The total sample size was 80,155 adults with around 2,000 per country. Ireland has 92% internet penetration and the sample size was 2,031.