DCU FuJo Researchers Provide Analysis for Digital News Report Ireland 2023
Researchers from the Dublin City University Institute of Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) have provided analysis of the Irish data for The Digital News Report 2023, which will be published by Coimisiún na Meán this morning.
Research for the Digital News Report is undertaken by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and 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.
Launched in 2015, the DCU Institute for Future Media Democracy and Society is a pioneering space to advance research, innovation and best-practice in journalism and media. The FuJo Institute is a multidisciplinary research centre focused on the digital transformation of media, democracy, and society. FuJo investigates how to counter digital pathologies including disinformation and digital hate; how to enhance public participation through democratic innovations; and how to secure the sustainability of high-quality journalism.
Ireland’s participation in the Digital news Report has been facilitated this year by Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s new regulator for broadcast, on demand and online media. The Commission also has a media development function and continues the support previously given by its predecessor, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
The study found that only a quarter of Irish people (25%) agree that it is better to have a human editor/journalist select or curate what they consume, while 31% believe that it is better to see news selected by an algorithm, based on their viewing history and preferences. However, more than half of Irish news consumers (53%) ‘strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’ that personalised news may cause them to miss important news stories, while 51% are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about encountering only those viewpoints which accord with their own.
The report includes an analysis of international and Irish trends in online news audiences, how online audiences access news, trust in news sources, and paying for news. This year’s report also looks at the cost-of-living crisis as contextual information on media issues. It includes six essays on topic of current interest, including the impact of tech job losses; news podcasting and making them pay; anti-social networks; the twilight of print; climate change reporting, and AI and the future of news.
Key findings from this year’s report include:
Interest in News: Interest in news has fallen once again. Some 52% of respondents said they were ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ interested in news, down five percentage points on 2022. The report shows that strong interest in news amongst younger people has plummeted since 2016. In that year, some 53% of respondents aged between 18-24 indicated they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ interested in news, compared with 28% in 2023. In contrast, some 69% of over 65s indicated a strong interest in news.
Trust in News: Trust in news has fallen back to pre-pandemic levels, with 47% of respondents saying they either ‘strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’ with the statement that they can trust most of the news most of this time. Although this has fallen five percentage points on last year, it compares favourably to the UK (32%); the US (31%), and Europe (40%).
Sources of News: Respondents’ main sources of news are still television and online (excluding social media) which both sit at 32%. Social media is at 20%, radio sits at 11% and printed newspapers are at 5%. For 18–24-year-olds, social media is the most important source of news at 39%, followed by online (excluding social media) at 31%. For these ‘social natives’, TV sits at 18%, radio at 5% and printed newspapers at 5%.
Fake News: Worries about misinformation and disinformation are growing. Concern about what is real and what is fake on the internet is comparatively high in Ireland (64%), up six percentage points since last year. This compares with 50% in the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, the level of concern is at 64% in the US and is highest in the UK at 69%.
Listening to podcasts: Podcasts remain very popular in Ireland, with 44% of respondents saying they had listened to a podcast in the previous month, compared to 41% of US respondents, 34% of European respondents and 30% of UK respondents.
Government funding of public interest journalism: Climate change and environment news topped the poll (44%) of subjects seen as worthy of extra government resourcing. In second place were ‘less well served groups’ (33%) such as the Irish Traveller community, immigrant communities and the disabled audience. Local council meetings came in at 31%, followed by courts coverage at 22%.
Professor Colleen Murrell of DCU School of Communications, and lead researcher of the report, commented that
“How we access and engage with news in Ireland is constantly evolving. Some of these changes have been happening steadily over time, such as the move from printed newspapers to online and social media. Other factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, fragmenting online audiences and platform disruption are now speeding up some of these changes. The importance of this annual Reuters news survey is that it enables media companies to examine and react to these trends to ensure that Ireland’s population can continue to access informative and trustworthy media. This year once again provides fascinating insight into what audiences of various age groups are interested in, concerned about, and where they are getting their news.”
Coimisiún na Mean Broadcasting Commissioner, Celene Craig said:
“One of the standout findings this year is the growth in concern amongst Irish respondents on what is real and what is fake on the internet – perhaps prompted by how the rise in the use of artificial intelligence presents a challenge in ensuring transparency and accuracy in news production. Coimisiún na Meán aims to work in partnership with relevant areas of interest to minimise the effects of disinformation in Ireland and across Europe. In this regard, Coimisiún na Meán hopes to build on the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation work undertaken by the BAI since the voluntary Code was first introduced in 2018.
“An Coimisiún is also actively contributing to preparatory work being undertaken on the new European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), which supports plurality and transparency in the media and which is set to introduce protections for a range of players in the media sector. Finally, an Coimisiún looks forward also to continuing to deliver meaningful research to assist us in ensuring a diverse and pluralistic media landscape in Ireland, and to announcing later this year the development of new funding schemes to support public interest journalism.”
More detail on the DCU Institute for Future Media Democracy and Society is available here.