The Reuters Institute’s annual report provides a detailed overview of media consumption around the world. The study covers a panel of 92,000 individuals in 46 countries. This year, the report examines the impact of Covid-19 on news consumption and the circulation of false information. It presents a thematic focus on local press and on access to news via social networks. It also addresses the evolution of the business models of online newspapers and the determinants of trust in news (diversity of opinions, equity, impartiality).
The report underlines that the average level of trust in news information has grown by 6% when compared to the previous year, reaching a level of 44% for the 46 countries examined. This general level of trust, however, masks strong disparities. Indeed, the level of trust in news information stemming from social networks remained relatively low from one year to the next (24%) and, conversely, trust in the media channels used by respondents increased slightly (50% trust among respondents). The report indicates that news sources historically known for disseminating accurate and reliable information are the most trusted by citizens.
France remains near the bottom of the ranking this year with a trust rate of 30% – close to that of the United States, where trust is the lowest, and that of Slovakia and Hungary – compared to 65% for Finland or 53% for Germany. However, while trust in the media in France remains very low, it has increased by 7% compared to 2020. The local and regional press remains the most reliable source of information according to the French (64% trust).
In Western Europe, in general, the consumption of news information from sources deemed reliable, stemming from traditional media outlets, increased during the pandemic. Elsewhere, however, where the health crisis received less coverage, media outlets did not benefit from this phenomenon.
The United States is unique in that interest in news among Republicans has plummeted drastically since the election of Joe Biden. The proportion of Republicans who are very interested in current events has dropped from 74% in 2020 to 57% in 2021. There has been no significant decrease in among Democrats.
Overall, television news continued to achieve good ratings in most countries, even though the proportion of the population that reports informing themselves via this channel is decreasing every year (in France, this number dropped from 84% in 2013 to 68% today, and from 79% to 60% in the UK). However, the health crisis has given television news a slight boost. In France, the top three offline news sources reported by participants are television groups: BFM TV (reported by 40% of the panel), followed by the France Télévisions and the TF1 groups. CNews comes in fifth place: 19% of the French population reports consulting the channel at least once a week. The top three online news sources reported by participants are 20 minutes online (18% of the panel), the local and regional press, and Le Monde online.
The succession of confinements in 2020 and 2021 has accelerated the digital transition of the major newspapers of the printed press. This tendency is evidenced by the increase in online newspaper subscriptions, although the percentage of subscribers remains low (17% – 2% more than the previous year). In France, 11% of the population subscribes to an online newspaper (same figure as in 2016), as opposed to 21% in the United States (9% in 2016), and 45% in Norway (27% in 2016). In most Western countries (but not in the United States), the traditional national press attracts the majority of online subscriptions.
Lastly, respondents to the study perceive a slight increase in the circulation of misinformation in 2021. However, this perception varies greatly among countries. For example, 82% of Brazilians are worried about the spread of fake news, as opposed to 37% of Germans. Globally, 54% of respondents report being confronted with misinformation regarding Covid-19, 43% regarding political issues, and 20% regarding climate change. Politicians are identified by respondents as the main potential source of false or misleading information (according to 29% of respondents). This is particularly the case in Brazil, Spain, Poland, and Niger. Facebook, with 28% of responses, is identified as the online platform with the greatest potential amount of misinformation. It is followed by online messaging services (15%), search engines (7%), YouTube (6%), and finally Twitter (6%).