Trust in the media

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
November 14, 2011, 11:29 AM GMT+0

Report shows UK trust in media dented by phone-hacking scandal; TV is most trusted outlet

The UK public still sees traditional media, such as TV and radio, as the most trustworthy media outlets, the first Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) UK Trust Report has found, as the American TV channel launches in the UK. The poll, of 1,108 UK adults and 1,095 US adults, also found that this summer’s phone-hacking scandal has resulted in media mistrust among members the public.

  • 64% of UK adults saw TV as the most trusted media outlet
  • 58% said the same about radio
  • 38% trusted newspapers, while 25% thought the same about magazines
  • Interestingly, websites saw a high level of trust (55%)
  • But blogs are trusted by under one in ten people (9%)
  • While Facebook and Twitter are trusted by only 15% of UK people as a place to get trusted media content, despite their huge numbers of users

So while blogs, Facebook and Twitter fulfil other roles such as community, opinion, immediacy and gossip, when it comes to trusted sources of information and insight, TV and radio still come out on top.

In the US, traditional media again leads the way on trust, with newspapers viewed as trustworthy by 44% of Americans, followed by TV and magazines both on 42%. Blogs (18%) and social media (19%) still lag behind, but they are a lot more accepted by the US public than here in the UK.

Future trust

  • Looking at the future of people’s trust in media, TV also comes out top as the place to which both the UK (35%) and US public (41%) will go to more in 2012 to keep up-to-date with current affairs
  • This is followed in the UK by websites (27%) and radio (21%)
  • In a disheartening fact for newspapers, nearly 1 in 5 (17%) UK adults think that they will be less likely to consult newspapers for their current affairs content in 2012

Levels of public media mistrust

The survey also suggested that the phone-hacking scandal has resulted in a deep level of mistrust from the UK public. 58% say that the recent scandal has reduced their level of trust in the newspaper industry, while over half (51%) say it has reduced their trust in the UK media as a whole.

The PBS UK Trust Report also reveals that the UK public is cynical of both its own media industry and US media outlets too.

  • Three in four people (74%) in the UK think media outlets sometimes, or frequently, lie to their audiences
  • Over half – 55% - agree that the content in the UK media has been dumbed down in recent years
  • 21% of UK adults said they never trust the US media in terms of its content, regardless of the type of story being covered

Interestingly, the US public trusts the UK media far more, with only 7% saying that they never trust the UK media.

Richard Kingsbury, PBS’s General Manager UK, said: ‘We wanted to understand the issue of trust in the media given that we are launching America’s most trusted broadcaster in the UK*. It is salutary how public trust has been corroded across all media and yet encouraging that television still enjoys a high level of trust.’

Of PBS’s recent UK launch, Kingsbury added, ‘We hope to play our part in [the media’s] future health by bringing you the best of US science, history, current affairs and news’.

Broadcasting of the new UK PBS channel began on 1st November.

*For the seventh consecutive year, the American public rated PBS the most trustworthy institution among nationally known organisations. GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media, January 2010.

See the survey details and full results here - PBS Trust Report, UK

See the survey details and full results here - PBS Trust Report, USA