Trust deficit, online shift: Newslaundry discusses Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2021

The Digital News Report 2021 finds that less than 40 percent of India’s news consumers in English trust the news they read or watch.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Only 38 percent of Indian news consumers in English trust the news they read or watch, according to the Digital News Report 2021 by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The report, based on a survey conducted by the Reuters Institute in collaboration with the Asian College of Journalism, states that 82 percent of Indian news consumers in English rely on online media and 73 percent use smartphones to get news. TV is still the more popular news source but the print media is more trusted than TV. Nearly 59 percent of the respondents got their news from TV, 82 percent from online platforms, and 50 percent from print media. WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube are major sources of news on the internet in the country, which is one of the top markets for delivery of news via cellphones. In fact, 63 percent of those surveyed relied for news solely on social media.

Since the survey mainly covered English-speaking news consumers, its findings represent the preferences and views of a small, largely privileged segment of the Indian population. Globally, the latest annual survey included 92,000 online news consumers across 46 markets.

As per the report, which covers India for the first time, the Times of India and NDTV enjoy the widest weekly reach across TV, radio, print, and online platforms. Republic TV is quite popular as well, but invites the greatest distrust.

The Times of India is the news brand with the highest trust score, at 74 percent. It’s followed jointly by DD news, All India Radio and BBC News at 73 percent; Indian Express at 72 percent; Economic Times and Hindustan Times at 71 percent; Hindu at 70 percent; CNN, Business Standard, NDTV at 68 percent; India Today at 67 percent, regional newspapers at 66 percent, Wire at 55 percent, and Republic at 44 percent.

The Times of India also has the widest weekly offline reach, with 44 percent of the respondents surveyed indicating they read the daily. NDTV comes next, with 42 percent of the respondents saying they watch the news channel, followed by India Today TV at 34 percent, Republic TV at 29 percent, BBC News at 27 percent, Hindustan Times and DD at 25 percent, Times Now and Hindu at 24 percent, regional or local papers at 19 percent, CNN at 18 percent, Indian Express at 17 percent, CNBC TV-18 and Economic Times at 16 percent, All India Radio at 15 percent, and New Indian Express at 9 percent.

Online, NDTV leads in weekly reach, with 35 percent of the respondents saying they visit the news outlet’s website, followed by the Times of India at 31 percent, BBC News at 24 percent, Republic TV at 24 percent, News 18, Hindustan Times and India.com at 21 percent, Yahoo! News and India Today at 20 percent, Hindu at 18 percent, DD News and Times Now at 17 percent, Indian Express and Economic Times at 16 percent, the Quint at 12 percent.

The report notes that rampant misinformation led to an increase in fact-checking in India, while TV news channels faced a credibility crisis last October when their ratings system, run by BARC, came under scrutiny.

It explains how the growing popularity of digital news platforms led to the Indian government formulating the controversial new IT rules.

Analysing the impact of the pandemic on the Indian media, the report mentions that government and private spending on ads decreased by more than half after the pandemic hit last year, leading to salary cuts, job losses and even the closure of newspaper editions.

To analyse the report’s findings and their significance for the Indian news industry, Newslaundry and Reuters Institute organised a panel discussion with Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute, Shashi Kumar, journalist and media entrepreneur, Supriya Sharma, executive editor of Scroll, and Dhanya Rajendran, editor-in-chief of the News Minute. The discussion was moderated by Manisha Pande, executive editor of Newslaundry.

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