UK 'falls behind' in news access

UK Newspapers The survey found that 54% of people in the UK read a newspaper every week

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People in the UK consume less news than those in the US and some European countries, according to a study.

Some 75% of people in the UK read, watch or listen to a news story every day, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism survey suggests.

By contrast, nine out of 10 Germans access the news every day.

The study also suggested that UK readers have less interest in politics, and more interest in celebrity news, than their European counterparts.

More than 6,000 people in five countries took part in the survey, which was conducted by YouGov.

The findings showed that men were more likely to consume news than women, and that young audiences were typically less interested in current affairs than their elders.

Celebrity news was markedly more popular in the UK - with 21% of consumers expressing an interest in stories about music, film and gossip.

That compared with 9% in Denmark, 14% in Germany and France, and 16% in the USA.

The appetite is fed by websites like Mail Online, Holy Moly and Female First - so, perhaps unsurprisingly, UK consumers were more likely to find their news online than by any other medium.

Of those who accessed the news daily in the UK, 82% had read an online story in the last week, 76% had watched a TV bulletin, 54% had read a newspaper, and just 45% had listened to news on the radio.

Graph of Daily news access by country

The dominance of online news was thanks in part to the BBC, said the report's authors, which had "built up a formidable market share of more than double its nearest competitor".

This section of the report may well embolden critics of the BBC, who intend to argue that the corporation's dominance of Britain's media landscape should be curtailed as its Royal Charter comes up for renewal.

The UK was the only country in the survey where a broadcaster's website was the most popular source of news. In Denmark and France, newspaper websites dominated, while America relied more on specialist online publications such as The Huffington Post, TMZ and Gawker.

Analysis

This report illustrates that the crisis of disengagement with democratic politics, which we see so clearly in declining participation in elections, is reinforced by a reluctance to engage in journalism about really important current affairs.

I make no criticism of people's interest in entertainment news. If you look at an edition of the Daily Mail from the year of its launch in 1896, such great national newspapers knew instinctively that they had to entertain as well as inform.

But there is a regrettable tendency, particularly in online manifestations, to focus exclusively on the entertainment element.

I think journalism may have gone too far towards trying to compromise with a disengaged electorate. We cannot over-simplify serious political, constitutional, economic and diplomatic issues. They are complex, they require concentration, but they need to be understood.

UK engagement in political news was also low compared with the rest of Europe - at 37%, stated interest was significantly below the US figure of 63%.

Meanwhile, readership of financial and economic news was high across the board, undoubtedly because of the ongoing financial crisis.

Unwilling subscribers

The study also looked at how people discovered news stories online.

Social media emerged as a growing influence, with one in five UK newshounds now likely to find a story on Facebook or Twitter.

Among young audiences, this figure grew to 43%, eclipsing search engines. They added they were more likely to click on links sent by friends, than ones posted by news organisations.

More widely, consumers remained resistant to paying for news online. This was particularly the case in the UK, where only 4% would consider subscribing to a news website - but even in Denmark, where the idea had the most traction, only 12% were in favour.

However, there was some good news for outlets pursuing a subscription model - users of tablet computers like Apple's iPad or Samsung's Galaxy were more likely to pay for content.

In the UK, 21% of tablet owners said they had paid for news, and 16% said they would pay to access "sources that I like" in the future.

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