Almost half of UK audiences avoid news, report reveals

Almost half of Britons actively avoid the news, a figure which has doubled in the past five years, according to a new report.

The number of those in the UK who reported avoiding certain types of news “sometimes or often” has risen to 46%, compared to 38% worldwide.

The findings, made through surveys of more than 93,000 people across 46 counties, were published on Wednesday in a new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

General Stock – Newspapers
The number of people in the UK who avoid the news has doubled in the last five years (PA/ Jonathan Brady)

Worldwide, around 43% of so-called “selective news avoiders” said they were put off by the repetitiveness of the news agenda, especially around politics and Covid-19, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report.

Just over a third, particularly those under 35, said the news brought down their mood, while around 17% said the news leads to arguments they would rather avoid.

Around 16% said some news stories lead to feelings of powerlessness.

One UK respondent said he avoided “things that trigger my anxiety and things that can have a negative impact on my day”, while another said she sometimes found the news to be “repetitive and negative”.

Nic Newman, Senior Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and lead author of the report, said: “These findings are particularly challenging for the news industry.

“Subjects that journalists consider most important, such as political crises, international conflicts and global pandemics, seem to be precisely the ones that are turning some people away.”

The report said a “significant” proportion of worldwide respondents, 29%, said they avoided news because they thought it could not be trusted.

In the UK, 34% of those surveyed said they trusted most of the news most of the time.

Meanwhile, the worldwide average was 42%, with the lowest levels being recorded in the USA and Slovakia at 26%.

The report said low trust countries, such as the United states, France, the United Kingdom, and Slovakia, saw some of the highest levels of news avoidance, as well as news disconnection, with declining interest in news.

The report also revealed a greater proportion of people, especially younger audiences, are finding news on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Almost eight in 10, or 78%, of 18-24s access news via routes such as aggregators, search engines, and social media each week.

Someone holding a phone where the screen shows a number of social media apps
The report found that more people turn to social media to consume news (Peter Byrne/PA)

TikTok was the fastest growing sources of news, with 40% of the age group using the platform each week and 15% saying they used it to find, discuss, or share news.

The report’s authors said: “The Russia-Ukraine conflict has increased the profile of the network globally. Ukrainians have been documenting their experience of the war, including leaving their homes as refugees, clocking up millions of views in the process.

“As we noted last year, many publishers have been increasing their investment, but some worry that a platform where entertainment content is so sought-after may not be the most effective place for news.”

Across 12 countries surveyed, including the UK, USA, Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil, 12% of users reported using Instagram for news, up from just 2% in 2014, use of TikTok for news grew from 1% to 4% since 2020, while Facebook sat at the top of list at 30%, having dropped 6% since 2014.