01/11/2002

Vote of confidence for NI news services

A study of television and other news sources in the UK has found that only 4% of Northern Ireland viewers are dissatisfied with the provision of local news services.

The research carried out by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) found this was the lowest dissatisfaction rate in the UK.

North East England, at 5% was close behind, but 26% of London respondents were unhappy with news services.

The research was originally commissioned following debate about declining levels of engagement in the political process and lower levels of interest in press and broadcast news. The report, 'New News, Old News', co-authored by Professor Ian Hargreaves and James Thomas, confirmed a long-term reduction in audiences for television and radio news and current affairs, along with a well-documented decline in the use of newspapers.

The research found that television is now the leading news medium, with 91% of people declaring it to be a useful source of news. Newspapers are next at 73%, followed by 59% for radio and 15% for the Internet.

However, the study’s authors concluded: “Our news infrastructure... risks being undermined by a growing assumption that news is something available free of charge and even free of effort”.

ITC's Chief Executive Patricia Hodgson said: “Access to trustworthy, informative news can no more be taken for granted than clean air. It requires conscious acts of public policy to guarantee it. Television remains the supreme news medium, one of the few shared experiences across the whole of British society. Yet news is expensive, and audiences, with access to more channels and entertainment, have declined.

"At the heart of the analysis is the value of broadcast news to our society and political culture, and the importance, though the Communications Bill, of supporting investment, easy access and diverse ownership of broadcast news.”

This research was undertaken against a background of growing concern about declining levels of voting and, apparently, diminishing levels of attention paid to news.

Many commentators argue that news, including broadcast news, has been dumbed down and is failing to provide the information needed by today’s citizens.

(GB)

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