As the time to review 2017 fast approaches, headline writers will be faced with a struggle to sum up a year of pretty momentous events.
A snap General Election produced an unexpected result. The UK, especially London, was rocked by terrorist attacks. The awful fire at Grenfell Tower which claimed the lives of 71 people will have political implications stretching ahead for years to come. And that’s without mentioning Brexit.
The way we get our news and information about these important news events has changed significantly in the last decade. Rolling TV news and radio bulletins still attract huge numbers as major events unfurl. For more in-depth coverage and analysis, people are drawn to newspapers and magazines.
All that is supplemented by instant access on our smartphones to news and social media, providing a world of limitless information at our fingertips. This creates a blizzard of news and views on any incident concurrently with events unfolding. Ten years after the smartphone revolution, concerns are beginning to emerge about the longterm effect of such instantaneous communication, not only on media businesses, but more broadly on our society and our democracy.
It’s little surprise that the wonders of technology blinded us for a while to its potential downside. Fake news, alternative facts, political campaigning masquerading as something else, are all concepts with which, sadly, we have become familiar. And because, as readers and listeners, we are increasingly savvy about those phenomena, professionally curated news created by real journalists is achieving a new value.
Trust in its broadest sense is becoming one of the defining issues of our age. People want to know they can trust the news they hear and rely on the fact that it comes from a reputable, impartial source.
With this in mind, we at Radiocentre wanted to understand more about where our listeners are on this important subject. A new report, Breaking News, proves the enduring strength of established brands like LBC, Capital, Heart, Magic and Smooth – and the power of the relationship people have with their local radio stations. Listeners rely on them to deliver short, punchy news updates during the day. Precisely because there are now so many sources of information, the simplicity of short bulletins from a trusted news outlet becomes more attractive.
Over three quarters of those surveyed said they trust what they hear on the radio, more any other news source. Key moments in the day for tuning in are the mornings, in the car and during local emergencies. If they want to know more, they will go to newspaper websites or the BBC. They are inherently suspicious of social media (with only 15 per cent saying they trust it) despite consuming it in large numbers.
Our new report, launched in Parliament, provides an important snapshot at a time when trust in our major democratic institutions appears to be on the wane. With Breaking News, we hope to contribute to the growing debate about ensuring a strong future for trusted media that people in the UK really value.