Thursday 19 March 2020 4:45 pm

Coronavirus: Broadcaster viewing figures surge as Brits flock to TV news

The UK’s public service broadcasters have reported a huge surge in viewer numbers as Brits flock to TV news to find out the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak.

Almost 8.7m people tuned into the BBC Six O’Clock News last night — the highest figure recorded since Christmas Day 2008 and more than twice the average audience from last year.

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The BBC News channel also reached 11.7m adults last week, marking the strongest weekly viewing figures since the Paris terror attacks in 2015.

ITV News has also benefitted from increased interest, with its lunchtime bulletin attracting the largest audience since New Year’s Day 2014 and doubling its ratings year on year.

Meanwhile, Channel 4 News’ weekday 7pm programme has seen an 18 per cent increase in viewer numbers, reaching its highest peak since Christmas Eve 2008 on Monday night.

“These are testing times but never has public service broadcast news been more important, to verify the facts, inform the public and seek out the truth,” said Ben de Pear, editor of Channel 4 News.

“All of our staff are going beyond the call of duty to bring the news to the country and we are pleased that our TV audience has increased so significantly and that our position as the most viewed TV news programme on social media is delivering our journalism to an even bigger audience on digital platforms.”

TV news programming has suffered a steady decline in audience numbers in recent years as an increasing number of Brits consume news online and through social media.

But the surging demand sparked by the health crisis has also handed the broadcasters a boost for their online news offering.

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BBC News online yesterday racked up 29.2m unique browsers, beating the previous record set on Monday.

Channel 4 News, which has the largest social media following of any UK news programme, has attracted 23m viewers on Youtube in the last week, with half aged between 16 and 34.

Main image credit: BBC