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Almost a quarter believe media exaggerate Covid-19 dangers: Ofcom

Posted on: May 26, 2020 by Ian Murray

Almost a quarter of people believe that the media is exaggerating the dangers from the Covid-19 virus, according to a new survey by watchdog Ofcom.

The survey, the latest in a regular polling of opinions to coverage of the emergency by Ofcom, confirms that the majority of people still seek news on the crisis at least once a day, but numbers following multiple news items has fallen significantly since the start of the lockdown.

Ofcom spoke to 2,000 people for the survey, the eighth carried out by them so far.

Key findings include:

Consumption of news and information about Covid-19

  • Nine in ten respondents (92 per cent) are still accessing news about Covid-19 at least once a day (vs. 99% in week one). But less than one in ten (8 per cent) are now accessing news about the pandemic at least twenty times a day (vs. 24 per cent in week one).
  • A third of respondents (33 per cent) say they are ‘trying to avoid news about coronavirus’
  • Among adult internet users, traditional media sources (broadcasters, newspapers, radio) remain both the most-used source of news and information about Covid-19 (88 per cent in week eight vs. 93 per cent in week one). BBC services (TV, radio and online) remain the most used.

Misinformation related to Covid-19

  • In week eight, 43 per cent of respondents say they have come across false or misleading information about Covid-19 in the last week.
  • The most common piece of misinformation respondents came across (from a select list) was ‘theories linking the origins or causes of Covid-19 to 5G technology’.

Attitudes and behaviour related to Covid-19

  • More than a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents agree with the statement: ‘I am confused about what I should be doing in response to Coronavirus’This is an increase from 16 per cent in week seven and 17% in week one.
  • The NHS remains the most trusted source for information on Covid-19. More than nine in ten adults who use it for information say they trust it.
  • Nearly all respondents still say they are closely following official guidance about regular handwashing.
  • Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) say they think ‘the mainstream media is exaggerating the seriousness of Coronavirus’, compared to 17 per cent in week one.

Ofcom have also released a survey into the early effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing in the UK.

Their findings reveal that weekly reach to broadcast TV is in decline, however, average minutes viewed remain much higher than last year.

Bullet points are:

  • With the lockdown continuing throughout the UK, daily TV viewing has continued to track above that of last year for all of April. This is true of both broadcast TV and viewing on the TV set that cannot be matched to viewing from the broadcasters (known as ‘unmatched viewing’ consisting of a combination of SVoD, gaming, YouTube etc).
  • Viewing of broadcast TV in May continues to remain high – at higher levels than the prior four years.
  • March saw the viewing share of all PSB channels the highest so far this year at 58.8%. April’s figure was lower than March but higher than January and February at 57.5%. So far in May we have seen the PSB share at similar levels to April.
  • The average weekly reach to broadcast TV has dropped further in calendar week 18 (w/c 27th April 2020), to 88.7% and is now lower than comparable weeks in 2019 and 2018. The weekly reach to news viewing is also declining although it still remains much higher than viewing in previous years.