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Study: The level of public trust in news declined during the pandemic in Hungary, Spain and Belgium

A new study published by Blanquerna university shows overall decreased in trust in news following the Covid-19 pandemic in Belgium, Spain and Hungary. Results also show very low level of awareness about media and press councils, their role and the mechanisms complaints.

Blanquerna university carried out a study analysing the citizens' perception of media self-regulatory bodies and media reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic in three EU countries. A total of 2,400 people were surveyed between 3 and 14 June 2021.

"This questionnaire is part of a project funded by the European Commission to study how European citizens informed themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic and the professional and ethical challenges of media councils in today's digital environment. Our goal was to better understand firstly, citizens' awareness about media and press councils and, secondly, how the covid outbreak has affected trust on news and how citizens assess news media reporting. To do so, we have chosen three different countries, both in terms of geographic location but also in terms of political and media culture: Spain, Belgium and Hungary,” explained Jaume Suau Martinez, PhD and main researcher at the Digilab group (Blanquerna - Ramon Llull University).

Awareness and knowledge about press and media councils

The main findings shows the little knowledge citizens have about self-regulatory in bodies in the three target countries:

  • Only a third of respondents are aware of this existence of media and press councils-
  • More than 70% of respondents said they are not aware of the possibility of filing complaints to report potential ethical breach

Information and Covid-19 pandemic

Trust levels in the media dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic in the three countries surveyed. The phenomenon is more important in Hungary, where around 40% of citizens distrust news media, followed by 31% in Spain and 24% in Belgium. Results also show that trust levels in the media is to be correlated with the citizens' own political orientation (right-wing, left-wing, centre).

Overall, citizens think that the media has offered too much information about the pandemic, with Spaniard being the most critical. Regarding the perception of disinformation, young adults (18-29) proportionally were more exposed. The results found also that the more people distrusted the media before the pandemic, the more they felt they had received disinformation about the virus. The main channel for receiving false information is by far TV shows (morning and evening magazines, where information and entertainment are hybridized), while social media represent one of the lowest percentage.

Download the report

The study was carried out within the project "Media Councils in the Digital Age" framework. This project is funded by the European Commission (DG CONNECT) and led by a European consortium, which brings together several European press councils (Austria (OP), Germany (TDP), Belgium (RVDJ and CDJ), Finland (JSN), as well as two universities (ULB in Belgium and Ramon LLull-Blanquerna in Spain) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ).

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