At just 28 per cent, the UK has the lowest level of trust in its media out of all 20 countries surveyed in Edelman’s tenth Trust Barometer.
Almost every source of information has been hit by this declining trend. In the UK, trust in newspapers dropped ten percentage points to 19 per cent, while radio news fell 20 points to 33 per cent.
Britons also trust their peers less, down from 46 per cent to 37 per cent.
Robert Phillips, Edelman’s UK CEO, attributed the lack of trust in the media to the escalating financial crisis. ‘Probably, as in all sectors in the short term, trust has been hit because of the economic environment,’ he said.
Jonathan Hughes, co-MD Europe of GolinHarris, said people seemed to be blaming reporters for being the bearers of bad news. ‘People trust their mates less, let alone the media. I suspect there’s an element of shooting the messenger in the media figures,’ he said.
However, the picture may not be accurate, said Donald Steel, head of press at the BBC. He insisted that recent Ofcom research showed high levels of trust in UK broadcasters. ‘Recent events will have an impact on public trust, but there is strong evidence that this is recovering,’ said Steel.
The survey also solicited views on the trustworthiness of individual professionals. CEOs were found to be the least trusted spokespeople, while academics and financial analysts ranked first on the list. Globally, only 29 per cent of people viewed information as credible when it came from a CEO and just 27 per cent trusted information from a government official.
Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, said companies needed to allow mid-level employees to also communicate with the public. He added that trust in information coming directly from companies, such as press releases and websites, had also decreased.
The 2009 Trust Barometer was based on interviews with 4,475 people, aged 25 to 64, in 20 countries.
How I see it
Chief media correspondent, Financial Times
It is probably not very sensible to talk about mistrust of the UK media. It is like saying there is a love of football clubs… More detailed surveys have shown that the BBC and some elements of the press have trust rankings as high as any professions.
Media editor, The Independent
Britain is the most competitive media environment in the world. The economic downturn and the advance of new media have put pressure on traditional media to abandon formality in favour of entertainment… Extensive use of the internet has taught society to be more questioning of all information sources.
Percentage of people who trust the media in the UK
Percentage of people who trust newspapers in the UK
Number of times people need to hear a message to believe it
Of people trust companies less than they did a year ago
Percentage of respondents who trust NGOs in the UK