Instagram now most popular news source among British teens

Social media site Instagram has become the most popular news source for young British teenagers, according to research commissioned by the UK’s media regulator, with BBC TV channels sliding from first to fifth place in the past year.

An Ofcom report into news consumption in the UK published on Thursday found that roughly a quarter of 12- to 15-year-olds watched BBC One and Two, compared with 45 per cent five years ago. Meanwhile, 29 percent of young teenagers surveyed this year cited Instagram as a source of news.

Traditional broadcasters have for years tried to address a slump in younger audiences, who are increasingly turning to social media platforms both for entertainment and to stay up to date with world events.

The trend is particularly concerning for the BBCwhich is embroiled in negotiations over its future funding model with a government that has put itself on a collision course with public service broadcasters.

Even though TV networks were considered the most trusted source and news on social media the least reliable, younger people were more likely to access news via digital platforms. Some 46 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds surveyed said they turned to Instagramcompared with 36 per cent who watched bulletins on BBC One.

BBC One remained the most popular news source among those over the age of 16, according to Ofcom’s report, with 56 per cent of the roughly 3,000 respondents saying they tuned in, while just over a third read and watched news on Facebook, a sister company of Instagram.

Ofcom found the Chinese-owned social media site TikTok was the second most popular platform for young teenagers seeking news. It reached 28 per cent of 12-to 15-year-olds, up from 11 per cent two years ago, and enjoyed the largest increase in use among all Britons over the age of 16.

But even though social media platforms reached more young teens, those who consumed news were more likely to cite BBC One and Two as the “most important” source.

“Teenagers today are increasingly unlikely to pick up a newspaper or tune into TV news, instead preferring to keep up to date by scrolling through their social feeds,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research.

“And while youngsters find news on social media to be less reliable, they rate these services more highly for serving up a range of opinions on the day’s topical stories,” he added.

The BBC said it remained the most important news source for young teenagers when reach via television, radio and online was taken into account. “People are also consuming BBC news on social media platforms such as our hugely popular Instagram account,” it added.

About 64 percent of adults said broadcast current affairs programs were important to “society overall”, while just over half said they were of personal value.

Away from broadcasting, the report showed that newspapers, whether in print or online, were particularly vulnerable to changing news habits. In 2022, only 38 percent of British adults read a newspaper, down from 51 percent in 2018.

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