Trust in news falls to 42% this year in Singapore, say Reuters’ report

Overall trust in news in Singapore had decreased since 2018, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019 which looked at data from almost 40 countries about how people are getting their news and how much they trust the news in their countries.

The report noted that Singapore is a “strategic centre for the English-speaking audience in South East Asia and a media hub for the region” that has a “highly developed if tightly controlled media market”.

Highlighting the recent developments in Singapore that took place between the previous report and this one, Reuters mentioned the passing of the anti-fake news law, or Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act. The reported noted the government’s stand that the law (which hadn’t yet been passed at the time the report was written) is “necessary to protect Singaporeans from harmful content – in particular inciting racial and religious disharmony”.

Now, breaking down news consumption in Singapore, the report highlights that print consumption has declined significantly over the last few years while online media and social media grows.

With an internet penetration rate of 84%, the report notes that about 86% of people surveyed in Singapore access news via the internet including social media, while 51% get their news from TVs. Only 38% still rely on print media for their news, a significant declined from 53% in 2017.  For those who get their news online, about 16% say they pay for it.

In terms of social media, about 48% say they get their news on Facebook while 41% get news on WhatsApp. Those are the leading social media and messaging platforms for news in Singapore though the numbers are declining slightly. The report notes that these platforms have “borne the brunt of the blame for the spread of disinformation in Singapore”. However, Youtube (27%) and Instagram (15%) are both rising up the ranks by 2% and 4% respectively compared to the previous year.

As for how people access their news, the report found that 76% of respondents rely on their smartphones for news in 2019 compared to 72% in 2017. Additionally, fewer people are accessing news on their laptops with figures dropping from 52% in 2017 to 45% in 2019, and even fewer accessing news on their tablets, from 21% to 17%.

Two big media companies dominate the production of local news, says the report, and have extended their dominance from traditional to only platforms. These two companies are Temasek-owner MediaCorp which operates all local television stations in Singapore and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) which the report notes has “close links to the ruling party” and “a virtual monopoly on the newspaper industry”.

MediaCorp’s website of its cable news network Channel News Asia is by far the most popular online news source, used by 46% of those surveyed. As for SPH, Straits Times comes in second for online news at 37%, down from 45% last year. Yahoo! News comes in third at 30% for most frequently used news site.

Straits Times still leads the TV, Radio and Print category with 43%, though that’s a decrease from the previous years’ 51%.

The report highlights that digital media start-up Mothership.sg has become the fourth most-used news site in Singapore, up from 23% in 2018 to 29% in 2019.

In terms of trust, the report found that people’s trust in news has decreased to 42% from 47% the previous year. It noted that this drop could be attributed to “driven in part by widespread political and media discussion of ‘fake news’”.

The top trusted news brand in Singapore is MediaCorp’s Channel News Asia which a trust score of 7.01 out of 10, which is a very slight decreased from its trust score last year of 7.18. Next is BBC news which stands at 6.9, down from 7.18 last year when it tied with CNA as most trusted news brand in Singapore. Straits Times (6.88), Channel 5 News (6.81) and Channel 8 News (6.78) make up the rest of the top 5 trusted brands.

It’s worth noting that The Online Citizen is among the top 15 trusted news brands in Singapore with a score of 5.23, just below the major mainstream media outlets in the country.

Another thing the report looked at was the proportion of people who agreed that the news media monitor and scrutinise the powerful. Comparing all countries it surveyed, Singapore lands fifth from the bottom, with only 32% agreeing that news media monitor and scrutinise the powerful.

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