Interest in news and belief in the importance of independent journalism run high in the Philippines but are accompanied by a low trust in news and high levels of concern over misinformation.
Survey results from the 2020 Digital News Report found 95 percent of the 2,019 adult respondents in the Philippines indicating interest in news and 91 percent saying independent journalism is important for society to function properly.
But overall trust in news is low 27 percent in the country, which ranks 35th among the 40 media markets covered in the annual project of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at Oxford University. In particular, trust in news in social media is only 22 percent.
This is the first time the Philippines is included in the project, which began in 2012. This year’s online survey was conducted in January to February when the COVID-19 pandemic was starting.
The survey found that online misinformation bothers 57 percent of the respondents who identified government, politicians or political parties as the leading source (44 percent). Nearly two-thirds said the news media should prominently report false statements from politicians.
Sources of news
Social media and television are primary sources of news accessed largely through smartphones.
About 68 percent of the sample said they get news through social media and a 66 percent from television. Only 22 percent get their news from print.
Of the devices used to access news, 75 percent said they rely on smartphones and 39 percent on computers.
More than half (55 percent) said they prefer to watch the news than read (36 percent) or listen (7 percent) to it.
Consistent with other industry data, television giants ABS-CBN and GMA Network are the most frequently used media brands offline and online.
ABS-CBN, which closed its radio and television stations on May 5 after government failed to renew its franchise to operate, was the most used site at the time of the survey, accessed by 61 percent of the respondents offline and by 54 percent online.
GMA Network was accessed by 53 percent offline and 47 percent online.
The third most popular domestic brand is Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country’s leading newspaper, and Inquirer.net, used by 35 percent of the respondents both offline and online.
PDI is followed by The Philippine Star offline (30 percent) and by the digital news site Rappler online (31 percent).
The top social media brands are Facebook, used by 73 percent of the sample for news – the highest in the 40-market study – and YouTube, 49 percent.
GMA Network is considered the most trustworthy brand (73 percent), followed by TV5, Manila Bulletin and The Philippine Star (68 percent each), then by Philippine Daily Inquirer and DZMM/Radyo Patrol (67 percent each).
The RISJ found across the 40 media markets that less than four in ten (38 percent) said they trust “most news most of the time” – a fall of four percentage points from 2019.
Less than half (46 percent) said they trust the news they use themselves while trust in search (32 percent) and social media (22 percent) is even lower.
Global concerns about misinformation remain high with more than half of the global sample (56 percent) saying they are concerned about what is true or false on the internet when it comes to news.
Domestic politicians are the single most frequently named source of misinformation (40 percent), followed by activists (14 percent) and the media (13 percent).
The survey was carried out online by YouGov in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Kenya and South Africa.
The sample in the Philippines is broadly representative of those who are online, which is around 72 percent of the population according to Internet World Stats. It will tend to underrepresent traditional media habits such as radio, television and print. The sample will tend to reflect urban, richer and more connected users which should be taken into consideration when interpreting results.
Total sample size was 80,155 adults with around 2,000 per country. The data were weighted to targets set on age, gender and region to reflect the total population. The sample is reflective of the population who have access to the internet and respondents were screened out if they had not accessed news in the last month.
(Yvonne T. Chua is an associate professor of journalism at the University of the Philippines. She wrote the profile on the Philippines for the 2020 Digital News Report.)