A significantly greater proportion of politically right-leaning news users distrust news from VRT and some other media than left-wing news users. This is the result of a news study conducted by the research group VUB imec-SMIT.
The research group publishes the Belgian part of an international study on the use of news by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. In Flanders, researchers surveyed 1,006 people.
One finding is that the number of Flemish news users who indicate that they trust news in general has fallen by 4 percentage points this year to 57 percent. This puts Flanders on the same level as the Netherlands. The proportion in Wallonia is only 43 percent, which is slightly higher than in France (29 percent).
The opposite is true in HLN: there is greater mistrust among left-handed respondents (23 percent) than among right-wing respondents (21 percent).
Trust in the most important Flemish news brands is still very high. VRT Nieuws takes the cake: 77 percent of news users trust news from the public broadcaster. VRT Radio 2, De Tijd, VRT Radio 1, and VTM Nieuws also scored above 70 percent.
However, researchers note a growing confidence gap between left- and right-leaning news users. This is more pronounced in some brands than others: 5 percent of left-wing news consumers say they don’t trust VRT Nieuws, compared to 19 percent of right-wing users. In De Morgen it was 9 per cent against 26 per cent. The opposite is true with Het Laatste Nieuws: there is greater mistrust among left-wing respondents (23 per cent) than among right-wing respondents (21 per cent).
On the right, more questions are being asked by public radio and the idea of a “left bastion” is still fresh.
According to Professor Ike Picone of imec-SMIT, the fact that the gap is so large in VRT in particular has to do with the polarization that also exists in the political landscape. “On the right, more questions are being asked by public radio and the idea of a ‘left bastion’ is still alive. You can see in the research that this discourse is felt in people’s trust, but also in the use of news,” he explains.
For example, it appears that the VRT’s online news channel is consulted more by left-leaning news users than by right-leaning news users, and the HLN website is consulted more often by right-wing readers than by left-leaning readers.
The motivation for media companies should be for researchers to note that more and more young people are paying for news online. The coronavirus pandemic has accompanied a sharp rise in the use of paid news, and the numbers suggest that the rise may continue for much longer. Eighteen percent of respondents have paid for online news in the past year, with the younger generation being the driving force.
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