51% of South Africans don’t trust the news. According to the eighth annual Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, public concern about misinformation stands at 55% on average across 38 countries. It is said to have grown significantly over the last year in some countries, despite the attempts of platforms and governments to contain it

South Africa’s trust in the news rates 8th out of the 38 countries surveyed. Economic weakness of many media companies is cited as one of the attributing factors to the growing media mistrust. Digital disruption has also affected traditional news outlets negatively.

According to the report,  70% of English-speaking South Africans, who use the internet, say they struggle to separate fact from fiction online. However, despite bouts of unethical business practices, shoddy journalism and unreliable news, 53% of those surveyed still believe media is playing a crucial role in helping to hold politicians and businesses to account. This is 42% higher than the average across other countries included in the study.

The news media are seen as doing a better job at breaking news than explaining it, with 73% of South Africans saying media are good at keeping people up to date, but are not that great at helping them understand the news.

News consumption

The survey has found that South Africans are more likely to discover and share news via social media than elsewhere. The smartphone are proving vital to access news, with 76% of those surveyed relying on the device for a weekly dose. This doesn’t however translate to a high trust in the content found on the platform as only 28% of respondents tend to believe the information found on social media.


Leading brands

SABC news channels are top offline brands, with a total reach of 60%. Ukhozi FM and Umhlobo Wenene are dominating the radio space, while the public broadcaster ranks fourth in the most trusted news brand stakes. Financial mismanagement and government interference during the Zuma administration is cited as reason for this.

The News24 website is leading the pack on the digital front, followed by SABC News, eNCA, the BBC and the Daily Sun online.

While 43% of South Africans say they listen to a podcast monthly, the report is painting a grim picture for print news. Figures for the first quarter of 2019, show newspaper circulation declining by 5% year on year.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism says to survive, media houses will have to look on subscription and membership models to sustain volume and quality. It’s also advising news outlets to rebuild ties between producers and the people who consume their product.

Read full report below…