15% of the respondents never check whether a report is based on evidence
About 18% of people living in metropolitan, urban and rural areas of Bangladesh do not follow any news media, according to a recent study.
The findings were revealed in a webinar chaired by Prof Golam Rahman, former chief information commissioner, on Monday. Dhaka University Professors Gitiara Nasreen and Sadeka Halim, journalist Zahid Newaj Jewel and MRDI Executive Director Hasibur Rahman also attended the webinar.
Out of 1,209 responded interviewed for the survey, 605 were males and 604 females.
Among the respondents, 799 were from metropolitan cities, 250 from urban and 160 from rural areas. The highest 239 respondents were from Dhaka division.
The study was conducted by Dhaka University Journalism Department Associate Professor Md Saiful Alam with support from Unicef, as part of the Promoting News Literacy and Ethical Journalism project of the Management and Resources Development Initiative (MRDI).
Around 75% of the respondents said they are dependent on television for news.
Of the 18% who said they did not follow any news media, 61.3% were women and 38.7% men.
When asked what their reasons were for not following news media, 43% said they did not have the time and 12.6% said they think following news media is a waste of time or they do not trust news media. Only 9.6% said they could not afford it.
Dr Saiful said one of the limitations of the study was that awareness of media or news literacy was low among the survey population and some respondents found it difficult to answer because of their unfamiliarity with the topic.
Majority depend on TV for news, radio rarely used
Television has emerged as the most frequently used news media, with 84.4% of women and 65.3% of men identifying it as their main source of news.
Facebook is the most popular source of news for 9.4% of respondents, while only 8.4% said newspapers were their main source of news and 5% said they follow online news portals. Radio is the only type of media that is not used by most of the respondents on a typical weekday.
About 27% of respondents said they use news media for more than one hour a day. The response rates do not vary notably on the basis of metropolitan, urban or rural residence.
News literacy in Bangladesh is low
The research team divided the respondents into four broad categories based on their level of news literacy: Low, Very Low, High, and Very High. The news literacy of respondents was gauged by giving them a knowledge structure index score based on their knowledge of media industries, systems and effects, the survey report said.
Out of the 1,209 respondents, more than three quarters are considered to have low news literacy (index score below nine). Only 4.8% were categorized as having high news literacy.
The high news literacy group has sound and compound knowledge on news media systems, content and media effects, the report said.
News literacy rates also do not vary notably based on area of residence
The study found that younger people tend to be more news literate than older people.
15% never check evidence in news reports
When asked how often they look at the source of a news report to determine if it is real, 18% of respondents said they have never looked at who shared the news and 30% said they look sometimes.
Almost 17% of respondents never feel it is important to check the source of the news and 15% never check what evidence the news story contains.
According to the research paper, about half of the people are not aware of the importance of checking the accuracy of information.
No relation between journalism background and news literacy
Of the 1209 respondents, 50 respondents have journalism or media education or experience. Among them, 74% have low news literacy and only 4% with formal media or journalism education have very high news literacy.
Plan of action
The study suggested greater access to information to improve news literacy in the country and recommended initiatives at the root level.
They urged to motivate school students to read newspapers, organize debate competitions, the inclusion of news and news literacy in textbooks, talk shows on television on news literacy, and making readers aware of yellow journalism.
While addressing the program, Prof Golam Rahman said news literacy should be taught from the school level.
“The format of presenting news or stories should be made catchier for the people,” he added.
The study, titled 'News Literacy in Bangladesh – national survey', was conducted at the field level by Reslnt Bangladesh, an affiliate of ResInt Canada.
Ala Alizan Hossain, program officer of MRDI, and Modina Jahan Rime, media monitoring officer of the Promoting News Literacy and Ethical Journalism project of MRDI were also members of the research team.