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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Population: 68 million
Internet penetration: 95%
17th June 2024

The UK media scene is characterised by strong public and commercial broadcasters and a competitive and outspoken national press. But both public and private funding models are under pressure as audiences shift their attention further towards digital channels. Publishers are hoping for a traffic boost following summer elections and a new government. 

Media groups continue to suffer from a combination of rising costs and lower than expected advertising revenues. Reach plc, owners of the Daily Mirror, Express, and Star, along with around 200 local titles, announced 450 redundancies in November, the third round of job cuts in a year. Regional print sales have been particularly hard hit – down 19% in the second half of 20231 – while online audiences have suffered from a slump in social media referrals. National tabloids and mid-market papers are also struggling, with the Mail, which operates one of the biggest English-language websites in the world, planning job cuts and new working practices across print and online. Meanwhile publishers of the Mail, the Sun, and the Mirror are grappling with costs from ongoing legal cases related to historic phone hacking and other alleged unlawful activities targeting public figures including Prince Harry.2

Most upmarket newspapers in the UK have shifted to an online subscription model as they actively prepare for the end of the print era. The Times and Sunday Times, part of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper stable, has amassed 558,000 digital-only subscribers, partly helped by a recent focus on international growth. The Guardian has over 1 million paying supporters, but its membership growth has slowed and a sharp drop in advertising revenue in the last six months of 2023 led to a projected loss of £39m. Despite this, it launched a European edition with 10 new editorial roles as well as a new food app (Feast) selling at £2.99 a month. The Telegraph Media Group hit its ambitious target of 1 million subscribers, partly off the back of heavily discounted subscriptions, but its future remains uncertain. The proposed £600m sale of the Telegraph and its sister title the Spectator to a consortium backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) met hostility from politicians opposed to foreign governments owning a UK newspaper that is particularly influential within the Conservative party. Other potential owners are waiting in the wings, including controversial billionaire hedge fund investor Sir Paul Marshall, who already holds a major stake in right-leaning TV news channel GB News. The saga highlights concern that news media are increasingly being viewed as a way to buy political influence.

Meanwhile, losses at GB News ballooned to £42m at the same time as it paid big money for right-leaning presenters, many of them serving or former politicians such as Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Nigel Farage. Broadcasting regulator Ofcom found GB News repeatedly breached its impartiality rules and many advertisers continue to boycott the channel.3 Our survey shows a small but growing audience (7% weekly reach) but low levels of public trust. Rival opinion-based broadcaster Talk TV has also been in trouble with the regulator and amid mounting losses is switching to online-only output in the summer.

Economic and audience pressures are also bearing down on traditional broadcasters. Channel 4, which is state-owned but commercially funded, plans to cut around 200 jobs, axe underperforming linear channels, and focus more on digital – faced with competition from streaming platforms. The BBC has had another difficult year with the government imposing a smaller than expected licence fee increase and further questions over its mission in a digital age. Looking to the future, it is looking to build its own artificial intelligence models and is considering selling access to its vast archives to Big Tech.

BBC News remains dominant offline and online, although Digital News Report data show that reach has fallen over time, especially with younger audiences. The Gaza conflict has tested the BBC’s approach to impartiality, with coverage attracting criticism from both sides. With an election due in 2024, and amid concerns about potential for AI-generated fakes, the BBC has been stepping up its attempts to fact-check statements, videos, and images, under the banner BBC Verify.

Finally, a sign of the times is how a fictional TV drama (Mr Bates vs the Post Office from ITV) was able to move both the public and politicians about the wrongful convictions of British postmasters. Measures to resolve the historic injustice have been widely welcomed but the drama’s success has also highlighted the diminished power of journalists, since news media had reported the scandal for years, largely without results.

Nic Newman
Senior Research Associate, Reuters Institute

Changing media

Audiences for traditional news sources like TV and print have fallen significantly over the last decade, with younger groups preferring to get their news online or via social media.

Pay for online news


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Trust in news overall



Overall trust in news is marginally up this year, but remains around 15 percentage points lower than before the Brexit referendum (2016). Public broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4, and ITV remain the most trusted news brands. More opinionated news brands tend to have lower trust levels in our survey, along with tabloid newspapers.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 77.51

Measure of press freedom from Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at
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