Mobile phone user
Ofcom's research shows that online news sources are particularly popular among young people. Russell Boyce/Reuters / Russell Boyce

On the 20th of July, Ofcom published the results of new research into news consumption in Britain. The 2023 News Consumption Survey investigated the consumption of news across a variety of sources including television (TV), radio, print, and social media.

The results show that 96 per cent of British adults consume news in some form, with broadcast TV as the most used source of news, reaching 70 per cent of adults (75 per cent including on-demand content). Used by 68 per cent of British adults, online sources were the second most used form of news platform.

The role of online news in today's information landscape reflects the way technology is integrated into our day-to-day lives. For many of us, the idea of not being able to pick up a smartphone and instantly access a world of news information is hard to grasp.

Today, with the internet allowing individuals to communicate from all over the world, human civilization is more interconnected than it has ever been. Furthermore, the volume of information available about the world's past and present via the Internet is immense. These 21st realities are easy to take for granted. However, the story of news and information dissemination goes back centuries.

Print newspapers

Whilst the earliest newspapers date back to 17th century Europe advances in transportation and print technology during the industrial revolution helped increase the circulation of newspapers amongst the British population.

In 1814, the Times newspaper printed its first edition using a steam-driven "double press". With double press an output of 5,000 copies per hour was possible, allowing the Times to increase its circulation of newspapers ten-fold from 5,000 to 50,000 by the mid-1800s.

Today, whilst the circulation of newspapers in Britain has been in long-term decline, the results of the Ofcom News Consumption Survey 2023 reveal that print newspapers reach numbers consistent with 2022.

Furthermore, the older the age group, the greater the use of print newspapers to access the news. For example, 50 per cent of the 75+ age group surveyed read print newspapers. Amongst 16 to 24-year-olds, the same figure is just 16 per cent.

The most popular newspapers were the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday, the Guardian/Observer, the Metro, the Sun/Sun on Sunday, and the Times/Sunday Times. The digital readership for these papers is also worth noting. For example, of all those using print or digital newspapers, 20 per cent read the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday in print only and 13 per cent read it online only.


The first daily radio service '2LO' was launched by the BBC over 100 years ago in November 1922. The first broadcasts of 2LO shortly followed the formation of the BBC on the 18th of October 1922. The vision of the BBC's first general manager, Sir John Reith, was that radio services in Britain should educate, inform and entertain the masses.

However, it wasn't until 1967 that the BBC established Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, and Radio 4. Created decades ago to meet the demand for popular music created by offshore pirate radio stations, BBC Radio 1 is today one of the only two radio stations listed by Ofcom in the top 20 news sources, the other being BBC Radio 2. A

s well as a focus on mainstream music, these stations cover news and current affairs with Radio 2's Jeremy Vine and BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat keeping listeners up to date on the latest events and trends.

Interestingly, radio news is most popular amongst those aged 45 to 54, with 52 per cent of that age group tuning in for the news according to Ofcom's research. The popularity of radio is lower amongst younger age groups particularly. For example, just 25 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds use radio for news. There is also a slightly lesser decrease amongst older age groups, with 43 per cent of those aged 75+ using radio as a source of news.


Serious preparations for the first TV service began at the BBC back in 1935. On the 26th of August 1936, the BBC broadcast the first live high-definition TV programmes for public viewing from Alexandra Palace in North London. In November 1936, the first regular high-definition TV service began. That is a high definition by the standards of the time; 240 lines or higher by the BBC's definition.

On June the 2nd 1953 the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place. It is estimated that approximately 20 million people tuned in to watch TV coverage of the Coronation. The event is said to have transformed the popularity of TV. It was the first time a TV audience exceeded the size of a radio audience.

As stated above, broadcast TV remains the most used source of news today. However, Ofcom's report explains that the viewing of broadcast TV channels for news is decreasing over time. For example, in 2018, 79 per cent of British adults said they used TV to access the news. That is, compared to 70 per cent in 2023.

The most popular TV channel for news is BBC One, with 71 per cent of those viewing TV news using the channel. ITV1 is the second most popular TV channel for news, attracting 49 per cent of those who tune in to broadcast TV for the news. Also worthy of note amongst TV news audiences is the Sky News Channel (30%), Channel 4 (24%), and Channel 5 (12%).

One key consideration for TV news (and news from any source in general) is impartiality. Impartiality means being objective, fair, and balanced in the presentation of the news. Recently, Ofcom launched investigations into the impartiality of GB News and Talk TV following the role of active politicians in news shows. Moreover, Ofcom's survey results reveal that of those using broadcast TV to access the news, six per cent view GB News, and just three per cent view Talk TV.

Online news and social media

As stated above, Ofcom's research shows that 68 per cent of British adults use online sources to access the news, making the internet a key part of today's news cycle. Crucially, the results of the 2023 survey show a slight increase in the previous four years in the use of online news, with between 64 and 66 per cent of adults using online news from 2018 to 2022.

Of all those using websites and apps to access the news 58 per cent used the BBC website/app, making it the most popular. That is, despite a decline in the above figure from 62 per cent in 2022.

The next most used website was the Google search engine, with 33 per cent of those using websites and apps making use of Google to access the news. Also of note is Youtube (19%), the Sky News website/app (16%), the Guardian/Observer website/app (16%), and the Daily Mail website/app (16%).

A key part of online news is social media. Ofcom's research reveals that 47 per cent of British adults use social media to access of news. Whilst it remains the most popular social media platform for the news, Facebook has declined in its usage, reaching just 30 per cent of British adults in 2023 compared to 35 per cent in 2019.

Ofcom's 2023 survey results show that of those using social media for news, 64 per cent used Facebook, a decline from the previous two years. In 2022, the same figure was 69 per cent. In 2020, it was 76 per cent. Also in 2023, of those using social media for news, 36 per cent used Twitter, 34 per cent used Instagram, and 20 per cent used TikTok.

TikTok has seen rapid growth in users seeking news in recent years. In 2020, the short-form video service reached one per cent of British adults as a news source. In 2023, it reached 10 per cent of British adults. Crucially, TikTok provides the opportunity for influencers to compete with journalists to provide news and information about current affairs.