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Media ownership doesn’t matter; people do

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson defended a planned public-owned media merger, saying the New Zealand public “no longer has trust in national media.”

That’s half true: the public has never had high trust in big media. The Edelman Trust Barometer consistently places media as one of the lowest trusted institutions. In 2022, the media rated 50 percent net trust (government was 52 percent!). Worse, more people rated media as a dividing force in society than a unifying force.

However, research shows that a public media entity can’t solve this. In a study of 44 countries, Tsfati et al. found that state ownership does not elevate trust above privately-owned media outlets.

A key factor shown to boost individual trust in the media is interpersonal connections. A 2015 study by Turcotte et al., showed people were more likely to trust news on social media rather than traditional news outlets, especially if the news was shared by a real-life friend. The more personally connected an individual feels with a news item, journalist, or media outlet, the more likely they are to trust it.

That’s why PR is not bothered by media ownership. We look at the personal connections and public affairs interests of the target audience before deciding which media channel to use.

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