Just a couple of weeks before the Brexit deadline, Sky News announced they would be releasing a pop-up channel with ‘Brexit free news’.
This new channel fuelled the fire of a longstanding debate – should people be obliged hear about events that will shape their lives, especially at such a critical moment? Or is it completely in someone’s right to turn a blind eye from news they don’t want to hear? And can Sky really be criticised for simply listening to public opinion, and providing something people actually want to watch?
The release of the channel followed a study this year that found that a third of people are avoiding the news altogether, with over 70% of those people blaming Brexit for this, claiming that the news has a negative impact on their mood.
But it did get me thinking, can Brexit really be blamed for people watching less news? Hasn’t the news always been filled with stories that are distressing and, if not, rather dull?
A few other factors came to mind, beyond the current news stories, which could be reasons people are turning away from the news channels…
1. The wellbeing revolution
With society and individuals starting to take wellbeing more seriously, people feel they have a legitimate reason to avoid news that affects their mood and instead put their energy towards things that make them happy. And while people may have been wary of admitting they avoided the news in the past, now they have an acceptable reason to do so in the name of wellbeing.
The ongoing popularity of ‘comfort shows’ like Friends and Gilmore Girls, as well as the success of newer feel-good programmes like Queer Eye, are testaments to people looking for content that makes them feel warm and fuzzy.
2. Pick ‘n’ mix culture
Another reason we consume less news could simply be that there are so many other things to watch, read or listen to that feel more relevant or interesting. The sheer amount of content available online has rocketed in recent years, making it easier than ever to pick and choose content that we find the most compelling and avoid new stories that could feel more immediately distant.
This excess of content on streaming sites, podcasts and even cable TV have created a ‘pick n mix’ culture that makes it far more normal to ignore ‘mainstream’ information and just focus on what you want to consume.
3. We’re already too connected
With most people using at least two social media apps regularly, even if we don’t think we’re consuming news, we are receiving information about the world all the time. Over exposure to so much content means we don’t necessarily need news like we used to, in order to feel connected to the wider world.
And when people say they avoid the news, I do wonder if they are referring to more traditional news outlets, such as TV and newspapers, when really they are consuming a vast amount news via social media (however echo chambered!)
Is it bigger than Brexit?
So in a climate when we want to focus on wellbeing, have an excess of tailored content available at our fingertips, and already feel ‘over-exposed’ to the wider world through social media, I do wonder whether the problem really is Brexit. In five years time, when Brexit is (let’s hope) not making the headlines everyday, will be back to consuming news as much as we used to?
Senior Research Executive