New Ofcom Research about News and Covid-19 and Online Resources Page for Fact-Checking Information (9 April 2020)


We have written to you in recent weeks to share the work that Ofcom has been doing to help broadband and mobile users stay connected and the commitments telecommunications providers have made to support vulnerable consumers. I am writing today to share two other recent developments in Ofcom’s work related to Covid-19:

1)      New research on the consumption of news and information about Covid-19, and an online resources page to help your constituents fact check information

2)      Ofcom’s scam call and text guide to help your constituents know what to look out for


Ofcom’s new research

Ofcom has today published the first set of findings from its new weekly online survey about how people are getting news and information about Covid-19. Given the increased parliamentary interest in how people across the country are finding and engaging with news about the crisis, we want to share with you some key themes from our research. There has also been a growing interest in the availability of accurate, trustworthy and credible sources of news and information. Under Ofcom’s media literacy duties, we conduct research into people’s media habits, and also encourage ways to better equip people to engage critically with the sources of information they use. So alongside our research, we are providing information about a range of third party resources that can offer your constituents useful tools to navigate news and information about Covid-19.


What our research shows

The research we have published today was collected during the first week of ‘lockdown’ in the UK. It sheds light on: where people are getting their news and information from, which sources people trust, how often people are coming across misinformation, what people do as a result, and the extent to which people are following government advice.

We have found that:

  • Almost half of UK adults have been exposed to false claims about the virus. Most (55%) ignore false claims about the virus and few look into the details of the claims. Fifteen per cent are using fact-checking tips from the media, such as the BBC’s website, while a similar proportion (13%) are double-checking with friends and family. One in 14 people are forwarding on false or misleading information about the virus.
  • Many people are finding it hard to know what is true and false about the virus. 40% agree with the statement, rising to more than half (52%) of 18-24 year olds.
  • Almost all online adults are getting news about the crisis daily but a significant minority is actively trying to avoid news about it. 99% are getting news and information about coronavirus at least once a day, while one in four (24%) are doing so 20 or more times each day. But more than one in five (22%) say they are trying to avoid news about the pandemic.  
  • BBC services are the most-used source of information about the virus by some margin and people are relying heavily on broadcast television to keep up to date. Four-in-five (82%) say they use the BBC as a source of news while just over half (56%) use non-BBC broadcasters. Average daily news viewing across all channels was up by 92% in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Social media is used by half (49%), while 15% say they use closed groups such as Whatsapp groups and Facebook messenger for information about the virus.
  • Official sources of news are the most trusted. Nine in ten or more of those using the official sources trust the NHS (95%) the WHO (94%), local health services (91%), official scientists (90%), and the government (89%). Traditional broadcasters are also highly trusted, with 83% of users trusting BBC TV, 83% Channel 4, 82% ITV, and 75% Sky. The least trusted sources are social media and closed groups where between one in five and one in four users say they trust the news and information about Covid-19 that they find there.
  • The crisis is widely thought to have shown positive sides to society. 86% agree with the statement, including more than two-in-five (42%) who strongly agree this is the case.


Helping your constituents cut through the Covid-19 confusion

Access to credible and trustworthy sources of information has never been more important. In these difficult times, your constituents will understandably want to keep up to date with the latest developments in the Coronavirus pandemic. But given the false claims about Covid-19 circulating online, it is likely that some of your constituents are struggling to know what to believe. With the support of our Making Sense of Media Panel and Network, Ofcom has collected a set of resources that can help cut through the confusion.

Many of these resources focus on debunking common misconceptions or harmful claims about Coronavirus. But there are also some useful tips on how to seek out reliable content, how to tell fact from fiction, and how to find out who’s behind particular claims to help us all to ‘share’ information responsibly. We’ve also included a section for families, to help parents support their children’s critical understanding during this time. There are also resources from around the world that we think people in the UK will find useful.

The resource is available here and you can join us in helping your constituents by sharing the resource on your social media page or adding a link to your own website.


Ofcom’s scam call and text guide

In recent weeks, we have received reports of scam calls and texts relating to the coronavirus, or Covid-19.

Scammers are calling phones and sending text messages, which contain misinformation and could leave your constituents out of pocket if they fall victim, with these calls and texts claiming to be from the Government, GP’s surgeries, the NHS, or the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Ofcom’s guide can help your constituents know what to look out for and how to report scam calls and texts.