A new survey that I was closely associated with has just confirmed that broadcast television is the most dominant and most trusted source of information on news and current affairs by Lankans of all walks of life.
The mass media are the major source of public information on current news and affairs for Lankans living in cities, towns and villages – and broadcast television leads among the different types of media, according to the survey on public perceptions on climate change in Sri Lanka 2010.
Broadcast television is the single most popular source, cited by the highest number of respondents (94%). It is followed by radio (74%), and newspapers and magazines (taken together, 70%). There was no significant urban/rural difference in these preferences.
By mid 2010, Sri Lanka had 19 terrestrial channels broadcasting free-to-air transmissions in English, Sinhala or Tamil languages. Meanwhile, close to 50 radio channels – mostly on the FM band – crowd the airwaves.
The next most widely cited information source was friends, neighbours and colleagues. But interestingly, while 52% of all respondents listed this category, only very few (2%) acknowledged it as a credible source. In contrast, the credibility factor was higher for TV (88%), radio (42%) and print media (33%).
Educational institutions (schools, universities and training centres) were assigned a very low rank as a source (7%) and even lower status as a credible source (3%).
Although only 9% of the respondents cited the Internet as a regular source of information for themselves, its perception as a credible source was considerably high (51%). This makes the Internet the second most trusted source for the sample, behind only TV.
The exact survey question that elicited these answers was: “What are your main sources of information for current affairs/events?”