Australia – (F2) Patterns of news media use (consumption of news)

Score in short:

The Australian citizen is well supplied with news from different sources.

Score in detail:

News information is amply available in Australia from a wide variety of sources. With an assumed literacy rate of 99 % and highly ranked in its per capita GDP, media are affordable to most Australians. The broadcast media, newspapers, and to an increasing degree the Internet are the main news providers for the Australian population.

92.6 % of Australians aged 15 years and older reported that they listened to radio, with 91.1 % indicating that they listened regularly (at least once a week). 53.7 of these listened to commercial FM radio while 40.1 % listened to one of the stations provided by the public broadcaster. 25.3 % listened to commercial AM stations, 14.6 % to the ABC’s Triple J network, 13.7 to community stations, 5.6 % to other stations and 4.6 % to SBS’s ethnic broadcast stations (ACMA 2009, 64).

Table 6. Use of news and talkback radio 2009

15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 75+
News 45 % 64 % 65 % 70 % 74 % 83 % 70 %
Talkback 35 % 31 % 48 % 45 % 51 % 57 % 71 %

Source: ACMA (2009, 65).

With regard to radio news, apart from the 15-24 age group, two-thirds of the radio audience or more listened to radio news. Despite these figures, which indicate the popularity of radio, separate research has shown that radio is not considered the main source of news.

Television has long been the major news provider in Australia (Phillips & Tapsell 2007), and recent figures do not change this picture. Between half and two-thirds of the Australian population acknowledges this medium as their source for national news, and even more so for international news. Interestingly, for the younger generation, the Internet is already the second most important provider of international news, whereas the print media occupies this space for older generations.

Table 7. Media type as sources of national news

National news 14-17 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+
Newspapers 14 % 17.5 % 17.5 % 15.5 % 24 % 32 %
Radio 17 % 11.5 % 18 % 17 % 16 % 15 %
Television 54 % 57.5 % 48.5 % 56 % 53 % 52 %
Internet 15 % 11 % 16 % 11 % 6.5 % 1 %

Source: Roy Morgan Research 2007.

Table 8. Media type as sources of international news

14-17 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+
Newspapers 10 % 9 % 13 % 11 % 16.5 % 19 %
Radio 3.5 % 2 % 6.5 % 9 % 11 % 16.5 %
Television 68.5 % 56 % 59.5 % 64.5 % 64 % 62.5 %
Internet 18 % 23.5 % 19 % 14 % 7.5 % 1 %

Source: Roy Morgan Research 2007.

These figures underpin the fact that television is the major news provider for Australians of all age groups, in particular for international news. While the older generation also takes a large share of information, both national and international, from the newspapers, people up to the age of 34 turn to the Internet, in particular with regard to international news.

In this context it also has to be noted that the major television news providers are not, as in many european countries, the national broadcaster/s, but commercial television stations. Data show the Channel 7 news on weekdays and Sundays and its current affairs program, Today Tonight, among Australia’s ten most watched programs. The Channel 7 Sunday news was watched by an estimated audience share of 24 % (“The Numbers” 2010).

With regard to television, the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that Australian television viewers in households with free-to-air sets spent an average of 161 minutes per day watching television in 2008, with commercial channels accounting for the majority of their viewing. Viewers in subscription television households spent 218 minutes per day watching television (ACMA 2009, 61). These figures are likely to shift when considering the increasing use of the Internet. Between 1998 to 2008-09, household access to the Internet at home has more than quadrupled from 16 % to 72 %, while access to computers has increased from 44 % to 78 % (ABS 2009b).