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Australia – (C9) Watchdog function and financial resources

Score in short:

Commitment to investigative journalism is the Australian media’s way to brand themselves.

Score in detail:

Most interviewees confirmed that investigative journalism is central to their medium’s role. As one interviewee described it, it is the way how the paper can ‘brand’ itself. Many of the media companies, even in lean times, invest resources into investigative journalism by, for example, starting up a special in-depth investigative report section in their Saturday edition. The interviewees agree about the costliness of investigative journalism, pointing out that the expense of investigative journalism lies in the time it takes, rather than travel budgets or special technology, occupying staff time that could otherwise be diverted to filling the pages of the paper.

The ABC always had a strong investigative brief, and it recently revived and somewhat reconfigured its investigative unit. The ABC’s Four Corners program, a weekly 45 minute report on television, is Australia’s best known investigative program. Its investigations have caused royal commissions and state premiers to step down. But other segments on ABC television, such as its nation-wide 7.30 Report and Lateline, also contain strong investigative elements as do a number of ABC radio programs. SBS frequently shows investigative programs on international topics bought in from other providers. The commercial television stations, too, have current affairs programs, which contain investigative elements, though they are somewhat toned down by the programs’ emphasis on the human interest angle.