ABC News ratings under scrutiny

2014-02-04_1051ABC ratings have come under the scrutiny of a senate estimates committee which claims its News and Current Affairs shows are not pulling big enough audiences.

The Australian reports Lateline, Q&A, Insiders and Four Corners did not appear in the list of the national broadcaster’s top 20 programs for the first six months of the year.

Senator Eric Abetz said, “While it is true that ratings are not the be-all and end-all, it is telling that programs like Lateline, Insiders, Four Corners, Q&A, Foreign Correspondent and the ABC’s weeknight news just don’t seem to rate.”

Huh? Most readers here know that the 7pm ABC News is oten the top rating ABC show of the night, a pattern usually reflected by commercial networks.

If Senator Abetz expects a Sunday morning show like Insiders to rate amongst the ABC’s top 20 shows for the week then lucky for us he is not a TV programmer.

Lateline is, as its title suggests, also late night fare. Perhaps the Senator would like to move it to 6:30pm against The Project?

Many observers often neglect to add ABC News 24 numbers together with Q & A‘s primary channel numbers -it is simulcast but the numbers are tallied separately, unlike Family Feud. Last week it totalled 571,000.

A quick glance at last week’s 5 city metro indicate News and Current Affairs shows were amongst ABC’s best performers:

1. Australian Story 888,000
2. ABC News (Sat) 870,000
3. New Tricks 860,000
4. ABC News (Sun) 767,000
5. Four Corners 726,000
6. ABC News (weeknights) 721,000
7. Media Watch 673,000
8. Inspector George Gently 872,000
9. Catalyst 665,000
10. 7:30 626,000
11. Foreign Correspondent 619,000
12. Utopia 616,000


  1. I have been a fan of the ABC for years because they would present unique items commercial networks would never consider and in a balanced manner…….however, that is not so anymore!

    I support Senate estimates asking the tough questions of where the money goes. The ABC are almost indignant about having to justify, but when I see exactly the same stories repeated for 18 hours a day using different newsreaders, I wonder why it’s not on a digital loop! Tony Eastley must be wondering what has become of his journalistic career, re-reading someone else’s script at 3pm that has been read every 30 mins for the previous 12 hours.

  2. If I had a ratings box they’d almost never count me as an ABC watcher, even though i watch loads of ABC. But i watch it all on Iview. Since i know their catch up service is so much better than anything offered up by the commercial channels, whenever there is a clash of what to watch, I’ll watch the ABC product online.

  3. This has nothing to do with ratings, it is all about scrutiny.

    Tony is yet to appear on Q & A .

    This government is used to having a compliant commercial media who will happily spin it’s every word. Everything Packer, Murdoch and Rhinehart is good, everything else including science and the truth is left wing.

    Never forget Abbot complained in 2003 that the ABC did not say “Iraq has WMD” the ABC very correctly said “Iraq may have WMD” but Tony thought the ABC should be a propaganda tool of the government and complained about it.

    This government thinks even science is left wing propaganda. They have force BOM to remove information about climate change from their site.

    So removing the few credible news sources that are free from commercial influence is high on their agenda.

    As for Pertinax’s spin, ratings for TV across the board is down, not just the ABC…

  4. Not to forget that OzTam is owned by the commercial networks and cherry picks their viewing panel based on their viewing habits which include mainly watching commercial TV.
    Who really knows what the actual viewer ratings are, they are, after all, designed to be a tool to sell advertising which means putting the commercial channels in their best light.

  5. Saturday night, ABC News was watched by more people than any other program.
    Saturday night, more people watched ABC1 than any other channel.
    Last night more people in Sydney & Perth watched 4 Corners than watched Big Brother.
    That’s something “to crow about”. Of course, we have to hear the “56+” bogey pulled out, as if there’s something wrong in having viewers over 55.

  6. The quote was”Lateline, Q&A;, Insiders and Four Corners do not appear in the list of the national broadcaster’s top 20 programs for the first six months of the year… ”

    Take away that Lateline is at 10.30pm ….the argument is for the first six months, not last week.

    But then the argument is these shows are not top raters according to Tasmanian MP Andrew ­Nikolic“demonstrates the message I hear in my electorate every day: the ABC’s priorities and programming decisions, particularly in relation to their news and current affairs area, have lost touch with mainstream Australia’’…

    Mind you, should Four Corners ever be popular per se?

  7. Well said Andrew, Bazza and Tom Wood! When you have shows regularly rating viewers over 600,000 you’re on a pretty good thing – just ask TEN. Not all shows are going to rake in over a million viewers but most politicians these days have such massive egos, with cargo-cult fame mind-sets. They expect millions of us are hanging off their every word and if we’re not, they will blame the messenger. Another tactic to try and prove the ABC is not doing enough for the public when in fact they are spinning ways to get more of what they want for themselves and the government message.

  8. Perhaps I am wrong here, however ratings are not the driver for a tax payer funded service, I’m sure ratings are not mentioned in either ABC or SBS’s charters, as they are publicly funded.

    Of course they want offer programming that Australians want to watch , but at the end of the day they are not a commercial business model like 7,9,10.

  9. This is the pincer move Eric Abetz and the conservative government love to put the ABC in. First it is too popular and therefore stealing commercial TV’s ratings. Then it is not rating enough which justifies reducing its funding. No attempt by Abetz and his colleagues to have constructive and informed analysis of the ABC because they don’t believe in its right to exist. It is just like the Howard era.

  10. So what’s at fault here then Senator? The ABC for not following the commercial networks by dumbing down their news in an attempt to chase ratings? Or the myth of the left wing bias? Maybe it’s both as the ABC only caters for inner urban ‘champagne socialists’ don’t they?

  11. When your 3rd best show is a repeat of a British cop show on the weekend watched by people over 60, the fact that your news is doing almost as well isn’t much to crow about.

    ABC News and 7:30 Report used to rated over 1m weeknights and had a broad audience. They have lost significant numbers of viewers under 55 and the numbers are down.

    It’s not a mystery the 20 minute news cycle on the net and social media, and block-buster talent shows replacing sitcoms at 7 & 7:30pm, meaning fans of those watch the news before them.

    The ABC has tried all the usually things, leading with sensational stories, sexing up their newsreaders, doing silly live crosses, mini interviews, exclusives, extending the Sunday news as a lead-ins to their evening lineups to stop people flicking over to commercial networks.

  12. Top 20 programs – including one-offs against series’ averages?

    And how do you judge what it means anyway?

    Got to be careful with attention given to The Australian…

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