ABC audience tracking identifies downward trends

Report says community sentiment for ABC is declining, but remains ahead of Commercial interests on several fronts.

The number of ABC’s audience who believe it is providing a valuable service or is accurate and impartial when reporting news and current affairs, has slipped in recent years.

ABC’s Corporate Tracking Program is conducted three times per year among a nationally representative sample of people aged 18-75 years, via an online methodology.

According to its Annual Report 2020 the results of the program show support for ABC is ahead of Commercial TV on several fronts, but also indicates a downward trend for the public broadcaster.

78% of people who value the ABC and its services to the community -but the same question was 86% in 2016.

72% of people believe the ABC is accurate and impartial when reporting news and current affairs -down from 77% in 2016.

There were also downward trends on the following Charter points compared to 2016:

  • 77% of people regard the ABC to be distinctively Australian and contributing to Australia’s national identity.
  • 76% of people believe the ABC reflects the cultural diversity of the Australian community.
  • 74% of people consider the ABC encourages and promotes Australian performing arts such as music and drama.
  • 72% of people consider the ABC provides programs of an educational nature.
  • 73% of people consider the ABC achieves a good balance between programs of wide appeal and specialised interest.
  • 69% of people perceive the ABC to be innovative.

66% of people believe the ABC is efficient and well managed, also down from 69% in 2016.

But the results were stable for 78% of people who believe the ABC provides quality programming in Television (it was 69% for Commercial TV) and improved for the 92% of people who believe the ABC provides quality programming Online.

78% of Australian adults aged 18-75 years trust the information that the ABC provides: significantly higher than the levels of trust recorded for internet search engines such as Google (70%), Commercial Radio (60%), Commercial TV (59%), Newspaper publishers (58%) and Facebook (35%).

The Annual Report also outlined editorial complaint issues across 2019-20

Factual inaccuracy 922 26.6%
Bias (other than party political)* 819 23.7%
Inappropriate content 657 19.0%
Party political bias 360 10.4%
Lack of balance 293 8.5%
Unfair treatment 253 7.3%
Other 157 4.5%
Total 3461 100.0%

* Includes claims of bias in relation to issues such as international coverage, sport and religion.

5 Responses

  1. I would assert, with confidence, that another – important – way to look at it is the ABC in general will remain Australia’s most trusted, respected news source by some margin.
    And also, I’d confidently say that you won’t get any of the commercial broadcasters (7, 9, 10, Sky, etc) being as open about this kind of audience/research data – in fact I’d be surprised if they publish much at all. Of course those other broadcasters have a crucial part to play, as well and do much great work. But the ABC remains a vital cornerstone and in terms of serious, investigative work (Four Corners etc.) and coverage once you get outside of the urban areas, perhaps more important than ever.

  2. I greatly admire the ABC for the general programming. The only gripe is the reporting bias and it pains me to have to say this. It doesn’t seem to represent all Australians in news reporting in a balanced way, often pushing agendas and narratives. It’s also seemingly obvious when there is the hard-left organisation GetUp advocating for the ABC, and union involvement, which doesn’t help the bias sentiment. The most detrimental result over the years is the partisan support and recovery would require or result in bipartisan support for the ABC.

    1. I respectfully disagree. I think people watch too much right wing news (even if they don’t plan to) and as soon as anything challenges that it gets called crazy left wing. Good example of this was the recent ACT elections. During the ABC coverage I actually found them asking tough questions of the Labor government. They asked far easier questions of the Liberals, and often the answers went around in circles. They weren’t even hard questions, I heard later that even Sky said the Liberals sounded too repetitive and just repeated the party line. I’m not saying ABC is unbiased, but let’s keep things in perspective.

      1. I can agree with perspective. It depends on the particular coverage and programs. Many people claim that Leigh Sales is biased, but I think she is one of the least biased journalists. Same with Antony Green being one of the least biased political analysts. There are political issues that I have found their reporting, and opinions provided to be biased and misleading that adhere to, or push Greens, and union agendas and narratives beyond the base reporting of the issues.

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