Decline in first run non-news content on ABC

First run Australian content on ABC, outside of News programming, has declined by 41% over the past decade, according to a report.

A study into first run Australian content on ABC, outside of News programming, has found a 41% decline over the past decade.

Dr Michael Ward of the University of Sydney, a former ABC Television Head of Policy, assessed data for first run Australian content on ABC from 2013 – 2023.

The results, published by ABC Alumni show a 41% decline, or 430 hours in the past decade, of non-news and current affairs content (news caff) on ABC’s primary channel.

ABC main channel ‘non-news-caff’ first release Australian content:
hours & % of total output (6 am-midnight). 

Non news-caff content dropped from 1,060 hours in 2013/14 to 630 hours in 2022/23.

The report found there were two stages in the decline over the last decade.

Firstly, the major drop of 409 hours from 1060 hours in 2013/14 to 651 hours in 2016/17.

Then, after recovering slightly to 749 hours in 2019/20, there was another decline of 119 hours to 630 hours in 2022/23.

The biggest drop was in Sport followed by Entertainment, Factual, Drama and Arts.

However there were also changes in definitions over the period. For example, ‘Drama’ hours now include scripted Comedy, which was previously a category of its own.

The single exception was in Documentary output, which increased from 44 hours in 2013/14 to 57 hours in 2022/23.

Taking a wider lens of all ABC platforms, outside of ABC News, (ABC TV, ABC2, ABC ME, iview) first release Australian (non-news-caff) content is also down by 21% decline compared to 41% on the main channel alone.

The report claims while ABC annual reports show total Australian content increasing, there has been a severe decline in first release programs across several genres.

“It is true that the ABC, like every other media organisation, is grappling with the consequences of the digital revolution,” the report stated. “But delivering new Australian made content across a range of genres remains crucial to the ABC’s role as a publicly funded national broadcaster. If it doesn’t have the funds to do so, it should be saying so, loudly and clearly. It is to be hoped that the new Chair Kim Williams will begin to do so as soon as he begins his job in March 2024.”

You can read more here.

12 Responses

  1. … coupla things … as others have pointed out, the ABC, particularly since 2010 with the introduction of the unbudgeted, unfunded news channel, has chosen to spend a vastly increased amount of its funding on news with the result that other areas have suffered … secondly, the “funding” chart included makes the same mistakes that others have made by including the “Australia Network”, which was a commercial contract awarded by the Gillard government after cancelling the legitimate tender conducted by DFAT, and more importantly, by ignoring the additional funding that has now been pumped into ABC commissioned programs, particularly drama and documentaries, by taxpayer-funded outfits such as Screen Australia and the various state funding bodies … so the whole thing has to be taken with something of a grain of salt …

  2. Obviously the Children’s sector has gone down to zero, because it’s been moved away from the main channel to the ABC Kids and ABC Me Channels.

    But a shame that just about everything else has gone down. 44 hours of Drama (and comedy) is not enough. Sports is very minimal these days for the ABC.

  3. Ironically we can largely blame Kim Williams for the decline in sports content on the ABC (and FTA more generally). As head of Foxtel, he ensured the pay-TV company bought the rights to most major sporting codes leaving the ABC with a few crumbs.

        1. There are still strong rules on anti siphoning of sports, the issue lies with what the viewer demand is vs dollars.

          In years to come free tv will become virtually non existent as the streamers take a bigger hold and sports will be included in that.

  4. @David and all: Do you think the decline in first-run Australian content is a result of financial constraints or a shift in priorities within the ABC? Maybe it’s me, but the ABC does tend to spotlight certain areas over others.

      1. I’d dispute the rules are strong. The law says every game of every round of NRL and AFL, but more than half of them are pay TV each week. They also mention one day cricket matches played on Australia, but that also moved exclusively to pay TV. The laws don’t prevent steamers like Amazon Prime from picking up the exclusive rights to all ICC matches (like the World Cup) for the next four years. IMO, the laws aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

        1. The Free to Air channels no longer see value in all and every game, revenue is key here. The govt can’t control World Cup rights if sold in the international arena. The future is not the free tv networks. The free tv channels have never shown every game, never will, again all comes down to $$$

  5. The ABC has $1.2b. It has spent nearly all of that boosting it’s News and Current Affairs which is why that hasn’t fallen. It’s news on abc.net.au has actually improved a lot over the last year with more reporting and less feel good clickbait. The depth of coverage now exceeds the BBCs. The ABC has bought more documentaries, but a documentary producer announced he was quitting the game as the ABC would pay only $20,000 to screen his documentary and charged him $80,000 for the ABC archive material used in it. ABC radio is also down. The reason is The Internet offers the choice not to watch or listen to the ABC, or 7 or 9 and especially 10. The ABC was never going to be able to compete against Netflix, Disney+, Amazon and Apple TV while they are charging $7 p.m. Now they are charging $20 p.m. to new subscribers things might improve for the ABC, which is ad free.

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