Report finds Australians consume less news, from fewer sources than 38 other countries

Australians are the lightest consumers of news out of 38 countries, and consume news from less sources, according to a new digital news report.

The University of Canberra Digital News Report: Australia 2019 shows that out of the 38 countries surveyed, Australia has the highest number of ‘light’ news consumers who access news once a day or less.

48% of Australians surveyed identified as light news consumers, far higher than the survey average of 34%. Speaking on a panel at the launch event for the survey, ABC news director Gaven Morris said he believes this is because Australian media over-reports on politics, which has caused consumers to disengage.


“I fundamentally believe we massively overreport politics in Australia, compared to any other country that I’ve ever spent time in. The amount of time we spend talking about the frippery in politics that is of no interest to most people is massively overrepresented in what we report,” said Morris.

“This is a struggle within the ABC as much as anywhere else. We spend too much time doing incidental things about politics beyond most people’s interest. We’re interviewing politicians who don’t have anything to say, which has become a real trend in the last 10 or 15 years to fill a slot with a politician because they’ll fill some air but they don’t have anything to say. And we don’t necessarily hold them to account to say something, we’re happy for them to fill the airtime,” said Morris.

Morris noted none of the commercial networks had Prime Minister Scott Morrison on during the recent election campaign, and argued this was because they had cottoned on to their audiences’ lack of interest. He said journalists need to get better at reporting on important political stories, rather than just filling space.

The Digital News Report also showed that only 33% of Australians consume news from four or more sources, below the global average of 44%. Australians are also less interested in news than comparable countries. 58% identified as having a ‘high interest in news’, below 67% in the UK and US.

Australians also have a far lower interest in politics – 35% self-identified as having a ‘high interest in politics’, compared to 59% of Americans. 44% of Australians think the news is too negative, compared to a global average of 39%.

Only 14% of Australians said they pay for news, and when given other subscription options, only 9% said news would be top priority. 34% said an SVOD service would be their top priority, making it the most popular choice.

Chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Karen Middleton, agreed with Morris that too much coverage of politics and unimportant topics has caused consumers to lose faith in news reporting in Australia.

“We’ve created a very fast media environment, in some respects the 24-hour news channels have created this vacuum that needs to be filled, where we’re currently shunting a politician in a space that needs to be filled to say anything, doesn’t matter what. It causes all of us in media to lose focus and lose discernment about what is really relevant and really important to people. It all just becomes a wall of sound,” said Middleton.


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