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Australian television news trends. First results from a longitudinal study

Phillips, G.ORCID: 0000-0002-3491-2441 and Tapsall, S. (2007) Australian television news trends. First results from a longitudinal study. Australian Journalism Monographs, 9 .


Despite declining audiences television continues to be the primary source of news for the Australian public, yet no tool has been developed to regularly measure and interpret just what the nation's news services actually deliver. Are the news services as local as they say they are? What is the amount and nature of their coverage of world events? What kind of news do they include and how are stories treated? How much original material is there and how much duplication across services? Are news agendas changing over time? Australia currently lacks the means of providing credible answers to these questions at a time when the quality of its news services is subject to multiple threats, both commercial and technological. The aim of this study was to develop an authoritative and comprehensive method for analyzing the shape and substance of television news. It was hoped through this process to create a content analysis database and a methodology appropriate for the provision of an ongoing assessment and comparison of news output across the five Australian television networks. The results of the first two surveys show that Australia's television news services are changing. News agendas are becoming more homogenized, with greater reliance by all services on predictable and safe sources. Local coverage is reducing, stories are tending to be more sensationalist, and hard news is being displaced by soft news. The danger is that the tactics aimed at boosting dwindling audiences may in fact be actively contributing to audience decline by turning off the core demographics the networks need to ensure long-term survival.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
Publisher: Centre for Public Culture and Ideas
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