Features Australia

If the ABC is so trustworthy, why isn’t anybody watching it?

25 May 2019

9:00 AM

25 May 2019

9:00 AM

Here’s a  question. Who said this recently, about the ABC: ‘The ABC is one of Australia’s most important institutions. Now, more than ever, Australians need an independent ABC – your trusted, valued and efficient national public broadcaster’?.

If you answered Bill Shorten’s ALP, congrats, comrade! The quote was part of the ALP policy of ‘protecting the ABC’ from supposedly ‘devastating’ cuts inflicted to their minuscule $1 billion budget by those capitalist alt-right haters, the evil LNP.

LOL. The myth that ABC News is highly trusted, as well as independent, has been parroted for a long time now. It is also supported by prominent pollsters. For example, in May 2018, Roy Morgan announced that the ‘most trusted news source in Australia’ was… yep, you guessed it, ABC News.

Of course, the great demon of the survey was ‘social media’, that dark and dangerous swamp where the odious opinions of deplorable ‘non-journalists’, including ignorant citizens such as you and I, reign supreme. According to the CEO of Roy Morgan, Michele Levine:

‘Australians told us that their trust of the ABC is driven by its lack of bias and impartiality, quality journalism and ethics. While their distrust of Facebook and social media is driven by fake news, manipulated truth, false statistics and fake audience measurement.’

Roy Morgan had even more stunning news. Apparently 47 per cent of, quote, ‘all Australians’ mis-trust ‘social media’. That’s some 12 million citizens. Even better – only 9 per cent mistrust ABC News.

Meaning that a whopping 81 per cent must trust it. Wow. My fellow Australians! 20 million Australians trust ABC News. Who knew? These are amazing results, are they not?

With such high trust ratings, we can at last escape the fetid swamp of the ‘alt-right social media’. We can all go to ABC News to learn the gospel truths about the great events of our time.

There must be millions of Australians who have already done it, too. Right?

Let’s check. Drum roll, please! Question – how many ‘Australians’ watch ABC News?

And the answer is… wait for it…

Almost no-one.


Don’t believe me? Well, you may be surprised to learn that according to the ratings agency OzTam, in 2019 ABC News hasn’t managed to reach more than 1 per cent of the total Australian viewing audience on television. In fact, most of the time it hovers between 0.4 to 0.6 per cent.

OK, that looks bad. But if we just include Australia’s major cities, where the moral and intellectual superiors of Australia reside, the rating goes up, right?

Nope. The rating barely gets above 1 per cent. But 1 per cent still means a big audience, doesn’t it? Er, not really. For example, in the week between 7 and 13 April 2019, OzTam reported that ABC News only managed to reach 448,000 viewers. From a total audience of 28,649,000 viewers.

That’s a typical result, too.

In fact, dear reader, ABC News doesn’t even crack the list of top 20 programmes on Australian television. At the moment, Ahn’s Brush With Fame competes with Vera as the only ABC programmes on that esteemed list.

And how about this? The ABC News Twitter account also shows very low engagement. Apparently, @abcnews has 1.52 million followers. However, look for yourself – over the last few months, for example, most posts barely get 2 ‘likes’, or even 1 retweet (RT).

How does that stack up against other news accounts on Twitter? According to Social Blade, which tracks Twitter use and engagement, ABC News since 2007 has averaged just 38 likes and 16 RTs per Twitter post. SBS News towers above that, with a whopping 291 likes and 285 RTs per post. The giant BBC World account manages 374 likes and 159 RTs, on the same metric.

These numbers suggest that Australians have a very low engagement with ABC News. But that seems odd, given we’re told it’s the most trusted news source in the country, a lone island of ethics and truth, in an ocean of lies.

A cynic could argue that with such a low engagement level, ABC News could not possibly have 1.52 million genuine followers on Twitter. And that would be a serious issue, given ABC’s statutory obligations. I wonder if anyone has got to the bottom of this. Hint, hint.

But back to the main issue.

For such a ‘trusted’ source of ‘news’, ABC News sure has a very small and disengaged television audience. And an apparently huge but very disengaged audience on Twitter.

So what gives?

During the federal election, the ABC created an online survey called Vote Compass. By answering a few questions, the ABC machine would position a voter on their treasured ‘prog left v alt-right wing’ axis. The tool also allowed the ABC to aggregate responses around issues. For example, the Vote Compass survey revealed that ‘climate change’ was a key issue for voters at the election. According to the survey, 29 per cent of respondents to the ABC survey said it was their top issue, up from just 9 per cent in 2016.

The ABC promoted this 24/7 in a blitz of what they call ‘news’, that often seemed to masquerade as nothing more than public relations for the Labor party.

Turns out that Vote Compass was wrong. Ditto, ABC News. They were dead wrong. And cannot be trusted.

Is ABC News making the same mistakes with other issues? For example, they peddle non-stop that President Donald J Trump is ‘OrangeManBad’, which is patently false. Their climate change coverage is often hysterical, implying that the end of the world is nigh, due to boiling seas and infernal firestorms, caused by cow farts. Which is insane.

Providing ‘news’ that an ABC News audience wants to hear isn’t journalism, but it does provide fodder for closed minds. Let’s face it, there’s no need to engage with a source that reassures you with narratives that you already agree with, is there?

In her quote above, Ms Levine of Roy Morgan claims audiences don’t trust news sources using ‘fake news, manipulated truth, false statistics and fake audience measurement’. I’m not so sure. Given what’s been revealed about ABC News above, perhaps the opposite claim might be closer to the truth.

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