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Essential: trust in commercial media continues to fall

Trust in Australia’s commercial media has hit new lows, while the ABC continues to command the trust of voters.

In a reprise of questions asked in July this year and in 2010, Essential Research asked voters about levels of trust in different forms of media. Following the establishment by the government of an independent inquiry into the newspaper industry and its regulation, the results are damning for commercial media.

Newspapers now command “a lot” or “some” trust from only 46% of voters, down from 53% in July. That was itself down from 62% in March 2010.

The July result appeared to be the result of the prominent coverage of phone hacking by the Murdoch press in Britain, but the fall has continued unabated since then, despite Australia’s two biggest print media companies, News Limited and Fairfax, insisting all was well with Australian newspapers.

Only 3% of voters say they have “a lot of trust” in newspapers while 13% say they have “no trust at all”.

Trust in commercial news and current affairs has also fallen, from 48% in July to 43% now, after being 64% in 2010. Five per cent of voters say they have a lot of trust in commercial television news, but 19% say they have no trust at all.

In contrast, trust in the ABC’s television news and current affairs edged up from 71% to 72%, with 23% of voters saying they had “a lot of trust” in the national broadcaster. Trust in its radio news and current affairs stayed on 67%; trust in the ABC’s radio talkback programs remained at 47%.

The least-trusted media are internet blogs, trusted by just 17% of voters. Next are commercial radio talkback programs, which have remained the same on 33%. News and opinion websites are on 38%, having fallen from 41% in July.

And in another blow for the newspaper industry, voters disapprove of the regulatory performance of the Australian Press Council. Only 20% of voters think the Press Council, set up and funded by newspapers themselves, does a good job of regulating the industry. Twenty five per cent of voters don’t think the council does a good job, while 38% think it does only an average job of regulating the sector.

The Press Council, under a more activist chairman in Julian Disney, has ambitions for a bigger, more formal regulatory role and wants to bring online publications within its ambit. The reaction from voters suggests such ambitions are based on shaky ground indeed.

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  • 1
    tinman_au
    Posted Monday, 12 December 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Is it any wonder folks don’t trust “the papers” when you have reports like the ACIJ just put out?

    (source: http://datasearch2.uts.edu.au/acij/investigations/detail.cfm?ItemId=29219)

    I think Mr Disney has his work cut out for him poor bloke, the way their current structure is just makes them look like a cover-up organisation for the papers that created it…he needs to address that before people will respect the APC (a tall order considering he’ll be biting the hand that feeds him).

  • 2
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Monday, 12 December 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    What a laugh; ha, ha.ha; ho, ho,ho! What did the commercial media expect? You produce a poor product, it doesn’t sell. No surprise there - the majority of the “Australian people” are not stupid! We know mediocrity and a poor product when we see it… Put me down for very little trust in the Murdoch print and electronic media aka as Sky News. Gave up buying News Ltd print media a long time ago to deny my few dollars revenue to the Murdoch “spivs”. I occasionally read the Australian in the local library - now I don’t even do that, seeing the one copy of the Australian is always available on request, tells me very few others read it. As for the commercial TV current affairs - seldom watch it, Today Tonight, A current Affair and other programs of that ilk is mostly populist no brainer crap. I have a fair amount of trust in the ABC and SBS. Lastly the government did well to keep the News Ltd “spivs” away from the AN overseas broadcasting network.

  • 3
    pk_x
    Posted Monday, 12 December 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    To single out something Mr Hilliger said, I find it interesting that so many commentators decried the Aus network decision as some kind of travesty of due process, and yet those trust ratings show that Australia wouldn’t want anyone else to manage it regardless.

  • 4
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Monday, 12 December 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I expect that the nitty gritty details of the Essential Research report won’t be extensively chronicled, analysed and debated in the commercial print and TV media. So far I have not seen any reference to it. Stephen Conroy has done all Australians a favour by excluding for whatever reason Sky News from the AN bid.

  • 5
    eric
    Posted Tuesday, 13 December 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Monday, 12 December 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I expect that the nitty gritty details of the Essential Research report won’t be extensively chronicled, analysed and debated in the commercial print and TV media. So far I have not seen any reference to it. Stephen Conroy has done all Australians a favour by excluding for whatever reason Sky News from the AN bid.”

    Couldnt agree more!

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