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ABC boss fires back over The Oz‘s out-of-date claims

Did The Australian misrepresent ABC audience data? Managing director Mark Scott certainly thinks so — and told staff so in a missive yesterday. The data shows Scott is right.

ABC managing director Mark Scott has lashed out at The Australian for relying on out-of-date figures to claim viewers are deserting the ABC’s news and current affairs programs.

The Australian published a front-page “exclusive” yesterday, based on Senate estimates briefing notes prepared last October, claiming there has been a ratings drop for key ABC1 programs including 7.30, Insiders, Four Corners and the 7pm news. The briefing notes were handed to The Oz by Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who obtained them through a freedom of information request.

These figures, however, refer to the 2011-2012 financial year, making them seven months out of date. Calendar year figures show the ABC’s flagship programs are performing strongly on Aunty’s main channel, despite the increasing popularity of mobile and online content and the iView catch-up service. In an email to ABC staff yesterday, Scott told his troops:

Today’s so-called exclusive in The Australian is a slanted look at information contained in our last annual report. It does not reflect our fine performance across the board over the past year … The fact is that in 2012 ABC1, ABC News 24 and ABC iview ratings show a growth in audiences for ABC news and current affairs programs compared to 2011.”

In the email, Scott also tackles the notion, oft-repeated in News Limited papers, that the ABC doesn’t break enough news by spruiking Foreign Correspondent’s “Prisoner X” scoop and 7.30’s interview with controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank.

Crikey understands news director Kate Torney is currently putting the finishing touches on a similarly fiery missive and will email it out to staff today.

According to OzTam ratings, 7.30, Four Corners, ABC News at 7pm, Q&A and Australian Story all increased their ABC1 national audiences last year. Insiders, which is simulcast on ABC News 24, increased its total audience:

  • 7.30’s average Monday-Thursday audience was 1.03 million last year, up from 956,000 in 2011.
  • Four Corners’ average audience was 1.1 million, up from 1 million.
  • ABC News (7pm, Monday-Friday) averaged 1.32 million in 2012, up from 1.26 million.
  • Australian Story’s average audience was 1.26 million, up from 1.23 million.
  • Q&A had its highest ratings since it was launched in 2008, with an ABC1 average audience of 901,000.
  • ABC News 24 achieved an average weekly reach of 3.4 million, up by 10% compared to 2011.
  • Insiders‘ total average audience (ABC1 + News 24) was 354,000, up from 330,000.

Q&A also receives 19,000 iView plays per episode, Four Corners 15,000 and Australian Story 12,000.

The briefing notes contain a number of interesting tidbits — including that the ABC received a whopping 523 complaints about Leigh Sales’ Walkley Award-winning interview with Tony Abbott as well as 376 “appreciative contacts”.

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  • 1
    robinw
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    It appears that those 523 complainants about Leigh Sales interview with Tony Abbott were hyperventilating.

  • 2
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanx for this. I wondered how the Australian’s report was consistent with Glenn Dyers’ recent reports for Crikey.

    Why so many complaints about Leigh Sales’ interview with Tony Abbott? Does Aunty have a right wing audience or were they mobilised to support their dear leader?

  • 3
    The Pav
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Gavin

    It was probably Gee Whizz

    His definition of left wing bias is any sort of balance where Abbott is shown up for what he is and his ineptitude is displayed.

    Not surprining the the Oz was wrong. I mean this is where they train em up for the NT News

  • 4
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    @ The Pav

    :-)

  • 5
    Microseris
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    More of News Ltd attack on anything that is not bought and paid for business/right wing propaganda.

  • 6
    drovers cat
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The Australiar is not a newspaper anymore, indirectly by its own admission as its is seeking to meet expectations of its old-white-conservative-male audience, for whom Erica Betz is a perfect spokesman.
    For the rest of us, who gives a toss what it publishes?
    It is nothing more than a LNP newsletter, obvious to most, and if they have an audience which doesn’t know or believe that, then they have a pretty dumb readership comnponent.
    It should be on the magazine shelves, not the news-stands -and maybe shrink-wrapped to protect small children.

  • 7
    GF50
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Gavin M, I am totally with you, “were they mobilised to support their dear leader?” a resounding yes!

  • 8
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    While we see and read about the Murdoch fiasco in Britain with many of his employees being given temporary accomodation at Her Majesty’s pleasure, with a good chance of repeat invitations, we should also recall his campaign to close or emasculate the venerable Beeb to eliminate competition to BSkyB.
    One might see some similarities being employed by his Australian scribblers to the same end, particularly since he has wrapped up the other shares in Fox, and in anticipation of his anointed one, the hollow headed Aggott’s success at the coming poll.
    The public and the ABC staff should be aware of the possible incoming conservative onslaught on the nations icons.
    The ABC is still suffering from the effects of the Howard destructive efforts to bring it to the conservative heel.

  • 9
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Hypotension”? Yawn.
    Abetz “hand in hand with Limited News”? Never?
    In that same time period, how did Oz’s “ratings/circulation” fair?

  • 10
    Will
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    There is something fundamentally absurd about a narrow-voiced conservative paper of miniscule circulation and decaying relevance, which can only exist through subsidies that allow it ignore normal commercial gravity, hectoring the ratings performance of the national broadcaster. The ABC routinely achieves relevance and viewers the Oz could only dream of.

    This is compounded of course by the tawdry collaboration between the Liberal Party and the paper in manufacturing this story. The paper is an organ of the LNP and our version of Fox News. What a joke.

  • 11
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    The ABC (for all it’s faults - like the UK government owned Beeb - with it’s charter - as opposed to “tabloid issue PCP window-dressing-dross-cum-toilet-paper”) stands in “Murdoch’s Way” (with all it’s imaginative “one-dementional” analysis and faults) of controlling most of our conventional news and views.

  • 12
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    LNP” - Limited News Party.

  • 13
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    For me ABC and SBS stands head and shoulders above the rest. As for News Ltd it gives me great joy to see its struggling to be relevant after-all no right minded person will tollerate or subscribe to a sh*tty product.

  • 14
    SusieQ
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Yep, agree with you Bill Hilliger. The Oz is an awful tabloid with pretensions to being a great newspaper - while it keeps running stories like this, it has fat chance.

  • 15
    The Pav
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Will @ 10

    Your first para is one of the great one I’ve read on Crikey

    I’m guessing that the only reason that News Ltd break 100’s of stories compoare to the ABC is that the ABC doesn’t make shit up!

  • 16
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Best not to hold your breath for a correction, I’d wager.

  • 17
    mikeb
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    What gets me is why Eric Abetz felt the need to ask for the information and then pass it through the the Oz. Is he working for them or something?

    btw - how is the Oz readership statistics going?

  • 18
    Will
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    @The Pav. Thanks for your kind words.

    Very true. The closest they come to mendacious behaviour in the normal course of reporting is copying the lede of The Australian.

  • 19
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    So, essentially, News Ltd has published a story, that is a perfect demonstration, of why we need the ABC, to balance the garbage that comes out of News Ltd.

  • 20
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    And the non news is - Mudorc’s minions lie.

  • 21
    Steve777
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I think ‘exclusive’ for the Oz means the same as it does for the Murdoch tabloids - “stuff we made up to support the narrative our proprietors want to push”.

    And what’s their definition of ‘balance’? That those whose politics support the proprietors’ interests be listened to in awed silence as they go through their list of talking points? Fortunately Rupert or Gina don’t own the ABC - we do.

  • 22
    Steve777
    Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    On the subject of losing audience share, I was the regular reader of the Weekend Oz until about 3 years ago. I found the ‘Review’ section interesting. even if I disagreed with much of what was written. However I stopped buying it when it was pretty much openly campaigning for regime change and pushing voodoo climate science. I’m sure many others made the same decision. The Oz, once a good newspaper, now has no more credibility than its tabloid stablemates. The sooner it closes down the better.

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