Australians seem to be going off commercial TV, according to a poll conducted by the ABC.

Every year the ABC commissions what it quaintly calls its “Appreciation Survey” to find out what Australians think of our national broadcaster and the latest, conducted by Newspoll in June with 1903 people surveyed, has some bad news for the ABC’s commercial rivals.

It seems that a majority of Australians just don’t like what they see on commercial TV these days. The results are discussed in the ABC’s 2007 annual report:

One of the most striking changes this year relates to commercial television, with the number who feel it does a poor job of providing appealing content increasing from 47% to 54%, and a similar decline in the number who feel it is doing a good job.

There has also been a smaller increase in negative perceptions about ABC Television on this dimension (up from 15% to 19%).

It is quite conceivable that the two are related, with the larger negative shift in feelings about commercial television flowing on to perceptions about ABC Television—reflecting a greater dissatisfaction with the quantity of appealing content provided by the medium per se.

For both commercial and ABC Television, this shift in sentiment is quite broadly based demographically. Importantly though, for ABC Television the change is small, as noted above, and the vast majority of the community continues to believe ABC Television does a good job of providing quality content of relevance to them”.

The heavy use of repeats (particularly by Nine and Ten), the odd start times for programs and last minute program changes have frustrated viewers this year.

Meanwhile, the ABC is using focus briefs to determine how to improve its current affairs programs. Here’s what the ABC annual report revealed:

In late 2006, a research project was commissioned to examine audiences for current affairs programs, in particular, The 7.30 Report. Focus group discussions were conducted in cities and regional areas that explored attitudes to ABC current affairs programs and the wider issue of changing habits in news and current affairs consumption.

Research findings informed changes to the presentation and style of The 7.30 Report, with the program achieving a 6% increase in audience in the first half of 2007 compared to the second half of 2006.

Is this a good thing? Is the news agenda at The 7.30 Report now determined by a list of subjects that the focus groups said might be interesting? Comparing the audience from the first half of 2007 with the last half of 2006 is a bit ropy: its apples for apples. The comparison should have been with the audience in the first half of 2006.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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