ICE blogs

December 12, 2007

TV news ‘dominated by safe sources’

Filed under: News, Headlines — news_editor @ 12:28 am

The news agendas on Australian television channels are becoming more homogenized with greater reliance on predictable and safe sources. This is one of the conclusions of a major study by Gail Phillips and Suellen Tapsall, published as an Australian Journalism Monograph by Griffith University.

Local coverage is declining, stories are tending to be more sensationalist and hard news is giving way to soft news. They argue: ‘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.’

Comparing coverage in 2001 and 2005, the data showed an increasing trend for action and human interest stories at the expense of public affairs. In 2001, courts, crime and emergencies and disasters took up 38.5 per cent of total news. By 2005, this had risen to 43.06 per cent with crime up from sixth to first place in the ‘total story’ league table.

International news coverage showed the greatest changes. The Anglocentrism of the 2001 data, with almost 40 per cent of all overseas coverage coming from or relating to the US and UK, has been replaced by a more diverse menu influenced by the ‘war on terror’. The more recent data shows only 14.25 per cent of all news originates from the US or UK while ‘terrorism’ dominates the international agenda. Indonesia, which was No. 5 in 2001 was top of the latest league table with 18.7 per cent of all coverage.

  • Australian Television News Trends: First Results from a Longitudinal Study, by Gail Phillips, associate professor in media studies at Murdoch University, and Suellen Tapsall, president of the Journalism Education Association of Australia; ISSN 1440 7922. Full details from Dr Cathy Jenkins.

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