Flat White

Their ABC: no so trusted anymore

20 October 2021

12:10 PM

20 October 2021

12:10 PM

The ABC is in the headlines on almost a weekly basis for issues of its own making.

The crises keep adding up, from the 4 Corners vendettas into Christian Porter, Scott Morrison’s Qanon links and the Fox News special, to the error-ridden Ghost Fire and Juanita Nielsen: A Family Mystery documentaries, to its activist use of social media and its dubious and bureaucratic complaints process.

The ABC will often fend off legitimate criticism and calls for reform, by pointing out how regular published trust surveys rank them one of the most trusted brands in the country. But that seems to have changed recently. 

The latest Roy Morgan survey on trusted brands, released last month, sheds some light on how the ABC is fairing.

The ABC are usually very quick to make a lot of noise about these surveys, but they’ve been oddly mute on this one. A little digging reveals why.

Anyone just looking at the Roy Morgan release wouldn’t think anything of it really, the ABC is not mentioned. But the detail is hidden in an 18-minute webinar from Roy Morgan explaining the survey.

It shows how from year-end June 2021, the ABC slipped 9 places in Roy Morgan’s most trusted brands, with some interesting verbatims.

ABC has gone from 10th to 19th place in Australia’s ranking of trusted brands. The most fascinating is the representatives from Roy Morgan commenting on the ABC’s trust decline.

Social scientist Dr Ross Honeywill in the webinar notes how significant it is that the ABC has fallen from 5th to 19th most trusted brand in just two years and he says the ABC “risks falling out of the top 20 most trusted brands completely.”  

The monthly net score line is a good indicator of the ABC’s trust rankings over time. Interestingly, they can be closely linked to media sagas where the focus of controversy has been the ABC itself. A massive decline in April 2020 just might happen to align with the High Court unanimously quashing Cardinal George Pell’s charges the ABC had long campaigned for.  

Another decline in the ABC’s monthly net score from November 2020, which happens to align with the ABC’s widely criticised 4 Corners episode into Coalition Cabinet Minister’s Christian Porter and Alan Tudge. Then another massive dip for the ABC from February to April 2021, almost hitting negative territory, around the same time the ABC’s allegations against Christian Porter, and staff social media scandals were dominating the headlines.  

Correlation might not equal causation, but the evidence is pretty striking.  

The CEO of Roy Morgan, Michele Levine, suggests that its not the usual suspects who are growing tired of the ABC: “There has always been a group of very strong right-wing conservative people who felt the ABC was biased and probably always will, but this is becoming the view of the vast majority.” 

The Roy Morgan highlighted testimonials and phrases from participants in the survey that were repeated back to them over and over, they are illuminating. 

I feel they are not impartial and lean too far to the left. It seems that are they the propaganda arm of the Labour (sic) party and the Greens.

There is a lack of balance between opposing views and not presenting both views.

Too left-wing and very accomplished in twisting the trust into something almost unrecognizable.

These trust ratings for the ABC are just about their last line of defense against calls for reform. Justification against reform that would free the taxpayer of over $1.1 billion per year usually goes something like “you can’t do anything about the ABC because it is trusted.”  

But that justification for its existence is waning. Australians have never had more access to a diverse range of media, yet the government uses precious taxpayer money to fund a media behemoth. 

The Morrison Government is running out of excuses to take on the ABC. 

These issues are explored in a new unique, serialised documentary podcast by the Institute of Public Affairs titled Their ABC: What’s wrong with the ABC and how to fix it 

You will hear from high profile guests like Tony Abbott, Maurice Newman, Janet Albrechtsen, Rowan Dean and John Anderson AO, media commentators like Chris Mitchell, Gemma Tongini, Chris Kenny and Peta Credlin and over a dozen Members of Parliament including Bridget McKenzie, Mark Latham, Nicolle Flint, Matt Canavan, James Paterson, Andrew Bragg and many, many more.  

We will be highlighting the problems with the ABC: Its bias against conservatives and hostility to conservative viewpoints, its obsessions with identity politics and climate change, its activist use of social media, its inner city focus and bias against the regions, and what we can do to fix it.

For more information visit www.ipa.org.au/theirabc  

Evan Mulholland is the Director of Communications at the Institute of Public Affairs.  



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