Basic Data


Official Country Name: Australia
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 19,357,594
Language(s): English, native languages
Literacy rate: 100.0%
Area: 7,686,850, sq km
GDP: 390,113 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 48
Total Circulation: 3,030,000
Circulation per 1,000: 196
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 233
Total Circulation: 374,000
Circulation per 1,000: 24
Newspaper Consumption (minutes per day): 35
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 581 (Euro millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 41.60
Number of Television Stations: 104
Number of Television Sets: 10,150,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 524.3
Television Consumption (minutes per day): 177
Number of Cable Subscribers: 1,305,600
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 68.0
Number of Radio Stations: 608
Number of Radio Receivers: 25,500,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 1,317.3
Radio Consumption (minutes per day): 138
Number of Individuals with Computers: 8,900,000
Computers per 1,000: 459.8


Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 6,600,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 341.0
Internet Consumption (minutes per day): 6

Background & General Characteristics

In its infancy Australian communication was dominated by a single goal—to improve connections to the motherland, Great Britain. Even though Australia had already been joined with Britain via overseas cable in 1863, it was not until 1910 (38 years later) that it was linked via cable to the rest of its own Pacific region. The Australian federal government focused time, money, and attention on communicating with Europe rather than with the more remote regions of Australia. Press coverage and broadcast media programming reflected a Eurocentric outlook. The later twentieth century, however, saw the increased presence of aboriginal people in the media and greater coverage of the Asia-Pacific region. Long influenced by British, continental and American trends, Australia began to come into its own as a media force.

The Nature of the Audience

Literacy rates in Australia are very high, with 100 percent of those over 15 able to read and write. English is the primary language, but a number of aboriginal languages are spoken as well. Caucasians make up 92 percent of Australia's population, Asians 7 percent, and aboriginal and other racial groups 1 percent.

Australia is a democratic, federal-state system that recognizes the British monarch as sovereign. The Australian judiciary system is based upon English common law. Although Australia is the world's smallest continent, it is the sixth-largest country. Its population is concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts.

Newspaper History

The first newspaper in Australia was the Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser . A government-controlled weekly, its first issue was produced on March 5, 1803. The printer and editor was former convict George Howe. At that time and for several decades to come, the British colonial governors had absolute control not only of the penal colonies of Australia, but also its print publications. Total censorship was lifted around 1825 and a few independent newspapers began in urban areas. One of the earliest was the Sydney Morning Herald, which became the sole property of the Fairfax family during the 1850s and which remains under their control. In 1856, the company became known as John Fairfax and Sons. After World War II, the Fairfax group moved into broadcast media by purchasing radio and television interests. A new newspaper, The Australian, began publication on July 15, 1964. In 2002 it remained the only national newspaper for general interest news.

In the mid-1980s, metropolitan daily newspapers in Australia experienced a rash of acquisitions and mergers. During this period, of the 18 urban newspapers, 12 changed ownership; three of them changed ownership twice. Also in the mid-1980s changing ownership affected all Australian commercial television broadcasters. By the end of the 1980s Rupert Murdoch's News Corp claimed 60 percent of the national television audience, while Fairfax Television Properties had only 20 percent. During this period financial transactions involving both print and television properties allowed the marketplace, rather than government strategic planning, to determine media ownership.

Australia's Coverage of the Pacific Region

Prior to World War II there was relatively little coverage of the Pacific region by Australian newspapers or radio. Following the war, the coverage expanded dramatically, but there has been a continued trend to focus on disasters and political turmoil in the region. As Anthony Mason points out in his article "Coups and Conflict," "Essentially, the Australian media is only interested in covering the Pacific if it involves a coup, a conflict, or a natural disaster. The only positive stories are primarily related to tourism" (57) . Mason also describes the media outlets in Australia, New Zealand, and other industrialized nations that engaged in "Parachute Journalism." This refers to the practice of sending reporters into a media hot spot only for the time needed to cover an event. Currently some Australia media such as The Australian, The Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC), and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) have full time or senior correspondents responsible for the Pacific region.

Number of Newspapers by Circulation Groups

In Australia in 2000, there were a total of 48 daily newspapers consisting of 10 metropolitan, 2 national and 36 regional papers. There were 10 Sunday newspapers.

The largest newspaper in Australia is the Herald Sun, published in Victoria by the Herald and Weekly Times, a News Corp property. It is a tabloid with a circulation of over half a million. The second largest is the tabloid Daily Telegraph of New South Wales, published by Mirror Australia Telegraph Publications, also a News Corp holding. Its average circulation is 412,000. The Sydney Morning Herald of New South Wales, published by John Fairfax Publications, is the third largest newspaper. It is a broadsheet with a circulation of 223,000. The fourth largest is Courier Mail of Queensland, published

by Queensland Newspapers, a News Corp property. It is a broadsheet with a circulation of 212,000. The tabloid West Australia , located in Western Australia, is the fifth largest newspaper. It is published by West Australian Newspapers and has a circulation of 206,000. The sixth largest is The Advertiser , located in South Australia, and published Advertiser Newspapers, a News Corp property. It is a tabloid and the average circulation is 200,000. The broadsheet The Age , of Victoria, is the seventh largest newspaper. Published by John Fairfax Publications, its circulation is 191,000. The eighth largest is The Australian, published by Mirror Australia Telegraph Publications, a News Corp holding. It is a broadsheet, and circulation averages 133,000. The ninth largest newspaper is the Australian Financial Review , published by John Fairfax Publications. It is a tabloid and average circulation is 193,000. The tabloid The Mercury , of Tasmania, published by Davies Bros., a News Corp property, is Australia's tenth largest newspaper. It has a circulation of 49,000.

Top Media Companies

News Corp Limited News Corp is a highly diversified global corporation that engages in the production and distribution of audiovisual products in Australia, the United States, Europe, and Asia. News Corp has interests in motion pictures, television programming, satellite and cable broadcasting systems, the publication of newspapers, magazines, and books, and the production of online programming. The major properties of News Corp in the United States are Twentieth Century Fox Movie Studios, Fox Television Network, Fox All-News Network, and various book publishers. Many American movie and television productions appear in Australian theaters or on commercial television channels as part of News Corp's global marketing strategy.


News Corp makes about 25 percent of its profits from global businesses, with fully 75 percent of that coming from its U.S. investments. News Corp global revenues are about $15 billion (U.S.) annually.

A major News Corp property is Fox Studio Australia. Fox Studio is a multi-use facility and movie studio. Located on a 60-acre site, it includes entertainment, shopping, and dining and sponsors a number of events. It is the only Twentieth Century Fox studio outside the United States, and has offered complete services for major international films such as Moulin Rouge , Star Wars Episode 2, Babe 2 , and The Matrix .

News Corp owns several newspapers across Australia in both large and small markets. It also operates Fox Sports Australia. In addition, News Corp owns 25 percent of FOXTEL, a pay television service offering a number of movie, sports and news channels. FOXTEL began operation in 1995 and is available via cable or satellite to more than 70 percent of Australians.

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his family hold about 30 percent of the company's shares. He was born in 1931 in Melbourne to newspaper manager and editor Sir Keith Murdoch. Sir Keith was a working journalist in both England and Australia and ultimately managed a chain of Australian newspapers headquartered in Adelaide, Australia, which later became News Corp's world headquarters.

Sir Keith died in 1952 and the control of two of his newspapers passed to his young son, Rupert Murdoch. Rupert attended Oxford and had just finished apprenticeships in England at the Birmingham Gazette and Fleet Street's Daily Express when his father died. The two newspapers in Australia that he inherited were the Adelaide News and a Sunday paper, the Weekly Times . Rupert Murdoch quickly turned the Adelaide News into a financial success and in the late 1950s he expanded the company with the profits. He bought the Perth Sunday Times , started the successful TV Week , and in 1958 he entered the television business.

In the 1960s Murdoch expanded his print properties with the purchase of the Cumberland newspapers as well as the Sydney Daily and the Sunday Mirror . Over time he added more magazines, book publishers, film and record companies in Australia.

During the 1970s Murdoch began buying properties in England, most notably BSkyB satellite system. In the United States he established a major media presence with purchase of Twentieth Century Fox movie studios, Fox Television Network, and other properties. News Corporation was established as a public company in 1979. In 1985, Murdoch became a U.S. citizen in order to meet regulatory requirements for the purchase of Federal Communication Commission controlled licenses for the U.S. television industry. He expanded into Asia with Star TV, a satellite based system that broadcast across many nations, particularly India and China, acquiring 64 percent of it in 1993. In 2002 Star TV posted a profit for the first time. Rupert Murdoch's youngest son, James Murdoch, and his Chinese-born wife, Wendy Ding, run Star TV jointly. Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth served as general manager of BSkyB in the 1990s but has since left the company. She continues to be involved in mass media by running her own production company. The eldest son, Lachlan, is a senior executive at News Corp.

In addition to its broadcast media holdings, News Corp also controls Harper Collins Publisher and also owns Triangle Publications, which publishes TV Guide and global magazines such as Seventeen . Murdoch also has made major investments in the Internet and is attempting to link his diverse print media for Internet traffic and sales. News Corp has been particularly active in developing Web sites for its major properties in Australia and elsewhere. Approximately 50 percent of News Corp's revenues come from electronic media properties and the balance from print media, with the bulk of the profits for the global corporation currently coming from holdings in the United States.

John Fairfax Publications Fairfax Community Newspapers has 28 community publications located mainly in Australian urban regions. The company dates back to 1865 and publishes some of the oldest community newspapers in Australia. APN News and Media APN is Australia's largest operator of regional newspapers, radio broadcasting and outdoor advertising, with interests in specialist publishing, pay television and the rapidly expanding digital market.

APN was listed on the Australia Stock Exchange for the first time in 1992. At this time it was a publisher of regional newspapers in Queensland and NSW.

Rural Press Limited Rural Press is a specialist agricultural and regional publisher. Its first publication was The Land , launched in 1911 by a group of people who felt that farmers and grazers needed a strong advocate in the face of agriculture's falling political power. The Land is the principal carrier of information to people whose lives and work revolve around the Australia land. The Rural Press is dedicated to enhancing the economic, political and social well being of the rural and regional communities throughout Australia.

The Rural Press also serves rural people in New Zealand and the United States. Rural Press operates three principal divisions: Agricultural Publishing, Regional Publishing, and Printing. The Agricultural Publishing Division produces a range of weekly and monthly newspapers that serve Australia and New Zealand's primary producers and agribusinesses.

West Australian Newspapers Limited West Australian Newspapers is the publisher of The West Australian and 19 other West Australia regional newspapers. The West Australian was first published in 1833. Still in existence, the newspaper sells about 210,000 copies Monday through Friday and 385,000 for the weekend edition on Saturdays, which has more than one million readers. The principal activities of the WA Newspapers consist of newspaper publishing, commercial printing and radio communications.

Trading Post Group Trading Post Group's The Melbourne Trading Post was founded in 1966. In 1968, both the Sydney Metropolitan Trading Post and the Personal Trading Post in Brisbane commenced publication. Today, the Trading Post Group publishes 11 Trading Post publications around Australia as well as Autotrader in Perth, Buysell in Sydney, Collectormania and the leading Web site . The group is also now part of , a global leader in classified advertising.

Economic Framework

Overview of the Economic Climate & its Influence on Media

Australia has a free-enterprise market economy. Australian media operates in a mixed ownership milieu with both public sector media outlets such as ABC, and private sector commercial properties. These two sectors

are highly professional, competitive, and seek long-run strategies to remain competitive in the greater Asian pacific region. Because the media depend upon advertising revenue as a major source of income, they depend upon a healthy economy in order to prosper.

Newspaper Chains & Cross Ownership

Prime Minister Howard's federal government in Australia announced in 2002 a new cross media ownership bill. The bill sought to mandate that print newspapers and television stations owned by the same owner must maintain separate decision making structures, such as journalists and editors. This provided for two separate bureaus even in the same city in order to have distinct editorial staff, policy, and guidelines. Although technologies were converging, particularly with digital formats, it is interesting to note that Australia was attempting to maintain the old analog distinction between content and carrier. The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Company, David Flint, was responsible for examining companies with multiple operations in the same city to ensure that they were complying with the recent legislation.

Press Laws

As a result of the Australian media's early focus on European news and affairs, the expansion of radio, cable and other wireless technologies across Australia was not a federal priority. However, this did leave room for urban areas to continue to rely on newspapers for their national news. For international news these papers depended upon the Reuters cable feed from London and once again a Eurocentric slant was the prism through which Australians saw the world, even though geographically they were in the Pacific rim.

The 1993 Racial Vilification Legislation, which came into effect in October 1995, provides for complaints about the accuracy of the portrayal of Aboriginal people in the media. It is administered by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.

Federal Government Activities

The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) is an independent federal authority responsible for the regulation of radio, television, and Internet content in Australia. One of ABA's major activities is overseeing compulsory regulatory standards in regards to commercial television with Australian content. These rules are designed to promote Australian culture, history, and ideas, and to provide employment for Australians in the audiovisual industries. They were created because of the growth and domination of American content, particularly during prime time hours. These objectives to provide an Australian identity and promote cultural diversity have sometimes been questioned by commercial television operators. Standards that took effect on March 1, 1999, call for 55 percent of all programming broadcasts on an annual basis to be Australian in creation or in content. There are also specific rules concerning children's educational programming and content. Certain provisions permit some New Zealand programming to be counted as part of the Australian quota.

The ABA's oversight for radio involves monitoring and assistance with technical planning and the assignment of the broadcast service band. The ABA commenced a study in 1992 to completely reframe radio broadcasting services across Australia. The report was completed in 2001, but with the introduction of new services, particularly digital and audio broadcasts via the Internet, much of the study had been rendered obsolete.

Created by the Australian government, the Federal Department for Indigenous Affairs protects indigenous people and their cultures. This includes not only promoting indigenous art and ceremonies, but also returning to original Aboriginal owners land that was confiscated by British and Australian authorities in past centuries.

Aboriginal Media

The treatment of aboriginal people throughout Australia's history is a topic of much contention. Much of the information about the treatment and handling of Aboriginals is contained in the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. In general, the media coverage of Aboriginals and Aboriginal issues has focused on negative news. Because of the Eurocentric nature of the early history of Australia, concepts of race, class, and what constitutes appropriate behavior were imported from Europe and imposed on the Aboriginals.

The 1991 Royal Commission made four recommendations concerning the role of the media in terms of the broader Aboriginal environment in Australia. These recommendations were:

  • Recommendation 205. That (a) Aboriginal media organizations should receive adequate funding where necessary in recognition of the importance of their function; (b) all media organizations should be encouraged to develop codes and policies relating to the presentation of Aboriginal issues, the establishment of monitoring bodies, and the putting into place of training and employment programs for Aboriginal employees in all classifications.
  • Recommendation 206. That the media industry and media unions be requested to consider the establishment of and support for an annual award or awards for excellence in Aboriginal affairs reporting to be judged by a panel of media, union and Aboriginal representatives.
  • Recommendation 207. That institutions providing journalism courses be requested to: (a) Ensure that courses contain a significant component relating to Aboriginal affairs, thereby reflecting the social context in which journalists work, and, (b) Consider in consultation with the media industry and media unions the creation of specific units of study dedicated to Aboriginal affairs and the reporting thereof.
  • Recommendation 208. That in view of the fact that many Aboriginal people throughout Australia express disappointment in the portrayal of Aboriginal people by the media, the media industry and media unions should encourage formal and informal contact with Aboriginal organizations, including Aboriginal media organizations where available. The purpose of such contact should be the creation on all sides of a better understanding of issues relating to the media treatment of Aboriginal affairs (McKee 11-12).

There are some examples of positive media coverage. In 1994 ABC television produced a drama series entitled Heartland . It had a cast that consisted of Aboriginals as well as non-Aboriginals. It examined the reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians and through its various episodes dealt in a sensitive way with the different approaches and hopes of both groups and their cultures. Following the Royal Commission, a Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was established. One of its main tasks was to brief media organizations, editors, and journalists about Aboriginal history, culture, languages, people, and future goals.

In the early 2000s, the indigenous media sector in Australia was one of the fastest growing. The National Indigenous Media Association of Australia (NIMAA) promotes the fight against racism and exclusion and establishes a National Aboriginal broadcasting authority across Australia. The NIMAA reported that there were almost 100 community radio stations that carry at least some Aboriginal community programming. Some community television programming exists as well. However, Aboriginals were most often those listening to Aboriginal radio or reading Aboriginal newspapers with relatively little crossover to non-Aboriginal groups.

In 1978 the Video Education Australasian (VEA) was created. It produces and markets video with two educational institutions across Australia and the Pacific region. VEA produces a number of videos dealing with indigenous Australians. The group promotes Aboriginal bands, Aboriginal books for children, Aboriginal civil rights, Aboriginal history and other educational programs for Australians as well as the international education market. VEA currently has 58 items dealing with Aboriginal themes.

In 1987 ABC television created a division entitled Aboriginal Programs Unit, which it later renamed the Indigenous Programs Unit. It produced a number of documentaries such as First Australians and Indigenous Current Affairs Magazine. ABC's employment policy strives for Aboriginal representation in 2 percent of its labor force. Currently it exceeds this goal. As a minority group, Aboriginals for the past number of years have received significant coverage across all media, but a substantial amount of the coverage is negative, focusing on crime, unemployment, and other problems.


Australia has a long and mixed history in terms of censorship. From the early twentieth century there was a federal government censor office, which rated a vast array of print and video materials, ranging from movies to greeting cards. In 1956 a Film Censorship Board was established to classify movies and later video. In 1988 this board was replaced by a broader Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) with a full time chief censor reporting to the Attorney General's office. The censorship classification system proved controversial and calls for reform were constant. A new set of guidelines was enacted in 1999 but they turned out to be more restrictive. In 2000, after the Office banned a popular art film entitled Romance , there were additional criticisms of the entire censorship process. In 2002 new legislation was being debated concerning Internet censorship issues as the activities of the OFLC have continued to attract critics.

In addition to the OFLC there is a separate category and process for television. Under this structure, which is the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, television stations report to the Minister for Communications.

Press Councils

The Australia Press Council (APC) was established in 1976 as the self-regulatory body for Australian print media. It has two goals: to help preserve the freedom of the press and to encourage the free press to act ethically and responsibility. In order to accomplish these goals there is a formal complaint mechanism. Participating newspapers and magazines fund the APC, and a 21-member council that represents publishers, journalists, and public members runs it.

The APC is concerned with the need to balance individuals' rights to privacy with the media's goal of informing the public about significant issues that are in the public interest. The council is also active in promoting discussion concerning the role and necessity of press freedom as well as educational initiatives including an APC fellowship, along with a number of public forums and publications detailing current media issues.

Freedom of Information Acts

The Western Australia Freedom of Information Act 1992 (F01) gives Australians the right to apply for access to government documents. There is also an Information Commission that in 1993 set up the Freedom of Information regulations.

State-Press Relations

A major new Broadcasting Act was passed in 1942. The same year, the government created the Gibson Committee, which sought to make recommendations to control the growth of radio in a more orderly fashion for both the private and public sectors. The Gibson Committee made a series of recommendations, of which one was implemented in 1948, amending the 1942 Broadcasting Act to create the Australian Broadcast Control Board (ABCB). It was charged with regulating and controlling broadcasting in order to ensure that adequate radio, television and other communication services were developed to serve the public interest.

In 1953, a Royal Commission on Television was created. The Australian television industry began to dominate public discussion about the mass media as well as federal government policy from that time onward. The witnesses called to appear before the Royal Commission were split between those who advocated an almost purely commercial television network across Australia and those opposed to such a concept. The latter group promoted a single, national, publicly financed television system, like England's BBC television, with no commercials at all. The final report of the Commission contained 68 recommendations. The report led to the awarding of commercial licenses in both Sydney and Melbourne. ABC television was given public stations in both major cities about the same time. From the start, the commercial television stations were dominated by existing newspaper barons. The young Rupert Murdoch communicated with the Royal Commission, on the side of promoting the introduction of commercial television in Australia. It did not take long before there was a public concern over the number of American shows on the commercial television stations, which led to the formation of the Vincent Committee in 1993. Its report, known as the Report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australia Productions for Television, examined the situation. The proposals in the report were for Australian content quotas and greater concern for the cultural impact of television across Australia.

In the early 2000s the question of television licenses was a major policy issue that remained unresolved. At that time there were three major national commercial television channels—Seven, Nine, and Ten. The Australian Communications Minister, through the Australian Broadcasting Authority, mandated a moratorium on new commercial television licenses until 2007. In an era of deregulation, privatization, and liberalization, this policy came under increasing criticism, including criticism from other federal departments such as the Australian Treasury and Finance Departments, and even from the Prime Minister's Office. Given the financial windfall that commercial television operators experienced, a number of organizations were eager to submit applications for new commercial licenses. They did not want to wait until 2007 while the current three commercial television networks enjoyed limited and restricted competition.

Attitude Toward Foreign Media

Foreign Media Holdings in Australia

CanWest Global Communications Corporation of Canada has a major investment in Australian mass media. CanWest Global is an international media company with vast holdings of print and electronic media in Canada as well as television properties in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Can-West Global has a 57.5 percent equity stake in Australia's TEN Television Network. The voting share of the parent company limits CanWest Global to 15 percent of the overall voting shares. It became involved in Australia broadcasting with TEN networks in 1998.

Regulation of Foreign Ownership

Under government policy, all proposals for foreign companies to establish a newspaper, or acquire an interest of 5 percent or more of a newspaper, are subject to case-by-case examination by the Federal Treasurer.

The policy sets the following foreign ownership limits: for national and metropolitan newspapers, the maximum permitted foreign interest is 25 percent, while other unrelated foreign interests can have an additional 5 percent. For provincial and suburban newspapers (which are not usually published daily) foreign interests are limited to less than 50 percent for non-portfolio shareholders. These limits may be exceeded with approval from the Federal Treasurer. When this policy was introduced, the Federal Treasurer allowed existing foreign investors to remain in place.

News Agencies

Domestic News Agencies The Australian Associated Press (AAP) was formed as a cooperative in the 1930s. The cooperative model for press bureaus is similar to the one utilized by the Associated Press of the United States. AAP was designed to provide overseas news from bureaus based in London and New York. Today AAP is the largest news and information association in Australia. AAP works through a national pool of journalists that have bureaus and share their collective input. They have also opened a bureau in Jakarta, Indonesia. AAP established a communication company in 1984 and in 1991 established a telecommunications company, the third largest in Australia.

Four different media groups own AAP. They are News Corp, Fairfax Group, Western Australia Newspaper, and Newspapers & the Harris Group. AAP offers digital artwork for advertising and timely racing and financial information for the growing Internet trade. The international operations of AAP include AsiaNet, which is based in Sydney, and represents a consortium of Pacific region news agencies. Their material is rewritten to suit the Australian AAP media outlets. AAP also operates AsiaPulse, a real time commercial intelligence and news service covering the Asia region. AAP offers a News-Centre, a print monitoring service also available to business and government clients; MediaNet, a customized media list; NewsTrack, a 24-hour real-time international; and Australian news service via the Internet for subscribers.

Broadcast Media

State Policies Relating to Broadcasting

The federal government delegates many regulatory matters to Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT) and thus the Minister of Communication has considerable control over awarding licenses, policy, and control of strategic planning. During the 1970s and '80s the Australian Broadcast Act of 1942 was amended many times. In 1980 there was an investigation of Australian television content resulting in Television Program Standard 14, which mandates that 50 percent of prime time programs be Australian. In the 1990s, the introduction of pay television was a major policy issue. Several commercial television stations changed hands as did several metropolitan daily newspapers. Television North Queensland was acquired in part by Canadian company Can West. Canadian Conrad Black purchased Fairfax Broadcasting, which had suffered financial problems for much of the 1980s.

The Broadcasting Service Act of 1992 replaced the much-criticized ABT with the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA). Under the new regime, both privatization and liberalization became more apparent across the media sectors. The philosophical movement toward deregulation being promoted by two prominent conservative politicians, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain and Ronald Reagan of the United States, also made its way to Australia. Although there was continuing concern about Australian cultural policy and activities, the dominance of a market driven economy relegated cultural issues to a second tier.

During the closing decades of the twentieth century, immigration patterns shifted considerably in Australia. The net inflow of Asian immigrants clearly outpaced European immigrants. As result, coverage and concern about Asian affairs began to displace European affairs in the media. Also at this time Australian Aboriginals began to promote their lifestyle, culture, and creative activities, demanding greater coverage by the mainstream media in Australia, particularly the government-run media outlets. An investigation by the federal government in the 1980s into Aboriginal affairs and tactics of previous governments led to a major policy change, particularly in terms of the proper role and promotion of Aboriginal rights. This study was a Royal Commission and set the groundwork for future pro-Aboriginal legislation across Australian society, including, of course, the media. With the introduction of satellites, broadcasting took a major shift in Australia; both radio and television stations began to broadcast across Asia as part of their activities.

The Federation of Australian Commercial Radio Broadcasting (FARB) was established in 1930 to represent the interests of commercial radio broadcasting. It began with only 33 members and currently has 241 members, which represent 98 percent of commercial radio operators in Australia. In the 1990s, there were a series of mergers and in 2002, 38 radio operators controlled 80 percent of the market. These operators formed into 12 national networks. The commercial radio industry generated close to $800 million (Australian dollars) in advertising revenue in 1999-2000.

Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is Australia's multicultural and multilingual public broadcaster, which began as an experiment in 1975. SBS Radio provides materials in 68 languages and is designed to reach the more than 2.5 million Australians whose native language is not English. It does this by producing over 650 hours of programming each week. Its mandate is to define, foster, and celebrate Australia's cultural diversity. It does this through radio and television programming which is intended to both entertain and educate. It is to be a reflection of Australia's multicultural society (particularly Aboriginals) and to promote understanding among different groups. More than 7.5 million Australians view SBS Television weekly. The programming is either Australian-produced or international programming, which focuses on other cultures, religions or issues.

Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio went on the air July 1, 1932. At that time ABC consisted of twelve outlets: two in Sydney, two in Melbourne, and one each in Brisbane, Adeline, Perth, and Hobart, with relay stations in four smaller cities. As with the British BBC, the early funding for this non-commercial radio came from a license fee for each radio. During the early years, all programming was live, and the stations were on the air only in the mornings and the evenings. A substantial amount of their programming consisted of news from Britain of weather, politics, stocks, and the ever-important shipping news. In terms of Australian content, recording studios were established to provide music and support orchestras. In addition, sporting events were covered ranging from cricket to local soccer matches. By the mid-1930s educational radio lessons were broadcast across Australia and became a major feature of ABC's activities. During this time the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association also provided domestic and foreign news for the radio newsreaders.

When Great Britain entered World War II, Australia as a colony also entered the war and strict censorship followed. ABC produced programs aimed at boosting national spirits since the Japanese were overtaking major portions of Asia. During the war years ABC established a broadcasting unit in the Middle East to report on the actions of Australian troops. Also in 1942 the Australian Broadcasting Act was passed, giving the Cabinet Minister the right to direct broadcasting in the public interest. By 1946 ABC was required to broadcast Parliament, and in 1948 the license fee approach was changed. Future funds would come from an annual appropriation from Parliament.

ABC television was created in 1953 as a single national channel but with only two stations, one in Sydney and the other in Melbourne. Other television stations were added in other cities very quickly. Commercial television stations also went on the air during this period. ABC continued to attempt to create and reflect the diversity and perspectives of Australians. ABC television commissioned and supported children's programming, music and drama.

In the early 1980s, ABC radio began Aboriginal broadcasts and these shows increased greatly over time. An Aboriginal Broadcasting Unit was created in 1987. During the same period Parliament pressed for more Australian dramas and series in prime time to balance the growing number of American shows during evening hours. In 1983 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act was passed, replacing the 1942 Act. The new act created a board to ensure ABC's objectivity and independence. In 1985 a Concert Music Department was created, reflecting the continuing subsidy to several world class orchestras and making ABC one of the biggest promoters of orchestral music in the English speaking world.

In the 1990s ABC began to focus its regional coverage on the Asian region, rather than Europe and Great Britain. News and public affairs continued to be the defining characteristic of ABC's media role. It has restarted its short wave radio service to Asia and provides Radio Australia to 110 rebroadcast partners across Asia via cable, satellite and the Internet.

ABC receives funding from two sources. The bulk of its funding comes from government appropriations that are an annual budgetary allocation from the tax revenue accumulated by the Australian National Government. A second source of revenue comes from the sale of goods and services, particularly reruns of popular ABC drama and comedy shows. In 1999-2000, ABC revenues were $678 million from the federal purse and $150 million from other sources. Financial concerns related to the movement from an analog transmission environment to a digital transmission environment. From time to time the Australian Senate establishes a select committee to investigate particular aspects of either ABC management or ABC operations in order to insure that the government's policies and objectives about public interest and nation building are maintained. Some critics are concerned about political pressure and threats to the independence of the ABC, since it is responsible to the federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA). The cabinet minister for the department is responsible to the Australian Parliament for all of ABC's activities including budgetary and policy items.

ABC is working in a changing environment. The entire role and scope of government activities is being challenged in an era of liberalization and privatization. With technologies creating new services and distributors, ABC competes with many audiovisual suppliers, including the Internet, for a limited audience. ABC's federal funding, like many public broadcasters' around the world, has decreased by almost one third since the mid-1980s.

Television History

In 1953 the Television Act created a national public service, ABC-TV, and approved issuing licenses for commercial stations as well. The commercial sector via TCN-9 broadcast the first television signal in September 1956. Two months later ABC broadcast television in Sydney, and two weeks after that in Melbourne. ABC made television service available in Brisbane by 1959, and in Adelaide, Perth and Hobart in 1960.

Early Australian television broadcast a number of important shows. One of these was Melbourne Tonight , which debuted on May 6, 1956. The legendary Graham Kennedy hosted the program. He continued to host this extremely popular variety show until 1975, when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board banned Kennedy from broadcasting live, claiming that he had used inappropriate language on live television. The variety show, in terms of format, mimicked aspects of the U.S. television legend Johnny Carson's Tonight Show . Another important early television show was entitled Four Corners . Modeled after a highly successful BBC program called Panorama , it was a public affairs program; with no national newspaper at that time in Australia, it dominated public debate about major national issues. The program touched on politically sensitive issues and often criticized the government of the day.

During the earliest years of television in Australia, American series and movies dominated almost 80 percent of the schedule. British TV comprised part of the balance, particularly BBC productions. Even when Australian television produced its own materials, sets, and shows, they frequently mimicked either U.S. or British video production models.

Electronic News Media

In the early 2000s in Australia there were well over 250 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and nearly 8 million Internet users: There were 12 national and 8 foreign Internet news sources, ranging from Australian news and Bloomberg to One World. The number of Internet newspaper Web sites jumped from a mere 5 in 1997 to over 150 by the year 2000. Overall, Australian sites are not very popular compared with U.S. and British sites. Two notable exceptions are John Fairfax Holdings' widely respected f2 Network. The f2 Network consists of over 30 Internet sites, which are aimed at specific databases. Services range from car and house advertisements, career and business information, to entertainment and restaurant choices. Another notable web site is ABC online, which has other niche news sites such as Asia-Pacific and Indigenous affairs. ABC online also draws information from CNN, and BBC World Service, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

Today all of the Australian newspaper publishers are active in developing their own online interests. The newspapers' strategies consist of building strong traffic and revenues by focusing on revenue-generating services such as classifieds, finance, auctions and directories. Some industry spokespeople have speculated that the long term success of online classifieds will have a negative impact on traditional newspaper classified pages.

Education and Training

In Australia there are a number of Research Institutes, such as:

  • University of New South Wales Communication Law Center
  • Melbourne CIRCIT Research Institute
  • Griffith University, Brisbane
  • Institute of Cultural Policy Studies
  • Sydney University of Technology
  • Center for Independent Journalism
  • Australia Film, TV, and Radio School (Sydney)
  • Publisher of Media Information Australia
  • Course Concentrations MacQuarie University and Charles Stuart University
  • Queensland University, long history in a Department of Journalism
  • Deakin University Journalism Program
  • University of Canberra Graduate International Communication Program

Journalism as a career in Australia is attracting a large number of people. Many have university degrees, frequently in journalism or communication. However, openings in media outlets are scarce, and there is a large group of qualified individuals seeking entry-level positions. As compared to the United States, where over 80 percent of the working journalists have university degrees, primarily in journalism, fewer than a third of Australians have a baccalaureate degree. The major media outlets accept hundreds of applications, but frequently only hire the top 10 or 20. Some of those selected for the highly coveted full time training positions have degrees in Journalism or Communication, while others have degrees in other areas. In Australia there are two main newspaper groups: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and Fairfax. They take the bulk of the university journalism graduates. There is still a debate as to whether journalism schools are teaching the appropriate skills, or whether degrees in some other areas such as economics, political science, or Asian studies might not be more appropriate. Since many of the established editors and managers of media outlets in Australia rise up through the ranks without journalism degrees, they often prefer experience to education. In Australia as elsewhere, there is criticism that university graduates have a background that is ideologically driven and intellectually rigorous, but that the graduates lack practical training in how to write or how to use equipment.


Australia's first professor of journalism was John Henningham, who retired as Professor of Journalism at the University of Queensland. His forte was providing writing skills needed for the media, rather than focusing on broader areas offered in programs with a media studies focus. Although journalism as a profession is not held in high esteem in Australia, many high school graduates are turning to university programs with a journalism orientation.

Five Major Journalism Programs

  • Charles Stuart University (Bathurst, New South Wales). This program was founded in 1975 and is a mixture of theory and practice. A number of graduates have been placed in leading Australia media outlets.
  • R.M.I.T University (Melbourne). Founded in 1972, this program has a strong liberal arts components and practical radio/newsroom training. The teaching staff includes a number of former Australian journalists.
  • University of Queensland (Brisbane). This program was founded in 1921, making it the oldest in Australia. The program has a strong slant toward reporting and writing skills as well as a mix of professional courses dealing with law, ethics, theory, etc. It still retains the basic print orientation, with electronic media being electives.
  • University of Southern Australia (Adelaide). This program, founded in 1973, has a practical focus, but also now teaches aspects of online journalism.
  • University of Technology (Sydney). This program was founded in 1978. It aims to educate students
    about the role media plays in a democratic society. It teaches critical thinking as well as the ethical and political aspects of the journalism discipline. A number of graduates serve as senior reporters for various Australian media outlets.

Journalism Education Association (JEA)

The JEA was formed in 1975 by a small group of concerned journalism academics. The goals of the association are to raise the standard of teaching in journalism across Australia, as well as develop closer ties between mass media practitioners and the academic community. During its initial meetings, members discussed at length the transition for working journalists who, later in their careers, had become academics and were teaching journalism in Australia. As the association grew, it began to accept memberships and academic paper presentations from New Zealand and other countries in the Asian region. Their newsletter evolved into a journal known as the Australian Journalism Review . The association continues to grow in strength and importance particularly given the substantial number of universities that teach courses in journalism, communication, media studies, and film.

Two programs deserve particular mention. The first is the University of Wollongong. Its graduate School of Journalism offers coursework and a degree in English in Hong Kong. A Master of Journalism degree is available electronically through a variety of multimedia materials. Professors sometimes visit Hong Kong to work with students.

In 1973 the Australian government founded the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School (AFTRS), headquartered in Northwestern Sydney with branches in Melbourne and Brisbane. The school also has representatives in other cities across Australia. There are full time programs as well as part time programs and short courses. Most of the course work is at the post-Baccalaureate level. In part due to government funding, the full time program is only available to Australian citizens or legal permanent residents. A variety of courses ranging from script writing, cinematography, directing, and producing, to radio digital media, documentary and television are offered. Some course work is available online and in early 2000 AFTRS planned to introduce the Global Film School (GFS). The GFS is designed to become the premier film making school around the world by offering courses online. It is a joint partnership of UCLA, AFTRS, and the National Film and Television School (NFTS). The NFTS is a full time MA program, offering course work in ten specialized areas. This film school is British and has a long and prestigious history in the area of documentary filmmaking.

Journalistic Awards and Prizes

In Australia the most prestigious awards for journalism are the annual Walkley Awards. The Walkleys were established in 1956 with five different categories. Each category has various subgroups. The three top prizes are the Gold Walkley, Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism and Journalistic Leadership. There are several sub-categories for radio, television, print and wire services, and other media. Over the years, ABC Radio and Television have received several awards as well as have major newspapers such as The Australian .


The Australian mass media has its origins in its strong ties to British press traditions. The early years of the press were dominated by censorship laws and controlled by British government agencies. In the twentieth century, with the arrival of greater competition, there was a lessening of government control and influence. The Australian press operates in a democratic environment. It also is served by a strong and attentive Australian Press Council.

Recently the Australian press has begun to include a larger role for Aboriginal media and issues. In addition, the Australian press is beginning to cover more of the Asia-Pacific region, leaving behind its historical preoccupation with Europe, particularly Great Britain, and the United States.


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Thomas Lawrence McPhail , Ph.D.

User Contributions:

Chew Yan Jing
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Jun 20, 2011 @ 2:02 am
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smith kerry
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