Whenever anyone criticises the ABC a stock standard response is that Australians love the ABC.
Well do they?
It turns out that the ABC tell us that Australians love them. But the ABC tells us so many things that we simply do not believe, why should this be any different?
Chris Berg and I wrote about this in our book on the ABC: Against Public Broadcasting: Why and how we should privatise the ABC.
McNair and Swift point our attention to the ABC Annual Reports that usually contain survey data demonstrating how Australians perceive the ABC. The ABC’s satisfaction indicators are very impressive. A selection of those indicators are shown in Table 1.
Eighty-six per cent of Australians value the ABC. Seventy-seven per cent think it is balanced and even-handed. Seventy-eight per cent think ABC television provides quality programming.
This rosy picture is complicated by the fact that ABC television only had a 17.6 per cent share of the primetime five-city metro market in 2015-16. Indeed, there is a huge gap between the number of people who claim to value the ABC, and those people who actually consume its services. It is also noteworthy that more people in the metro areas consume ABC radio than primetime television and the percentage of people who believe that the ABC provides quality radio programming is much lower (63 per cent) than those who believe the ABC provides quality television programming (78 per cent). It appears that the more people know about the ABC the less they value it.
This kind of result is not necessarily surprising—it is very likely that Australians have been socialised into believing that the ABC provides a quality service as opposed to having actually experienced that quality through their own viewing or listening.
It is true that the ABC has higher market share in regional areas than it does in metropolitan areas—yet even there the gap between what people say about the ABC and their actual consumption of ABC services is large. Unfortunately the ABC does not appear to publish market share data for its regional radio services. It is one thing to be assured by politicians that the ABC provides valuable services to the community but it would be even more reassuring to see the actual data supporting that claim.
Not even the Wikipedia reports the ABC as being popular.
The ABC has lower ratings than does subscription television. To put the channel 2 10% rating share into perspective The Greens got about 10% of the vote at the 2019 general election.
The ABC is a channel of Greens, by Greens, and for Greens.
Paid for by the taxpayer.