Radio
Television
Print media 
Online news 

 

What is the media?

Media is an umbrella term used to refer both to:

  • The means of mass communication such as newspapers, radio, magazines and television;
  • The group of journalists and others who constitute the communications industry and the profession.

Traditionally there are two broad groups of media within Australia:

  • Broadcast media - including radio and television;
  • Print media - including newspapers and magazines.

A recent addition to the media landscape is the Internet and the availability of online sources of news. Further information on targeting approaches to the individual sectors of the media can be found on our Contacting Media page. 


What is their goal?

The primary purpose of the media is communication. Events or information is interpreted and reported to a defined audience with the goal of educating, informing, entertaining and in some cases, protecting that audience.


However, it must be noted that in many cases the media is a profit-driven business, which must sell its product - the information or ‘news’ it reports. The media are driven by the need to produce a story that will ‘sell’ to their audience.


Audiences are usually considered to be most interested in things that affect them directly or that could affect them or those around them or potentially cause them harm.


Do all media target the same audience?

While some media organisations aim to provide information and entertainment to the general community there are also those that cater for particular population groups. Multicultural media and Indigenous media are two specific examples.

  • Multicultural and multilingual media - Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are served by a range of media. SBS provides multilingual and multicultural radio and television broadcasts. In addition there is a network of over 100 community broadcasters (resourced and supported by the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council) and many multicultural print media publications available in Australia.
  • Indigenous Media - There is a variety of Indigenous media organisations in Australia, supported by the Australian Indigenous Communications Association. Broadcast media includes a national Indigenous television service, a commercial television network in central Australia as well as an extensive network of commercial and community radio stations across Australia. There are also two major Indigenous print media publications and several smaller ones. In addition, organisations such as SBS and the ABC have designated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander departments and staff. Each of these broadcasters produces a weekly Indigenous current affairs program.
  • As well as these two large groups there are other media organisations, broadcast and print, who target particular population groups such as youth, or older people. In addition media organisations with a broader general focus may also have sections or programs targeting particular groups.

Who decides what gets reported?

Many journalists are able to decide what stories they report. However, they do not always have a say over what stories are included in a publication or in the final cut of a program. This decision is made by the editor (in print media), news director (in television or radio news) or the program director or producer (in radio and television programs). The decision may depend on a number of factors such as a change in priorities or competing interests of other stories.


Are there any limitations or regulations on reporting?

Each sector of the media is served by a peak body and has a code of practice or code of ethics. While membership of these peak bodies is voluntary there is also broader regulation for broadcast media. The peak body for print media is the Australian Press Council. Broadcast media are covered by the Broadcasting Services Act, which is administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Individual broadcasters are also required to have codes of practice, which outline applicable standards to the public. These codes of practice are registered with the ACMA. There are also Acts that cover specific sectors such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act that covers the ABC, and the Special Broadcasting Services Act that covers SBS. Journalists from all sectors of the media also have a voluntary code of ethics under the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.


Information about regulatory bodies, codes of practice and codes of ethics can be found from the following websites:

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - www.acma.gov.au
Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) - www.sbs.com.au
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) - www.abc.net.au
Australian Press Council - www.presscouncil.org.au
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance - www.alliance.org.au
Commercial Radio Australia - www.commercialradio.com.au
Free TV Australia - www.freetvaust.com.au
Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) - www.astra.org.au  

 

Radio

Radio is one of the more commonly accessed forms of media in Australia. Current issues are presented on radio in a number of different formats.

  • News - Radio news is generally delivered in short ‘grabs’ at frequent intervals throughout the day.
  • Current affairs - Longer reports of current events or issues incorporating discussion and opinion.
  • Talkback - These involve audience members calling in to participate in discussion of an issue with a program presenter and possibly an invited ‘expert’.
  • Specialist programs - Many stations will also have specialist programs that may focus on health issues.

Radio in Australia is provided through an extensive network, which includes public broadcasters, commercial and community stations as described briefly below.


Public Broadcasters

Australia has two public radio broadcasters - the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

  • ABC radio is made up of 60 metropolitan and regional stations and four national networks (ABC Classic FM, Radio National, ABC News Radio, and Triple J - the youth network) and an Internet service. It is government funded and is governed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act (1983).
  • SBS is Australia’s multicultural and multilingual broadcaster. It broadcasts in 68 languages across a network which is available in all capital cities and key regional centres. SBS is funded by a mixture of government funding and commercial revenue. The role of SBS is defined by its Charter, which is found in the Special Broadcasting Services Act (1991).

 

Commercial Stations

There are approximately 260 commercial radio stations in Australia, represented by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA). The majority of commercial radio stations can be found in regional areas and broadcast on both AM and FM frequencies. Commercial stations are usually funded by advertising revenue and are operated for profit or as part of a profit making enterprise. There are 32 operators that own commercial radio stations in Australia. Of these, 12 networks own 80% of stations.


Community Stations

There are over 350 community radio stations in Australia, 60% of which are in non-metropolitan areas. A ‘community’, as represented by a community radio station, may be defined in terms of interest, geographical or cultural boundaries. Most community radio stations rely to a large extent on volunteers for their day to day running. They may receive financial support from sponsors but this must not in any way influence the programming. Community radio in Australia is supported by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA).


Television

Like radio, television is accessed by a high percentage of the Australian population. Current community issues are presented on television in:

  • News - Television news provides for somewhat longer stories than radio.
  • Current affairs - These programs supplement news, and often follow the news in scheduling. Current affairs may mix live interviews with pre-recorded material and offer an opportunity to explore issues in more depth.
  • Other programs - Many stations will also have other programs (such as breakfast programs) that offer a mixture of news, current affairs, and entertainment. These may also explore current community issues.

Television in Australia is provided through public broadcasters, commercial free-to-air stations, subscription television and a small number of community stations as described briefly below.


Public Broadcasters

Australia has two public television broadcasters - the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).
• The ABC provides a national TV service with local and national programming and two digital channels.
• SBS television provides a national television service as well as two digital channels. It broadcasts a mix of Australian produced and international programs, in over 60 languages other than English.


Commercial Free-to-Air Television

Commercial free-to-air television reaches most Australians with the majority of the population having access to three channels. Commercial television is provided via eight networks, with three ownership groups controlling most metropolitan stations. Commercial free-to-air television is run for profit or as part of a profit making enterprise and is funded through advertising revenue. The peak media body for commercial free-to-air television is Free TV Australia.


Subscription Television

The major distinctive feature of subscription television is the direct contract between the television provider and the subscriber. Subscription television has a smaller target audience than free-to-air television and offers more specialised programming. The peak body for subscription television is ASTRA (Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association).


Community Television

Australia has a small number of free-to-air community television stations most of which are located in capital cities. The peak body for community television is Free TV Australia.

 

Print Media

Print is a large and diverse sector of the media and news/information is presented in many different forms. Broadly speaking the main types of stories can be categorised into:
• News stories - present basic facts about current events and issues.
 Feature stories - provide an opportunity for more in-depth exploration of an issue, allowing for opinion as well as facts. Feature stories can describe people, places, circumstances and ideas and may focus on a specific area such as health.


Unlike broadcast media, there is no statutory regulatory body for print media. The Australian Press Council is the peak body for print media and has a voluntary code of practice that members subscribe to.


Newspapers

There are more than 600 newspapers in Australia - including 12 major national or state/territory daily newspapers, about 35 regional daily newspapers, nine Sunday newspapers, and almost 500 weekly or twice weekly regional, rural and suburban publications. They come in either tabloid or broadsheet format and vary in circulation size. In Australia, Saturday and Sunday editions of major newspapers are more widely read than weekday editions.


The majority of major national and metropolitan newspapers are owned by two publishing companies and a further two companies publish most of the regional and country newspapers.

There are also independently owned newspapers in both metropolitan and regional areas. Australia also has a number of newspapers published in a language other than English.


Magazines

There are more than 1,500 magazines published in Australia including women’s interest, general interest, television, home and garden, leisure and current affairs titles.


Online News

Most major media outlets also have websites that provide and update daily news items. In addition, Australia has a national news agency, Australian Associated Press (AAP), providing online news in real time to both broadcast and print media across Australia.