An overwhelming majority of Australians believe some local news is losing credibility as government and media owners increasingly set the news agenda, BBC research shows.
A survey found 74% of 1,000 people questioned believe local news is becoming too much like the media in the US, with the growth of agenda-driven news over the past five years.
More than half of those quizzed said they were concerned this could lead to a loss in credible journalism, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The study also showed 68% of Australians believe some news organisations allow government and commercial interests to colour their coverage, and produce biased reporting.
BBC Global News editorial director Jamie Angus told the Herald, “In many ways America is still the beacon on the hill [for democracy and media], yet it has an utterly dysfunctional media market because it has this effect of polarisation where increasingly large proportions of US audiences are only consuming ... news that reinforces their pre-existing political beliefs.”
Increasingly, Australians are worried that a lack of diversity in media ownership could lead to an increase in agenda-driven news, he said.
While a wide range of media diversity and ownership is important to reassure people, the opposite has been happening: Nine Entertainment’s takeover of Fairfax Media at the end of last year has made the consolidation of media companies “notable” in Australia, he said.
And in the last year, broadcaster and publisher Seven West Media and News Corp Australia have said they will work more closely to form advertising partnerships.
Doubts about some media outlets’ credibility could lead to a "plague on all your houses" view, especially from younger Australians, Angus said – especially concerning in an era of fake news, which is constantly evolving in sophistication.
Meanwhile, Private Media is putting together a new 12-strong team of journalists as part of a major investment in “inquiry journalism” which will form part of Crikey, its digital subscription newsletter and website.
“The beauty of the subscription model is you can measure at any point in the day, week, or month, whether or not it is working, what stories resonate and generate subscriptions, not just traffic,” Eric Beecher, Private Media chairman and editor-in-chief, told Mumbrella.
“We think it’s a very symbiotic relationship between quality of the journalism, the relevance of the journalism and also the commercial outcome of that,” he said.
Sourced from Sydney Morning Herald, Mumbrella; additional content by WARC staff