Dramatic drop in ABC original content

Dramatic drop in ABC original content

New research shows that the ABC now presents 40% less Australian content than it did a decade ago. This impacts its ability to retain and attract viewers and uphold its Charter obligations. ABC Alumni looks at this troubling situation.

Australian first release for non-news/current affairs original content 2013-2023

GraphSource: ABC Alumni

In 2022-2023, the ABC presented 630 hours of Australian made drama, documentaries and entertainment and factual programs. A decade earlier, there were more than 1000 hours shown, with these programs making up just less than 20% of overall programming. In 2022-2023, this had dropped to less than 10%.

Research conducted by Michael Ward, former ABC senior executive and now Sydney University media lecturer, is being used to analyse the “future of Australian public service media”, with observers concerned that if the mix and level of first release Australian content continues to decline, the ABC will struggle to meet its Charter obligations. 

The ABC, Ward fears, may not be able to deliver sufficient programs that have wide and specific appeal and which contribute to Australia’s national identity and reflect cultural diversity.

In November, we reported former ABC Director of Television, Sandra Levy’s concerns about the ABC’s future ability to deliver home-grown, high quality drama.

Levy warned that rising costs and competition from streaming companies with larger budgets have created a risk that the ABC could ultimately only be able to produce “stories that can be made for less money, thus restricting the range and genre of their content”.

Michael Ward said that while his study focuses on the decline in genres other than news and current affairs, “this paper does not suggest that news and current affairs programming levels are adequate or appropriate in meeting public service media principles”.

Ward has called for analysis of the impact of funding cuts and strategic decisions to axe or reduce programs such as The Drum, Lateline and state-based 7.30 Report, along with ABC audio and international output.

Such research would, he said, ensure a “comprehensive picture of the current state of play regarding ABC content and the implications for the future of Australian public service media”.   

Read the full report here.

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Sophie Arnold
Enews Editor