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Digital News Report: Australia

Digital News Report: Australia 2020

Most Australians will miss local news if it disappears

COVID-19 pandemic has proven how much local news still matters as people need to get information about the spread of the virus in their area and keep up with the advice of local authorities which may be different to national guidelines.

During the bushfires, almost half of news consumers (45%) said that they were very or extremely interested in local news.

Local newspapers and their websites were cited as the top source of local news (41%). We found that almost a quarter of news consumers were turning to alternative sources such as local social media groups for news about their community. This suggests that traditional news media are not fully meeting consumers’ demands for local news. This was particularly the case for younger generations.

We asked news consumers if they would miss local news if it were to close. The majority say they would miss local news sources if they were to close. Three-quarters would miss local newspapers (76%). Local radio would be missed the most (81%), especially by low income and regional Australians. This reflects the important role of radio during the bushfire crisis.

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The Digital News Report: Australia 2020 also finds:

News consumption is increasing: During the bushfires, Australians were already consuming more news. The percentage of heavy news users had risen to 56% (+4). This increased further during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic to 70%.

TV conquers during COVID: During the bushfires, TV was still the main source of news for Australians (39%, -3) and this markedly increased to 51% during the pandemic. There was a decline in the uses of radio, print and social media for news during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, using social media brands to access news is steadily growing, particularly among older generations.

Trust continues to fluctuate: During the bushfires, trust in news in general was low at 38% (-6). This is consistent with the global trend. However, trust in news about COVID-19 was much higher at the peak of the pandemic (53%). This reflects how trust can fluctuate depending on external circumstances.

Australians prefer impartial and independent news: The majority (62%) of Australian news consumers consider independent journalism to be important for society to function properly, but this is less so among those who rely on social media for news (57%). Australians also have a strong preference for impartial news (54%) rather than news that shares their point of view (19%) or challenges their viewpoint (13%).

Australians think politician’s false claims should be reported: If a politician does make a false or misleading statement, 54% of Australian news consumers think those claims should be reported by the media rather than ignored. However, Australians are torn about whether political ads should be allowed on TV and social media. Generally, news consumers think political ads are ok on TV but not on social media.

Australian’s news consumption on climate change is polarised: Climate change is at the forefront of many Australians’ minds. Four out of five news consumers say they consider climate change to be either somewhat, very or extremely serious (79%). Younger people are more concerned as well as left-wing consumers. The proportion of climate deniers in Australia is among the highest across the 40 countries surveyed. Almost one-fifth (18%) think climate change is not a serious issue. Those who access news via commercial AM radio (i.e. 2GB, 2UE, 3AW), Sky News (35%) and Fox News (32 %) are more likely to think climate change is less serious.

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The Digital News Report: Australia 2020  is the sixth in a series of annual reports which tracks changes in news consumption in Australia over time, particularly within the digital space. The Report is published by the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC).

The online survey was conducted in Australia between late January and early February 2020. The Australian survey forms part of a global study of 40 territories by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

Cite the report as: Park, S., Fisher, C., Lee, J.Y., McGuinness, K., Sang, Y., O’Neil, M., Jensen, M., McCallum, K., Fuller, G. (2020). Digital News Report: Australia 2020. Canberra: News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra.


Dr Sora Park, lead author, News and Media Research Centre, University of Canberra

Please complete our online briefing request form to have a member of the N&MRC present on our research.

Watch our launch live stream here

Previous Digital News Reports

Download our Digital News Report: Australia 2019

Download our Digital News Report: Australia 2018

Download our Digital News Report: Australia 2017

Download our Digital News Report: Australia 2016

Download our Digital News Report: Australia 2015

Previous Media Stories, Podcasts and Interviews

  1. The Fourth Estate Podcast with Peter Fray: Are Australians Turning Their Back On The News?
  2. Radio National Drive: More Australians are sick of bad news
  3. 3AW: Why are Australians avoiding the news? Report finds 62 per cent of people are tuning out
  4. ABC News 24:
  5. ABC Melbourne Breakfast: Tired of the news cycle? You’re not alone, says report
  6. The Guardian Australia, Australian politics live podcast: Why are Australians avoiding the news?
  7. ABC Radio, The World Today: Trust in the media is falling while fake news anxiety rises, report finds
  8. ABC Adelaide Drive with Jules Schiller: Wednesday June 12, 2019
  9. ABC 666 Drive with Anna Vidot: Digital News Report: Australia 2019
  10. ABC Nightlife: Wednesday June 12, 2019
  11. 2SER: Are Australians interested in news?
  12. Chris Kenny on Media, Sky TV: Research shows online shift is a ‘crisis’ for news organisations
  13. Democracy Sausage with Mark Kenny: Trust issues and the Trump bump
  14. Media Files podcast: Australians’ trust in news media is falling as concern over ‘fake news’ grows
  15. Content Group Govcomms podcast part 1: Giving up on news: The latest trends in digital news consumption with Caroline Fisher
  16. Content Group Govcomms podcast part 2: A Matter of trust: Rebuilding citizen trust with Caroline Fisher
  17. 3RRR Room With a View: Monday 17 June 2019
  18. ABC Adelaide Drive - Thursday 14th June with Caroline Fisher.
  19. ABC Melbourne Drive - Thursday 14th June with Caroline Fisher.
  20. Triple J's Hack - Thursday 14th June with Caroline Fisher.
  21. ABC 666 Mornings - Thursday 14th June with Caroline Fisher.
  22. What's the future of media for young people? - 'The roundtable', ABC Radio National, Monday 25th June with Sora Park.
  23. Digital trends and opportunity for government communication - Content Group Govcomms podcast, Tuesday 31st July with Caroline Fisher.
  24. Policy Forum Pod Extra: protecting the media - Tuesday 7th August, with Caroline Fisher.