Radio was the ABC’s crown jewel, but new data shows how it has fallen


ABC managing director David Anderson wrote to ABC employees final week in an try and reassure them, whereas Oliver-Taylor instructed employees the brand new construction would put his division’s deal with reaching digital audiences and simplifying processes.


“Radio is central to the ABC, our audiences and stays vitally necessary to our future,” Anderson wrote. However he added: “As Australian audiences at the moment are shifting from broadcast radio to streamed or on-demand audio: more and more they need to hear from their favorite broadcasters and take heed to most popular specialist content material when, the place and the way they like.”

The BBC within the UK has gone additional, signalling that it’ll shutter lots of its conventional broadcast channels by 2030. “Over time this may imply fewer linear broadcast companies and a extra tailor-made joined-up on-line provide,” its managing director Tim Davie mentioned in December final yr.

The sixth annual Infinite Dial Australian audio research, printed final June by Edison Analysis, mentioned the variety of Australians listening on-line grew by 8 per cent, reaching a complete of 71 per cent of the inhabitants. In that market, Anderson instructed employees, the ABC already has top-rating podcasts and needs to do much more as audiences go more and more on-line.

What’s turning into abundantly clear is that individuals are turning off conventional ABC radio. In a single survey from 2018, ABC Sydney had 8 per cent of complete radio viewers available in the market, a determine that had slipped to five.9 per cent at the beginning of 2023. ABC Melbourne, which misplaced longstanding radio broadcaster Jon Faine throughout the five-year interval, has fallen from an 8.1 per cent share to five.8 per cent prior to now 5 years.

ABC star Sammy J, like many of his colleagues, faces declining ratings.

ABC star Sammy J, like lots of his colleagues, faces declining rankings.Credit score: Joe Armao

Viewers declines are most pronounced within the breakfast time slot, which runs from 5.30am to 9am, accounting for the efficiency of applications together with Breakfast with Sammy J in Melbourne and ABC Sydney Breakfast with James Valentine.

The departure of ABC Sydney breakfast hosts Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck has had a pronounced impact on numbers: whereas rankings fluctuated throughout their tenure, the time slot has fallen 2 proportion factors within the yr since they left the airwaves.

Cumulative viewers – the de-duplicated variety of individuals listening to a station for 1 / 4 of an hour at a given level – has fallen from 364,000 to 342,000 in 5 years. However even Drive with longstanding host Richard Glover has taken successful, dropping 2.4 per cent share in its time slot.

In Melbourne, the decline in listeners throughout the breakfast slot is especially pronounced. Regardless of makes an attempt to keep up the share held by longstanding host Crimson Symons, who was fired in 2018, repeated modifications to the line-up have additionally damage the station.

Greater than 100,000 listeners are not tuning in to the breakfast program, and the time slot has fallen from a ten.1 per cent share to 7.3 per cent in 5 years. Viewers share grew massively for host Sammy J throughout the Victoria lockdowns, along with his share as excessive as 14.3 per cent on the finish of 2021. However post-pandemic restrictions, that determine fell to 7.3 per cent at the beginning of 2023.

Wendy Harmer, pictured with her former co-host Robbie Buck, says she understands that radio needs to evolve but hopes the ABC is making the right changes.

Wendy Harmer, pictured along with her former co-host Robbie Buck, says she understands that radio must evolve however hopes the ABC is making the appropriate modifications.Credit score: Janie Barrett

Former ABC Radio Canberra presenter Genevieve Jacobs – who’s now managing editor of Area Media Group that publishes on-line information retailers together with the RiotACT – is scathing of latest modifications to native radio. “There’s been a wrongheaded pursuit of a youthful demographic [with lighter, less local content] and that has been actually regrettable by way of alienating individuals who had been devoted listeners,” says Jacobs, who was ousted by the ABC in 2017.

Harmer, who went out on a excessive when she left ABC Sydney in 2021, noticed a string of restructures in her years on the company, some with doubtful justification. “It’s all the time a thriller, and you discover that individuals you reported to in a single workplace now occupy one other ground or are in a unique constructing,” she says. “It may be all very mystifying if you stand there in entrance of the lifts.”

However she emphasises that studies of radio’s demise are untimely. “Audio and visible content material are two very totally different specialisations, so I hope they haven’t thrown the child out with the tub water,” Harmer says.

It’s not simply the metropolitan stations which have suffered declines. The departure of ABC RN breakfast host Fran Kelly, who hosted this system for nearly 14 years, has prompted a dramatic discount within the variety of listeners tuning in early within the morning. On the finish of 2021, as Kelly departed, her present’s cumulative viewers sat at 416,000. On the finish of the primary survey of 2023, following a yr of Patricia Karvelas on the helm, that determine had fallen to 240,000. This has impacted ABC RN’s complete viewers share, which fell under 2 per cent for the primary time in 2022 and has continued to drop in every survey.


For his or her half, ABC executives are grappling with methods to cope with radio within the restructured organisation. They employed Dr Cherie Romaro, a veteran radio government, earlier this yr to inform them methods to enhance native and regional stations akin to ABC Sydney and ABC Melbourne, with potential options together with shorter interviews, altering presenters and a brand new music line-up. Extra funding in podcasts and digital audio channels is on the playing cards, whereas many employees members worry job cuts could also be on the desk too.

An inner ABC data web page says the venture, which is meant to make sure the ABC is assembly its viewers’s wants, is sort of full and will likely be analysed by senior employees in coming months. “The brand new construction will strongly help the work being carried out in native radio to determine why audiences are listening for shorter intervals – contributing to the drop in share – and the way we will reverse that development,” the web page says.

If the ABC is to win the digital audio market with out alienating its conventional broadcast market, the following few years are essential. It has been handed a assured $6 billion over 5 years by the Albanese authorities, giving the company newfound funding certainty. But cash remains to be tight.

Papers from final week’s funds present the ABC’s worker funds goes up from $576 million this yr to a peak of $596 million in 2025-26, however then drops greater than $20 million the yr after that as authorities grants expire.

An ABC spokesman confirmed the drop, saying the broadcaster believes the funding grants “will likely be thought of in future funds processes”. Communications Minister Michelle Rowland wouldn’t decide to renewing the additional funding when it expired, however pointed to the Albanese authorities’s elevated help for the ABC.

Rowland says the ABC’s decisions on staffing – and he or she might have added all the pieces else – are its personal.

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