Community Values of Public Interest Journalism
The benefits of public interest journalism are considerable, but difficult to quantify.
In a series of surveys, PIJI used ‘willingness to pay’ analysis to evaluate how Australian communities value public interest journalism and to establish evidence-based reference points for future research and policy.
Key findings from the October 2020 Community Values Survey:
1. Australians are great users of media and this use has grown even further through 2020, a year of great challenges, and across each type of media. By November 2020, 65% and 63% of Australians used commercial television and digital social media at least once daily, respectively, up from 55% and 47% in PIJI’s October 2019 survey be- fore the crises. Public broadcasting and hard copy or on-line media use rose too, to 55% for the former and 30% for the latter. (Report p.6).
2. The vast majority (78%) of Australians hold public interest journalism as import- ant or very important for their media, though this is down from 86% in the first PIJI survey in October 2019. The intensity of this support differed across Australia being highest in Victoria (46% very important) and lowest in Western Australia (31% very im- portant). (Report pp. 7, 8).
3. The majority of Australians indicate that they feel that the nature of coverage across each of international, national, state/territory and local affairs is about right, though a significant minority (29%) do see local government and community affairs deserving of greater focus. (Report, p.8).
4. In a year that has seen much turmoil for the Australian economy, public willingness to pay tax in support of enhanced public interest journalism remained high in this November 2020 survey. The community valuation in dollars was around the same lev- el as measured in October 2019, but down from the peak of the crises in April 2020. As of November 2020, 44% would still pay at least an additional $2.40 a year in tax and 34% would even pay an additional $12 a year or more.
Key findings from the April 2020 Community Values Survey:
1. Australians are huge users of media (86%): over half consume commercial TV/ra- dio daily, likewise for social media, and close to half consume public TV/radio. Adding hardcopy and online media gives a total of 86% daily users at this time. (Women more than men, and young more than old, are relatively greater users of social media).
2. The vast majority of respondents (81%) say public interest journalism is import- ant in media, and this rises to 86% for such journalism during natural disasters and 85% during public health crises. (Public interest journalism being news and current affairs, and recording, investigating and explaining this).
3. This large majority of respondents is broadly satisfied at the amount of cov- erage across international, national, state/territory and local government affairs BUT some are nevertheless concerned that there may particularly be undersupply in the local government sphere: twice as many respondents (28%) are expressing concern over an insufficient amount of local government coverage compared to con- cern over insufficient national affairs extent of coverage (13%).
4. A majority (53%) will actually support a tax increase to provide an increase in public interest journalism of $6 each annually, with this measured as ‘definite’ or ‘probable’ willingness to pay falling at higher tax amounts eg 40% at $12 annually.
Key findings from the October 2019 Community Values Survey:
1. Australians are strong users of media, with commercial radio and television still leading (used by 55% daily), followed by social media (47%), then public radio and television (44%) and, finally, newspapers and magazines (25%). (Report p.6)
2. Beyond media being interesting and entertaining, Australians also want their media to inform and educate and investigate issues of national importance. 89% rate media content that is informative and educative as “very important” or “import- ant”, and likewise 86% report that for investigative and critical content. (Report p.7)
3. Almost half of Australians do say they would pay higher taxes for increased public interest journalism. To obtain a 50% increase in this journalism, 46% of re- spondents would offer support for a tax increase of $6 a year, and 47% would oppose. 40% would still pay a tax increase of $12 per year, and 36% would support a $60 tax increase, with opposition rising correspondingly. (Report p.12,)
4. Too little public interest journalism is seen as occurring in local government affairs, followed by state and territory and international affairs, with national affairs being better catered for. 35% are concerned at too little local reporting as opposed to 23% for national affairs. (Report p.9)