Just how many people are interested in politics and what influence does the media have on our thinking.
I have always been of the view that Australians exercise their right to vote in our democracy every three years and after that the vast majority take little interest. Australians don’t engage in politics and there is a deep seated malaise. The reality is though that politics effects almost every part of an individual’s life and they should be more interested.
In a 2008 lecture ‘Politics and the Media in Australia Today’, Dr Sally Young said this.
‘’Who are the media audience for politics in Australia? An experienced political pollster estimated a few years ago that only around 10% of the population in Australia takes an active interest in politics.
There are two things to address here. Firstly that 3.000,000 people decided not to cast a vote in the last election indicating that they were totally fed up with politicians for many reasons of which I won’t go into here. Suffice to say that a recent Essential survey ranked political parties at 14% on the question of trust in institutions. Parliament at 25% and the ABC at 74%
As Lenore Taylor said two years ago:
“Parliament and the media, both reliant on public trust for their existence, ”should give long pause for thought about how that trust can be regained . . . for the media it now has to come down to meeting, and explaining how we are meeting, our responsibilities to be reliable and informative and interesting and fair”.
And secondly, and this is only a hunch based on antidotes or personal observation that the 10% mentioned by Dr Young has in fact grown to 20%.
Whereas once we had an allegiance of a locked in 40% die hard support for the two main parties, and ten % for the greens with 10% swingers, now we have a sizable minority of thinkers who take their politics seriously.
A comment on my last post for THE AIMN prompted me to rethink the issue of media exposure and the power of it to influence, persuade and debate the issues. And of course accessibility to it.
The person I refer to is a Green supporting Billy Shorten basher who insists that Shorten isn’t doing enough. I pointed out that opportunities for Opposition leaders were few and far between.
The day he made his comment, while watching the Seven News, I conducted an analysis of the time given to politics. In the half hour to 6 to 6.30 14 stories were covered. Politics got roughly 90 seconds and Bill Shorten uttered one sentence about National Security.
By the time the program had finished I couldn’t recall what he had said. This prompted me to think further about the time devoted to politics on commercial TV and public broadcasting.
I decided to take a closer look at political media exposure generally and spoke to the editor of a television ratings magazine who provided me with some audience figures. He asked not to be named because I only asked for indicative figures.
The Bolt Report 132,000 (over two shows)
The Drum 147,000
ABC News 24 93,000
Media Watch 72,000
Q & A 800,000
ABC News 700,000 which compares favourably with the commercial channels.
An interesting observation on Q&A is that of the last 240 appearances by politicians 137 have been from the right and 93 from the left. A similar comparison can be made with guests on The Drum where the IPA seem to have a permanent seat at the table.
There are of course other programs that cover politics in one way or another. Sky News for example. However, it is fair to say that without the ABC, exposure to politics would at best would be very minimal.
Now when you compare the numbers I have quoted against those of average or even top rating shows they stack up fairly well, indicating that there is a proportion of the population who are political tragic s like myself.
Of course the viewing of these television shows doesn’t solely account for my 20% assumption. Television audiences, are still a major influence, even if they are in decline.
Now back to Bill Shorten and the avenue for media exposure. let’s look at radio stations that cover politics seriously. We have the ABCs AM and PM, the drive shows and the Sydney shock jocks and Neil Mitchell and Jon Faine in Melbourne. All of these have formidable audiences of mainly non-working folk of an elderly demographic.
In a media twist so to speak just prior to putting my two typing fingers to work I was watching News24 with a televised cross to Shorten being interviewed by Jon Faine. Shorten was as cool as could be with Faine pressing for one line answers to highly complex questions which in the current political climate he would be mad to answer definitively.
Whilst Faine and Mitchell are comparatively fair he would be silly to appear on a Hadley, Jones or Smith, Sydney produced program and be ridiculed over nothing whilst at the same time the Prime Minister is in his political death throes.
Please note that Australia doesn’t have a left wing shock jock.
And in terms of a Murdoch dominated newspaper industry he should , while journalists of a conservative bent are giving the Prime Minister such a hard time, be foolish to enter conversations that are politically controversial. Well that’s the political wisdom anyway. Let them continue with their own goals.
So there are three issues I am trying to address here. The first is that yes, a huge number of Australians have withdrawn from the political process and the party who tries to win them back will reap a reward. I doubt that it will be the conservatives though because they are unlikely to be of their constituency.
The second is to identify the new 10% of swinging voters. Who are they? My belief is that they are the young internet savvy people who have found an online outlet for raised voices against unfairness, the environment and inequality. Young people more interested in the issues than the ideology of them.
There is no doubt that his day of reckoning is approaching and the book of opinion is wide open on him but at the moment he needs to remain calm, reasonable and statesmanlike. Just like Malcolm Turnbull who said this.
“broadcasters, or politicians or writers…who think that they are respecting ‘struggle street’, the battlers, …by dumbing things down into one-line soundbites are not respecting them, they are treating them with contempt”
Another reason is that the budget is only eight weeks away with the last still a work in progress. After the last one they will need to craft a document of unique fairness that not only is but seen to be and at the same time addresses the budget crisis they said we have. I doubt that they can do it. They are bound to be criticised either way.