Most Australians concerned about advertising’s influence in news

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 17 January 2020

A majority of Australian adults are concerned about the influence of advertising in news, according to the latest research.

The findings by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) comes as it looks into whether regulatory frameworks around commercial broadcast news need updating in the digital age.

“There is ongoing debate about the credibility of news delivered online,” says ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

“But TV and radio remain an important source of news for the majority of Australians. If audiences have concerns about the credibility of news on TV and radio, then these need to be addressed by industry.”

According to the research, which included more than 2,000 Australians, 88% of adults are concerned news is made more dramatic or sensational to attract a bigger audience, while 85% are concerned news is biased.

It also found 77% are concerned about commercial businesses paying to have their products or services featured in the news, without disclosing the payment.

ACMA is inviting the industry and news audiences to comment on the commercial influence in broadcast news by February 28.

“As Australia’s broadcasting regulator, we want to make sure that current regulatory arrangements still do the job they were designed to do in the contemporary broadcasting news environment,” O’Loughlin says.

“For example, we are interested in whether the move from half-hour news bulletins towards hour-long hybrid news and current affairs programs has impacted the impartiality of news reporting. It’s also an opportunity to look at principles relating to impartiality and commercial influence that might usefully apply to the delivery of news on online platforms.”

The ACMA research also found:

  • 79% were concerned that there was difficulty in telling when a journalist is expressing an opinion rather than reporting the facts.
  • 97% reported noticing commercial influence in at least one news source.
  • 58% consider that there is now more commercial influence in Australian news today, compared with three years ago.

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