Research Question Critique: Trust In The Australian Media-Literature Review Literature Review Examples

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Media, Trust, Australia, Public, Politics, Government, Literature, Climate

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/03/01


The issue of trust is Australian media has a lot of variation, although most Australians trust their media. The biggest role for which Australians trust their media is holding the government to account. 60% of the Australians believe that the media plays its role of holding the government to account in an effective manner (Keane, 2013a). However, many Australians also lack trust in the media, and one of the reasons for distrusting the media is the emergence of commercialization in the media. Commercialization involves the media publishing information that lacks truth for the sake of gaining popularity. Keane (2013 b) says that although the media is gaining trust, commercial media in Australia is losing its public trust especially due to commercialization. Usually, the information involves politicians, celebrities, and other issues (Fortner and Fackler, 2011). Different literature sources have exploited the issue of trust in the Australian media. The objective of this paper is to review different literatures to assess the situation of trust in the Australian media. The review finds that although many Australians trust their media, there are serious issues of mistrust that surround the Australian media. The review shows that the main area in which Australia trusts the media is in disclosing the scandals within the government.

Review of Literature

Most media houses in Australia lack public trust because of the nature of their stories and how they publish the stories. According to Keane (2013a), The Daily Telegraph was the media-house that was most mistrusted in 2013. Keane states that Australians have become more cynical about the media than they were in 2012. Generally, Australians are reducing their trust towards the media and the most affected type of media is the commercial radios and TVs. Keane reports that the trust of Australians towards the commercial television has fallen to 41% while trust in commercial radio has fallen from 46% to 38%. Only 31% of the voters in the survey reported to have trust in commercial radio talkback, and this percentage had fallen from 32% in January 2013 (Keane, 2013a). However, despite the falling rates of public trust in the media, ABC remains the most trusted media-house in Australia. According to Keane (2013a), 70% of Australians said that they trusted the ABC media somehow or a lot, while 21% said that they trusted ABC a lot. However, the public trust in ABC’s talk back radio has fallen in terms of public trust and Keane (2012) reports that 46% of Australians said they trusted ABC’s talk back radio, and this trust had reduced by 3%. However, 24% of the respondents said they completely lacked trust in ABC’s talk back radio.
Trust towards the Australian has observed a trend of fluctuation. In 2009, the Australian media had a trust level of 55%. In 2010, the trust dropped to 40% and it increased to 50% in 2011. By 2013, the trust had fallen back to 43% but in 2014, it increased to 56% (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2014).
Trust in the Australian media is purely based on the role that the media plays towards the government as a watch-dog. In its watch-dog role, the media’s focus is to look for stories about the scams in government. Donovan, Denemark, and Bowler (n.d) explain that in Australia, the public relies on the media to get news about the scams in the government. The Australian media understand that the public relies on it and expects it to offer information that keeps the government of check. It is the reason Australians trust the media on this basis. Donovan, Denemark, and Bowler (n.d) use the classic system theory to explain the essence of public trust in the government. According to this theory, the public trusts the government if it does the right thing most of the times. Public trust, according to the theory, determines the legitimacy of the government. However, when the government is seen or imagined not to do the right thing, the government becomes illegitimate by losing the trust of the public. However, the media plays a significant role in determining the legitimacy of the government. The media uncovers the corrupt deals among other negative acts of the government, and when such happens, the public’s trust in the government falls while its trust in the media increases (Donovan, Denemark, and Bowler, n.d). The Australian media, according to Donovan, Denemark, and Bowler (n.d), thrives on investigating scandalous stories that involve the government as a way of increasing public trust towards the media.
Australians, however, are gaining the attitude that the media tends to over-focus on corruption-related cases in the government at the expense of serious issues. One of the issues in which the Australians expect the media to play an important role is climate change. The Climate Change Institute (2013) states that the Australians are becoming highly contemptuous of the media because they consider it failing to address the issue of climate change adequately. The Climate Change Institute (2013) states that when one reads the popular media, he gains the impression that Australians have adapted the position of denying that climate change is a reality. The position that the media has taken on the issue of climate change with regard to the attitudes of Australians, however, is not the reflection of the reality. The reality in Australia, contrary to the reports in popular media, is that 67% percent of Australians believe in the reality of climate change. 87% of the Australian public believes that human factors contribute to the problem of climate change (The Climate Change Institute, 2013). The Australian media has taken a controversial stand on climate change, and it has failed to show the truth of Australians’ attitude towards the problem, an issue that makes Australians cynical towards the media. Boersma and Peters (2013) states that there is need to rethink the Australian media. Since the media has failed to reflect the truth, e.g. the issue of climate change, its future kin Australia is bleak, and Boersma and Peters (2013) state that between 1995 and 2006, more than 50% of Australians reported trusting the government and other political institutions more than the media. Boersma and Peters (2013) point to the need for the Australian media to reform its new coverage to become more reliable by ensuring that issues like objectivity, truth, and accuracy are well-attended to. There is need for Australian media to include a lot of research and factual reporting in the news stories (Boersma and Peters, 2013).
The Australian media is over-possessed with politics and politicians. The Australian media centers on the interests of the public about the political leaders. Dunlop (2014), for example, is a Drum article that compares the current Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot to the former PM, John Howard. Dunlop takes a controversial perspective of comparing the two leaders in terms of their powers, and argues that Tony Abbot is a powerless Prime Minister. Dunlop’s critical perspective of the current Prime Minister is expressed in the following words: “Tony Abbot remains kin office but he is no longer in power,” (Dunlop, 2014 p.1). Unlike Howard, Abbot is not “a safe pair of hands,” (Dunlop, 2014 p.1). Such political analysis augers well with the members of the public who are highly interested in politics and it explains why the Australian media has a lot of public trust in terms of media’s role in politics. However, it becomes difficult to trust such opinion pieces as reflecting the truth, considering the high levels of subjectivity in such pieces. Holiday (2013), shows that the Australian media is full of manipulators who have confessed telling lies in the media. More than 70% of the Australians who trust the media do so because the media concentrates on juicy stories. A majority of these people are the youth, and they do not care much about truth and objectivity. In addition, most of the juicy stories revolve around the popular people in the society, e.g. celebrities and politicians.
The Australian media seems to understand well the political issues of public interest in Australia. The Australian public is interested in issues of abuse of office by politicians, how the politicians misuse the parliamentary allowances, and their excessive superannuation. According to Dickenson (2013), the public get so much attracted to political stories that the media reports and which revolve around these issues. Consequently, the media has assumed the dimension of portraying the government and political leaders negatively to gain a lot of public trust (Dickenson, 2013). Furthermore, public trust of the old media houses, e.g. ABC, is shaped by the age of the citizens. For example, Dickenson (2013) details that more than 50% of the public who trust the old media houses are people who are aged more than 60 years. There is the notion that the media houses that have remained in the media industry for a long time are more trusted in terms presenting accurate, objective, and well-balanced (fair) stories.
Apart from the media being trusted to hold the government to account, the Australian public also trusts the media with information about crime. Duffy et al (2008), reports that more than 57% of Australians trust that the media presents true stories in the efforts of fighting crime and political intrigues in Australia. The Australian media has earned much of its public trust because of its role in informing the public on crime, for example, by running stories on the weapons of mass destruction. Such stories have a lot of public interest because they determine the extent to which the citizens are safe. There is a link between crime and government because while running the stories about crime, the Australian media shows the roles that the government and other entities play in the fight against the weapons of mass destruction and other aspects of crime. The media, for example, reports how the government has succeeded or failed in dealing with crime (Duffy et al, 2008).
For the Australian media to gain more public trust, however, the media needs to increase its transparency. Research by Vaun and Pedideh (2014) reveals that the media can become more trusted by the public than it is today if they gain more transparency in reporting their news stories. In addition, they need to be consistent, meaning that the news they present do not have to contradict the ones they presented before (Vaun and Pedideh, 2014). The researchers explain that when the media presents news in an inconsistent manner, it shows that the media do not conduct proper research before presenting the news. Also, the media in Australia must support democracy and proper government’s functioning for higher levels of public trust (Ellis, 2014).


Public trust of the media in Australia is an issue with mixed reactions. However, the overall trend shows that public trust in the media continues diminishing. The preoccupation of the media with sensational stories of celebrities and politicians is a factor that continues reducing public trust in the media. However, the Australian public still trusts the media for holding the government to account. The emergence of commercialization in the Australian media has led to the decrease in public trust. However, the old media houses, e.g. ABC news, still have high levels of public confidence, and they are mainly trusted by the older generations. Most of the youths in Australia like sensational stories about celebrities and this is why the Australian media has focused on covering such stories. There is the need for the media to become more transparent in reporting news stories. The media should also reduce its concentration on sensational stories and focus more on objective reporting.


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