World Media 2006: Australia

Terrorism and race riots have dented the laid-back country's confidence, while Kerry Packer's death has set media watchers wondering when Australia's next industry pioneer will emerge.

The 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney quickly became known as the "friendly" games - the Australians have always prided themselves on their relaxed hospitality, the warmth of their competitive spirit on the sporting field and their willingness to break open a few tinnies with all comers.

Six years on, as the nation prepared for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, how the mood had changed. Last year ended with terrorism trials - which, for some, represented a new development in Australian paranoia - and race riots in Sydney, when local rednecks, aggressively drunk and fired up by the propaganda of pamphlets distributed by rightwing agitators, beat up any "Leb" (person of supposed Middle Eastern origin) they could find.

Australia is not currently the happy-go-lucky country it wants to be known as and, as a result, confidence of all sorts suddenly seems to be in short supply. Economically, many believe that Australia's relative proximity to China will be to its long-term advantage. In the short term, however, demand for imported goods is driving up Australia's balance of payments deficit to alarming levels. Corrective measures could be on the cards.

Events in the Australian media world were perhaps overshadowed by the death at the tail-end of last year of Kerry Packer, the man who, as the proprietor of the Nine Network, transformed not only Australian television but the whole sport of cricket in the 70s. In the aftermath of his demise, some commentators were moved to point out that Packer's dash and daring were not universally applauded at the time and are hardly being emulated by the current generation of media owners.

And though the political establishment lionised his memory, it was perhaps ironic that not long before Packer's death, the prime minister, John Howard, had gone on record stating his belief that important sporting events such as Test matches should be reserved for free-to-air television.

Howard is hoping to reform the country's media regulations, allowing for more cross-media ownership and higher levels of foreign involvement, but it remains to be seen how liberal he is really prepared to be.

Meanwhile, digital television is at last making some headway in Australia - last year, ABC launched a digital-only channel, ABC2.

FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: Sunday Telegraph (weekly, 553,000 copies) - Business magazine: Time (weekly, 92,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: Australian Women's Weekly (671,000 copies) Top TV shows - Most watched TV programme (2004): Australian Idol final - Best new TV format: Aussie Princesses - ex-butler Paul Burrell teaches etiquette Major measurement tools - Circulation: Audit Bureau of Circulations - Readership: Roy Morgan Research readership survey - TV viewing: AC Nielsen, OzTam Main media owners - Newspapers: News Limited (News Corporation), Fairfax - Magazines: ACP Publishing, Reed Business Information - Television: ABC, SBS (both public), Network 7, Ten Holdings

THE LOWDOWN

Media topic du jour: The increasing difficulty in reaching a young urban audience that is losing the television habit.

Reigning media guru and why: The death of Kerry Packer at the tail-end of last year has forced the Australian media market to confront the fact that media pioneers and innovators are rather thin on the ground these days.

Media mogul to be seen dining with: Despite being a former captain of the All Blacks (so, technically, the bitterest of enemies in rugby-obsessed Australia), David Kirk has been a popular addition to the scene. He became the chief executive of Fairfax last summer.

Car to drive: Anything Japanese.

Phone to carry: Sony Ericsson K750i.

Whatever you do, don't say Australian cricket is in sharp decline.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= A$1.36. *Estimated Total TV Newspapers Magazines Radio 1994 3,990 1,378 1,696 366 352 1995 4,359 1,490 1,887 392 376 1996 4,388 1,536 1,828 423 387 1997 4,840 1,657 2,024 540 398 1998 5,203 1,769 2,219 564 410 1999 5,433 1,808 2,265 587 475 2000 5,935 2,024 2,475 617 504 2001 5,649 1,968 2,307 570 512 2002 5,758 2,097 2,204 581 517 2003 6,296 2,310 2,396 606 543 2004 6,948 2,406 2,680 660 620 2005 7,514 2,530 2,857 715 661 2006* 7,920 2,635 2,943 746 682 2007* 8,378 2,767 3,043 780 716 2008* 8,826 2,916 3,134 803 745 Total Outdoor Online Cinema 1994 3,990 175 0 23 1995 4,359 187 0 27 1996 4,388 183 0 30 1997 4,840 187 0 35 1998 5,203 202 0 39 1999 5,433 229 26 43 2000 5,935 203 61 51 2001 5,649 200 45 47 2002 5,758 192 123 43 2003 6,296 219 174 49 2004 6,948 241 286 55 2005 7,514 255 436 60 2006* 7,920 264 589 61 2007* 8,378 273 736 62 2008* 8,826 281 883 64 Adspend notes 1) After discounts. 2) Includes classified advertising. 3) Excluded production costs. 4) Excludes agency commission..

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