Australia is a small media market compared to places like the United States, but it has a range of media to reflect the variety of Australian culture.
Basically, there are four kinds of television channels: public, commercial, community and pay TV.
There are three public networks: the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC, not to be confused with the American ABC), the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and National Indigenous Television (NITV), all of which are funded by the government.
- The ABC has a wide variety of programmes in order to fulfill its obligations as a public broadcaster, with news, current affairs, religious services and programming for indigenous Australians and rural viewers. Although it has a low budget, it has created many quality programmes, such as Four Corners, Good Game, Collectors, Kath and Kim, The Chaser's War on Everything, Gardening Australia, Spicks and Specks, Media Watch, The Gruen Transfer and many children's programmes; it's generally held in high esteem for the quality of its journalism and news programs. The ABC also imports popular programmes from Britain, like Doctor Who, Life On Mars, The Bill and Channel 4 comedies. ABC has four TV channels broadcast in digital, available nationwide: three are in Standard Definition, one in High Definition. The broadcasting type and LCN for each channel is noted below in brackets (one has multiple LCNs).
- ABC1 (SD, 2 & 21), a general channel.
- ABC2 (SD, 22), another general channel. Also plays host to a substantial number of repeats.
- ABC 3 (SD, 23), Australia's only free-to-air channel exclusively for kids' shows.
- ABC News 24 (HD, 24), Australia's most watched 24 hour news channel.
- ABC also has two audio-only digital channels: ABC DiG Radio and ABC DiG Jazz.
- SBS was originally created to provide programming to Australians who have English as a second language. However, due to budget concerns, the problems catering to such a broad audience, and the rise of foreign-language pay TV services, the SBS has had to supplement its income through advertising. These days, SBS has a range of alternative programmes, including documentaries (both from Australia and the overseas market), sports (especially soccer), foreign-language series such as Austria's Inspector Rex and Denmark's Unit One, foreign language films, a block of American imports such as Big Love and Boardwalk Empire, foreign news programs, and a tradition of at least one hour of sex-related viewing, documentary or otherwise, every Friday night. (This mix has led to the commonly-used backronym "Sex and Bloody Soccer".) SBS has two channels broadcast in digital available nationwide, and is the only network to still simulcast its main channel in Standard and High Definition. The broadcasting type and LCN for each channel is noted below in brackets (one has multiple LCNs).
- SBS ONE (SD, 3 & 33 & 34; HD, 30), a "general" channel (if it can be called that), also broadcast in analogue on channel 28.
- SBS TWO (SD, 32), which mostly consists of foreign-language news services during the day and foreign-language movies at night.
- SBS also has two audio-only digital channels: SBS Radio 1 and 2 (simulcasts of the radio stations SBS FM and SBS AM respectively).
- NITV, Australia's National Indigenous Television service, airs national content for Indigenous Australians. It was launched in July 2007. Its programming is funded by the Commonwealth of Australia, produced in Sydney and broadcast over Imparja Television's existing satellite capacity—which is not nationwide. Used to be broadcast in Sydney on free-to-air digital channel 40, but this ended when community station Channel 31 (see below) began broadcasting. Plans have been floated to merge NITV with SBS.
There are three commercial networks in Australia, called Seven, Nine and Ten. Each one broadcasts three channels—two in Standard Definition and one in High Definition, which is the legal limit. The "main" eponymous channels are all broadcast in SD, to ensure maximum viewers—they used to be simulcast in HD until certain legal restrictions against commercial-network multichannelling were relaxed. The broadcast type and LCN of each channel is indicated below in brackets (some channels have multiple LCNs).
- The Seven Network was established in 1956. In 2007, it became the highest-viewed network in Australia, ending the Nine Network's decades-long run in that spot. Its main rural affiliate is Prime Television Limited (Prime / Golden West Network).
- Seven (SD, 7 & 71), a general channel also broadcast in analogue on Channel 7.
- 7TWO (SD, 72), which primarily acts as a sort of spill-over channel for programs that weren't popular enough to show on Seven or weren't getting enough ratings: both Lost and Stargate Atlantis got demoted to 7TWO for their final seasons, for example.
- 7mate (HD, 73), the newest channel, which is specifically targeted towards blokes. Lots of comedies and shows with stuff blowing up in them.
- The Nine Network, established in 1956, has traditionally been the most popular network, having the catchphrase "Still the One" (originally from the American ABC) for decades. However, in the past few years, a lack of quality local productions and the loss of quality American shows to Seven or Ten has caused Nine has dropped to second place behind Seven. Its main rural affiliate is WIN Corporation.
- Nine (SD, 9), a general channel also broadcast in analogue on Channel 9.
- GO! (SD, 99), supposedly a "youth-oriented channel". In practice, it acts as a spill-over channel much like 7TWO, as Nine is notoriously cancel-happy with new programming; the two are virtually synonymous. In the daytime tends to show old programs from its archives—sitcoms, cartoons, movies, and (interestingly) Star Trek.
- GEM (HD, 90), the newest channel, is targeted towards women... except when the Nine Network wants to broadcast particularly important games of sport, apparently. The name is supposedly an acronym for "General Entertainment & Movies". In practice, it also feels like a spillover channel; it mainly consists of 90s sitcoms, soaps and shows which have a dominant female cast. Every evening it broadcasts at least two hours of Friends; no exceptions.
- Network Ten originated in 1965 as the Independent Television System, and became the 0-10 Network in 1970. Typically, they show a wide range of popular programmes from the United States, but also show a range of local shows. Although Channel Ten has continually remained third place in commercial television popularity, it consistently wins ratings with younger audiences, featuring programmes from The CW (and The WB before it) as well as reality programming. Its main rural affiliate is Southern Cross Media Group, part of the Macquarie Group.
- Ten (SD, 10), a general channel also broadcast in analogue on Channel 10. Previously expressly targeted a younger demographic than Seven and Nine; now is shifting its focus towards a generally older audience to match the two rival networks.
- One (HD, 1 & 12), originally conceived as a 24-hour sports channel, and now to be relaunched as another "channel for blokes" like 7mate due to woefully low ratings. The new programming focus is being slowly phased in, with most of the day's schedule still being sport.
- Eleven (SD, 11), which is aimed towards the same youth market that Ten previously aimed towards. It's also one-third owned by American network CBS. When it was introduced, the long-standing traditional 6pm runs of The Simpsons and Neighbours were shuffled over to it, freeing up some time to try more news on Ten itself. (Do you notice a theme with the names, by the way?)
Australian content on the commercial networks, although mandated by law, has dropped in quantity and quality over the years, with unscripted programmes such as RSPCA Animal Rescue and Motorway Patrol the norm during primetime, and very little scripted programming. Occasionally, though, they produce some good scripted programming and they tend to give it significant hype; Underbelly is a good recent example and one of the bigger success stories in this regard.
Due to media ownership laws, the networks are represented by different services outside Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, such as Prime, which broadcasts Channel Seven's programming in rural Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and, for some strange reason, in Canberra. In some areas, this is little more than a live feed from Sydney or Melbourne with half-an-hour of local news thrown in, while others add in more local programming. However, some sparsely populated markets such as in central Australia are served by only two channels, which choose between programmes from the five networks.
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth each have a community television service on channel 31, which caters for local content and community services. The popularity of Channel 31 varies from city to city: in Adelaide, the local channel is usually ignored (except in other community media), while the service in Melbourne has gained wide popularity and has almost become a sixth major channel. Despite this, Channel 31 was not able to broadcast in digital (being denied a digital broadcast license) until 2010. Because the digital channel 31 already belongs to SBS (which itself is because the digital channel 28 belongs to ABC), Channel 31 paradoxically broadcasts on the digital channel 44.
- There are five separate community channels, which don't actually form a network per se but are all broadcast on the same frequency:
- C31 Melbourne, broadcast in Melbourne and Geelong (Victoria).
- TVS, broadcast in Sydney (New South Wales).
- 31, broadcast in Brisbane (Queensland).
- C31 Adelaide, broadcast in Adelaide (South Australia)
- West TV, broadcast in Perth (Western Australia).
Unlike in the United States, pay TV is not popular in Australia, with only a quarter or so of the population having a pay TV service. The largest pay TV provider is Foxtel, which transmits on cable and satellite to the capital cities and throughout Western Australia, and owns the majority of Australia's pay TV channels, including Fox Sports, and FOX8, the most popular pay TV channel. Foxtel transmits its cable service via Telstra hybrid fibre-coaxial cable into the Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth areas. Foxtel also transmits its satellite service into these cities as well as the state of Western Australia and the cities of Newcastle, Geelong Victoria, Central Coast, Canberra and Gold Coast. Anywhere else is covered by Austar. As well as the major services, there are also foreign language pay TV services such as Ubi World, which broadcasts in languages such as Greek, Chinese, Arabic and Italian.
- The free channels may all be competing against each other (except the ABC and SBS), but this doesn't stop them getting together and doing joint commercials where their stars join forces to advertise the advantages of free TV. They also have another campaign trying to get sport for free on TV rather than limiting it to paid TV services. Supposedly so it's not limited to just those who can pay. Of course the fact the commercial stations can then charge for advertising time is inconsequential.
Most Australian radio stations have moved to a combination of music and talk, although there are a handful of talk-radio stations remaining, such as 2UE in Sydney, or FIV Eaa in Adelaide. Most radio services, especially in the larger cities, are syndicated, such as Nova, Mix and the Austereo network, which includes stations such as 2Day FM in Sydney, as well as Triple M. There are also a number of community radio services throughout the nation. The ABC and SBS also broadcast on radio. SBS broadcasts programming over two radio networks (SBS AM, or Radio 1, and SBS FM, or Radio 2) primarily in a wide range of foreign languages, while the ABC has a few separate stations available throughout most of Australia, including 40 local radio services; Radio National, a 24-hour news service with a mix of informative programming; Classic FM, and Triple J, the national youth service with a wide mix of alternative music formats as well as current affairs.
There are two national daily newspapers: The Australian, a broadsheet owned by News Limited, and The Australian Financial Review, a tabloid-sized business paper owned by Fairfax Media. The Australian is conservative and highbrow in tone; the Financial Review is economically right-wing.
Each of the state capitals has a daily conservative tabloid newspaper: The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the Herald Sun in Melbourne, The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, The Advertiser in Adelaide, The West Australian in Perth, and The Mercury in Hobart. All of these, except for The West Australian, are owned by News Limited. Sydney and Melbourne each also have their own left-wing, somewhat more highbrow broadsheet: The Sydney Morning Herald in Sydney (obviously) and The Age in Melbourne, both of which are owned by Fairfax.
The two territory capitals have one daily newspaper each. Darwin has the Northern Territory News, a conservative tabloid owned by News Limited. The national capital Canberra has The Canberra Times, a left-wing broadsheet owned by Fairfax.
There are smaller local newspapers, as well as national papers in languages other than English, such as the Italian Il Globo, but these are only produced weekly and have low readership. There are also a variety of Australian magazines, such as the monthly Women's Weekly (work out the joke) and the now defunct news magazine Bulletin, as well as magazines from the United States, such as Time.
- The latter two are placeholders for future channels; they are labelled "SBS 3" and "SBS 4" but currently just run duplicate broadcasts of SBS ONE