Audience Dialogue

Media use and availability

Case study 7

In 1995, we decided to carry out an Australia-wide survey of media use and availability. With the growth of new media, developments such as the "information superhighway" (Internet) and "Multimedia" (CD-ROM presentations) seemed very important back then), and broadcasters were worried about their audiences becoming fragmented.

We also wanted to gather some basic statistics on the percentages of households with different types of broadcasting and communications equipment. In the end, we realized that we needed to do two surveys:

Both surveys were done by telephone, Australia-wide, with samples of several thousand people and households. The samples were larger than they needed to be, but in those days we were appreciated for doing high quality work, and not for saving money.

The survey of people included questions such as "What does multimedia mean to you?" and "Which of these things have you used in the last 7 days?" (e.g. radio, TV, computer, newspaper, library). Though many other surveys had gathered such information, none had gathered all of it. Only by doing our own survey could we get the detailed cross-tabulations we needed, on a regional basis.

For the survey of households, our interviewers asked to speak to "the person in the household who knows the most about technology." We expected some problems with this, but found almost none. Most households nominated a person (usually young and/or male), and to our surprise the refusal rate was extremely low - considering how useful the information we collected would have been to burglars! However we took more care than usual to stress the anonymity of the survey, and to point out that we were not asking for respondents' addresses.

The results of the two surveys provided a very useful picture of media usage and availability in Australia. By using cross-tabulation and statistical regression, we found which types of people had the widest and narrowest ranges of media availability. We deduced that computer usage and the Internet would be a threat to TV audiences within a few years, but that radio audiences would be largely unaffected.

- Dennis List