Has the ABC given up on young Aussies? Youth abandon Triple J, new show hosted by Frank Kelly

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When I first came to Australia as a young fella, I listened to Triple J and thought it was fantastic. There was nothing near as good in my home country, Ireland. 

But my new Aussie friends all told me, ‘You should have heard it two years ago. It really was great then, but now it’s out of touch’.¬†

I thought A/ they were wrong, and B/ Australians can be a cynical bunch. 

It’s now a long time since I’ve listened to Triple J, which is as it should be, it’s not meant to interest me. But those it is designed for – 18-24-year-olds – are not listening much either.

And with the ABC recently appointing the hip icon 64-year-old Fran Kelly to host a new Friday night TV arts show, it’s reasonable to ask, is this the end of the national broadcaster catering to the country’s youth?

ABC, affectionately known as ‘Aunty’, has just turned 90, but how many years has she got left in her? Will she fade away into irrelevance?

Fran Kelly (pictured) is aged 64 and has just been appointed to host a new ABC arts program. She is a hugely talented broadcaster, but her interest in the arts will surely skewer to what she has known and is familiar with

Fran Kelly (pictured) is aged 64 and has just been appointed to host a new ABC arts program. She is a hugely talented broadcaster, but her interest in the arts will surely skewer to what she has known and is familiar with

ABC reporter Jordan Fennell criticised her employer's decision to get Kelly to host the new show

ABC reporter Jordan Fennell criticised her employer's decision to get Kelly to host the new show

ABC reporter Jordan Fennell criticised her employer’s decision to get Kelly to host the new show

Kelly is a hugely talented and respected broadcaster, and has been for decades. But her interest in the arts will surely skewer to what she has known and is familiar with.

Yes, so would a 20-something wannabe’s interest and knowledge skew to their own age group, but couldn’t some middle ground be found, at the very least with a much younger co-host?

Australian journalists lined up this week to criticise the appointment of Kelly to ABC’s flashy new show.

‘I’m an old fart, and a Fran fan too, but I have to agree. Move over and give someone younger a go!’ tweeted Good Food Guide editor Roslyn Grundy.

Two Nine reporters Meg Watson and Osman Faruqi aired their dismay in a podcast called ‘Has the ABC given up on young people?’

A recent survey revealed listeners aged 18-24 are tuning out of the national youth music Pictured are Triple J breakfast presenters Bryce & Ebony

A recent survey revealed listeners aged 18-24 are tuning out of the national youth music Pictured are Triple J breakfast presenters Bryce & Ebony

A recent survey revealed listeners aged 18-24 are tuning out of the national youth music Pictured are Triple J breakfast presenters Bryce & Ebony

Journalist Osman Faruqi was not impressed by Kelly getting the hosting gig saying he thought it was a joke as first

Journalist Osman Faruqi was not impressed by Kelly getting the hosting gig saying he thought it was a joke as first

Journalist Osman Faruqi was not impressed by Kelly getting the hosting gig saying he thought it was a joke as first

Faruqi said he had even thought the appointment of Kelly, who hosted ABC Radio National’s Breakfast show for 17 years before hanging up the microphone in December, was a joke.

‘I think my original reaction to it was, “oh, this is like a parody press release that somebody has put out”,’ he said.

Faruqi said it was ‘jarring’ to not see a younger presenter.

‘Now the ABC are doubling down ‚Ķ with someone who has been working at the broadcaster longer than we’ve been alive,’ he said.

The Kelly kerfuffle would matter less if the ABC was doing its best by the young with Triple J, but it most certainly is not. 

A new survey has found the national youth music station is being abandoned by its 18-24-year-old listeners Рthe very audience it exists to serve according to its submission to a Senate committee. 

The latest ratings found its audience share in that age group dropped by an average of 2.5 per cent across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide from late April to late June. 

While the drop has been blamed on streaming and complaints about Triple J going ‘too mainstream’ –¬†The Wiggles topped its annual Hot 100 this year – there may be a simpler explanation.

‘The kids are, in fact, giving up on the ABC and turning to commercial radio instead,’ media analyst Tim Burrowes said on his blog.¬†

Younger listeners are turning their back on the national broadcaster and turning to commercial radio. Pictured are crowds at the recent Splendour in the Grass in Byron Bay

Younger listeners are turning their back on the national broadcaster and turning to commercial radio. Pictured are crowds at the recent Splendour in the Grass in Byron Bay

Younger listeners are turning their back on the national broadcaster and turning to commercial radio. Pictured are crowds at the recent Splendour in the Grass in Byron Bay

ABC's national youth music station is being abandoned by its supposed core audience of 18-24 year-olds. Pictured are young people all looking at their phones

ABC's national youth music station is being abandoned by its supposed core audience of 18-24 year-olds. Pictured are young people all looking at their phones

ABC’s national youth music station is being abandoned by its supposed core audience of 18-24 year-olds. Pictured are young people all looking at their phones

In 2014, on average across the five mainland state capitals, about 137,000 in that age bracket were listening to radio stations in any given 15 minutes.

By mid-2022, only 113,000 18-24-year-olds are listening to the radio in the five capitals at any given time. 

That’s a mammoth 17.5 per cent drop even without factoring in that Australia’s population has increased by 3.5million in that time, to roughly 27million today.¬†

Radio listenership is dropping across the board, but the fall at Triple J is much worse, with a far bigger proportion of 18-24 audience choosing commercial radio. 

There have been a lot of complaints that Triple J has gone 'too mainstream'. The Wiggles (pictured) took the number one spot on the station's Hottest 100 in January

There have been a lot of complaints that Triple J has gone 'too mainstream'. The Wiggles (pictured) took the number one spot on the station's Hottest 100 in January

There have been a lot of complaints that Triple J has gone ‘too mainstream’. The Wiggles (pictured) took the number one spot on the station’s Hottest 100 in January

From 2014 to 2022, the number of Triple J’s targeted young audience listening at any given time fell by a massive 55 per cent, from 22,000 to 10,000.¬†

Apart from temporary blips in 2015 and 2019, Triple J’s audience among 18-24-year-olds has been in steady decline for almost a decade, and its listenership has never been lower.

Triple J faces audience has always skewed older than its target. Just 14 per cent of its audience today is in its supposedly targeted 18-24 age range.

On August 31 last year, Triple J infamously tweeted ‘Did it hurt? when you aged out of the youth radio station.’

The backlash was so severe and so swift that just a day later it tweeted, ‘Did it hurt? When your attempt at a meme backfired? Yes it did’.

The attempted meme creation not only went wrong, it was not true – almost half of Triple J’s audience is aged 25 to 39.¬†

Triple J should be far more focused on providing a service young Australians want to listen to.

And ABC in general needs to do vastly better at appealing to young audiences before they lose them for good. 

The federal Labor government is unlikely to cut ABC’s funding even if its audience keeps falling, but the next Coalition government surely would.

That could lead to a death spiral in which ‘Auntie’, which has just turned 90, doesn’t get to see her 100th birthday.¬†¬†

Triple J is losing its core target audience. Pictured is the youth station's famous drum logo

Triple J is losing its core target audience. Pictured is the youth station's famous drum logo

Triple J is losing its core target audience. Pictured is the youth station’s famous drum logo