The News and Media Research Centre, at the University of Canberra, was contracted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to provide a mixed method research project to study Australians’ access to, consumption of, and critical engagement with news, information and misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This research is situated in the context of widespread public concern about the prevalence and impacts of online misinformation in Australia and globally. It is informed by the Australian Government’s policy agenda on digital platforms, including its response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry final report (2019), the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code (2021), and the ACMA Misinformation and news quality on digital platforms in Australia position paper (2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a strong appetite for credible and fast news. Across the globe, reporters, governments and public health professionals have worked overtime to keep communities informed. News consumption has increased as the public tries to make sense of this rapidly evolving crisis. Despite the surge in demand, Australian news organisations experienced a substantial hit to revenues. The Public Interest Journalism Initiative estimates that more than 150 local newspapers were either closed or suspended during the crisis in Australia (Public Interest Journalism Initiative, 2021). This has left a significant gap for news consumers in accessing up-to-date, localised information, and an increasing reliance on social media or online platforms for news.

This study examines how and where Australians are getting information about COVID-19, which sources they find trustworthy and their experiences with misinformation. The report extends our understanding around the access, consumption and critical engagement with news and misinformation during the ongoing global pandemic.

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