Hottest 100: ABC defends decision to 'decouple'

The ABC has defended changing the date of its Hottest 100 program, arguing the new-look countdown "benefits everybody".

On Monday, Triple J announced it would no longer broadcast the most popular songs of the year on Australia Day. Thousands of people had called on the ABC to change the date out of respect for Indigenous Australians via social media and an online petition.

More than half of Triple J listeners who were surveyed supported the move to January 27 and 28, but that didn't stop the national broadcaster copping flak in the wake of the announcement.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said he was "bewildered" by the decision.

"The ABC shouldn't be buying into this debate. Australia Day is our national day," he said. "The ABC should honour it and not mess with the Hottest 100."

While there was overwhelming support on social media, Triple J's Facebook page was inundated with criticism from people who thought the ABC was "ruining" Australia Day and making a political statement.

But on Tuesday, the broadcaster stood its ground. An ABC spokesman argued the decision to shift the date will allow the Hottest 100 to "decouple" from the heated debate surrounding January 26.

"The move, based on extensive audience feedback, benefits everybody," he said.

"Under the 2018 format, Triple J will count down the Hottest 100 on the first day [January 27] and will follow up the second day [January 28] by airing the next 100 songs voted by the audience. The network conducted extensive research showing the Triple J audience wanted to decouple the countdown from the politics, with a focus exclusively on the music."

The spokesman also said shifting the Hottest 100 will allow Triple J to air more coverage of Australia Day events.

"We will provide more coverage of the day than any other media outlet," he said.

"As the national broadcaster, the ABC has and will always maintain a strong commitment to Australia Day and associated events. We are the host broadcaster for the Australian of the Year Awards. We will [also] cover the Australian of the Year address, the Canberra flag-raising ceremony, the Canberra citizenship ceremony and the Governor-General's address on ABC TV, ABC RN, Radio Australia as well as through our network of 56 metropolitan and regional stations."

Indigenous artists will likely feature prominently on the Hottest 100 this year, given the momentum hip hop duo AB Original and others generated in calling for the ABC to "change the date".

Voting for next year's countdown opens on December 12, with the polls closing on January 22.

This story Hottest 100: ABC defends decision to 'decouple' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.