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Throwing my support behind local news outlets

15 April, 2020
Throwing my support behind local news outlets Image

I’m a huge supporter of local newspapers, radio and TV stations – they’re there to bring you the news of the day, tell good local yarns, and hold politicians (including me) to account.

A number of our local outlets contacted me in late March concerned about their ability to keep producing local news. The closure of local businesses due to coronavirus meant that businesses no longer needed or couldn’t afford to advertise with the local paper.

Since the end of March, I have been calling on State Ministers and the Federal Government to support our local news outlets.

I have repeatedly called on State Ministers to advertise with our local outlets – a two for one – everyone gets accurate information from the Government, the local outlets get the advertising money. At this suggestion I was told by one NSW Minister’s Staffer – local newspapers aren’t a priority.

Well they are to me and I’ll keep fighting for their survival.

I have received a response from the State Health Emergency Operations Centre regarding my suggestion which stated: NSW Health is working with the Department of Customer Service to develop and launch a statewide COVID-19 campaign, which targets all audiences and will include regional and rural media channels.

Today the Federal Government announced a package aimed at supporting media organisations.

The measures include:

  • Tax Relief – A 12-month waiver of spectrum tax for commercial television and radio broadcasters
  • Investing in Regional Journalism – A $50 million Public Interest News Gathering program
  • Short-Term Red Tape Relief – Emergency suspension of content quotas in 2020
  • Harmonising Regulation to Support Australian Content – Release of an Options Paper developed by Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority, commencing a fast-tracked consultation process on how best to support Australian stories on our screens

While these dollar figures attached to these measures sound impressive, there are obvious questions about how much it will assist our local outlets. Community radio isn’t mentioned, there are lengthy application processes for funds (that metropolitan publishers are able to apply for as well), and there are no details about how funds from the Public Interest News Gathering program can be accessed.

The Government continues to head down the path of tedious application programs and funding pools – that cost a huge amount to administer – when organisations need urgent assistance now.

Paying for advertising injects much needed funds into news outlets immediately – it’s a simple fix, but sometimes the simplest solutions can be what’s needed.

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