JERAA calls on Australian Government to support local newspapers

By JERAA

 

JERAA urges the Australian Government to deliver emergency funding to help redress the impact of COVID-19 on the local news industry, particularly in regional and remote areas. 

In the context of the ongoing public health emergency, access to independent, reliable, high-quality information is vital; it is a matter of public safety and civic engagement. And yet, even as journalists work around the clock to provide necessary updates to their communities, a rapid decline in advertising revenue has already forced many regional newspapers to close. 

Saffron Howden’s evolving map of Australia’s closed newspapers includes Sunraysia Daily, The Guardian – Swan Hill, Gannawarra Times, Loddon Times, Barrier Daily Truth, Yarram Standard, Great Southern Star, Latrobe Valley Express, Star News Group, Maryborough District Advertiser, Gulf Chronicle, North Central News, Shepparton News, New South Western Standard, Cape and Torres News, The Bunyip, Bairnsdale Advertiser, Warragul and Drouin Gazette. 

JERAA also notes, with great concern, News Corp Australia’s decision to suspend the printing of 60 community titles in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia from April 9. While these publications will continue to publish digital news, the loss of print products will be an accessibility issue in regions with aging populations or limited internet access. 

The absence of trusted hyperlocal news, information, community support and historical record-keeping will be devastating for regional communities, which are more vulnerable to COVID-19 health impacts and are underserved by metropolitan media. 

While JERAA commends the government’s JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs and acknowledges that business support frameworks may benefit some regional newspapers, it urges the government to go further to protect the industry, which it contends is an essential service. 

JERAA joins the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in calling for the government to unlock $40 million from the Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package as a survival fund to keep regional and rural newspapers alive during the coronavirus crisis, which would provide already under-resourced newsrooms with a buffer to adapt to the fast-changing circumstances while still serving their communities.

It also supports the Public Interest Journalism Initiative’s call for further government support, which could include: making news subscriptions tax deductible, offering temporary relief on licensing fees for broadcast media, increasing public-service advertising in local news media and earmarking further funding to assist a national newswire to provide public interest reporting. 

JERAA also commends the New Zealand government’s efforts to support the print publication of newspapers that serve hard-to-reach rural communities and non-English speaking communities. 

 

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