Monday, November 20, 2017

Fairer go for regional newspapers

David Lee November 8, 2017

THE DROP-OFF in support for the Federal Coalition Government in regional Australia can be directly linked to a gradual reduction in traditional means of communication through local advertising.

Country Press Australia (CPA) represents independent non-daily newspapers in regional, rural Australia and the recent News Limited polling confirms what CPA has already been saying to the Federal Government: that it needs better communication with regional people through small, independent publishers.

Country Press Australia president, Ben Taylor said, “While at CPA we welcome the government’s $60.4M regional and small publishers’ jobs and innovation package, it needs to go further to ensure the future of quality journalism and reduce the impact of the online duopoly of Facebook and Google.

“Independent regional publishers, through CPA as its representative body, had urged the Federal Government to support South Australian Senator, Nick Xenophon’s proposed 40 percent rebate on journalism costs.

“And, in its own written submission to the Senate Inquiry into Public Interest Journalism, CPA lobbied to ensure a minimum advertising budget percentage allocation to communicate with regional Australians. It will continue to do so.

“Senator Xenophon liaised directly with CPA. He clearly was committed to ensuring there was assistance for smaller, regional publishers in the wake of the significant media reforms.

“Disappointingly, there was no direct contact or consultation from the office of Senator Fifield, Minister for Communications.

“CPA has been promised a seat on the group which will oversee distribution, which we welcome.

“However, while we welcome a package that represents investment in business innovation, a cadetship program and journalism scholarships, it will go only so far. And it needs to be kept relatively simple in terms of applications. Red tape is the last thing these small operators have time for.

“CPA member newspapers, all regional non-dailies, continue to have strong readerships, with upwards of 70 percent of country people continuing to read their local newspaper. We have significant recent research across two states to prove this.

“Too often our member newspapers are left off advertising campaigns, meaning regional Australian’s often miss important government communications. The package should have included guaranteed messaging through our medium.

“The government’s failure to adequately communicate is evidenced in the recent polling which clearly shows a drop-off in support for the coalition in regional Australia.

“If the Federal Government, through their advertising agencies, believe that they will adequately get across their message digitally they are ill-informed.

“Yes, those mediums have relevance and regional Australians are not without connection. However, it is the small, independent newspapers that are the journal of record for their regional towns and communities. They provide a vital service in this regard that no other medium can to the same extent.

“They remain the trusted source of information, they remain the influential voice of their communities and continue to have a deep social engagement.”