In an effort to improve the reporting capabilities of regional media to adequately present local news, the Federal Government has created a fund to help meet some of the changes required in information gathering and dissemination.
Last week, the Federal Government announced a $50 million Public Interest News Gathering program that is welcomed by Country Press Australia but is concerned about the expanded criteria and the likely loss of the original intent of the funds.
Much of this amount had already been allocated as part of the Regional and Small Publishers Fund but held in limbo until now.
“Country Press Australia and the 140 independent news media titles it represents, will wait until the funding guidelines are formulated, before assessing what impact this will have in helping to sustain public interest journalism by regional and small publishers in the current crisis”, president Bruce Ellen said.
“We are extremely concerned that the original intent of the Regional and Small Publishers Fund when it was first announced in 2017, may be lost and/or significantly diminished.”
Country Press Australia strongly urges the Federal Government to maintain key elements of the original criteria.
“These key criterias include a maximum turnover threshold ($30 million), a set percentage to regional news media companies (75%), and the production of public interest journalism as a primary purpose eligibility requirement,” Mr Ellen said.
“These funds were specifically allocated to small and medium regional publishers of public interest journalism as a result of the impact of the media reform legislation in September 2017 giving significant benefits to the large media companies such as Nine, Seven West Media and News Corp.”
“It would be far from appropriate if these companies now also benefit from these particular funds to the detriment of the small independent media publishers across Australia,” he said.