Local News Matters

For an increasing number of regional media companies the business of making local news is becoming more and more challenging. It is a struggle to deliver local news and to remain profitable.

Outdated media regulations and international tech giants such as Google and Facebook are crushing local media companies and putting newspapers and local TV news services at risk of closure.

But how many people do the tech giants employ in regional Australia? What campaigns have they run to improve our society? Do they care about regional Australians or do they simply care about how much money they can extract from Australia and ship offshore?

And did you know that Google and Facebook are not subject to the same regulations as regional news media companies? They can operate unhindered while government regulations prevent regional news businesses from consolidating to achieve the size and scale they need to stay alive.

The attitude of Google and Facebook is probably best seen in their responses to the draft News Media Bargaining Code. The code has been formulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to address the bargaining power imbalance between the two multinationals and Australian news businesses. Google has reacted by threatening to curtail its services. Facebook has threatened to ban news on its platform. Enough said.

The federal government is providing limited financial support to some local media to deliver news services over the next 12 months, but after that there are no certainties. What is needed is a plan to revitalise the sector to secure local media and grow its uniquely relevant services for the good of all regional Australians.

Regional media companies have been in discussion with the federal government on this matter since 2013. More recently, regional television operators put a proposal to the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher, to recreate and reinvigorate the local media sector.

A year on and despite the dramatic financial decay of regional media businesses and the reduction in services they provide, the Communications Minister has not responded to the plan. During that time more TV news services and newspapers have closed.

Without regulatory reform that recognises the unique realities and circumstances of the regional media market, important local news platforms will continue to disappear.

If that happens, these vital community voices will be lost forever.

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Authorised by C. O’Connor on behalf of Save Our Voices, Canberra