MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
AAP GRANT DISPLAYS FLETCHER’S INCOMPETENCE
Labor welcomes the imminent grant of $5 million in taxpayer funding to support Australian Associated Press (AAP) as a no-brainer that should have been done months ago.
AAP underpins Australia’s news media ecosystem. It is vital to the maintenance of local newspapers as well as the hundreds of journalists they employ, the communities they serve and the democracy of which they are a part.
Labor drew the plight of AAP to the Government’s attention in March 2020, including at Senate Estimates, and called on the Government to provide COVID-19 relief funding to the media in April 2020.
When the Government finally announced a $50 million Public Interest News Gathering program (PING), Labor warned that it waslate, inadequate and confused – another case of too little, too late from the Morrison Government.
Today’s tardy, semi-announcement of an additional $5 million for AAP, which takes the PING to $55 million, demonstrates the sheer incompetence of this Government.
Even with the additional $5 million for AAP, the PING still falls $95 million and two years short of what the ACCC said would be needed before the impact of COVID-19 and the recession.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher ignored the ACCC’s recommendation that the eligibility criteria be designed by an independent expert advisory panel and administered arms-length from the Government, and is directly responsible for the PING’s inadequacies.
The AAP is not the only media outlet to have been overlooked in the initial PING allocation, and it is deeply concerning that the health of the Fourth Estate remains subject to Ministerial whim.
Equally concerning is the fact that the PING does nothing to address areas without coverage by a local newspaper or underserved markets.
In answers to Questions on Notice, the Department acknowledged the ACCC’s finding that there are 21 local government areas without coverage by a local newspaper, 16 of which are in regional Australia, but failed to provide a list of local government areas without any local news capability, as requested.
Meanwhile, the Government has no plan to address broadcasting blackspots when it comes to ABC and SBS reception or enhancing emergency broadcasting in regional Australia.
After seven long years of this Liberal National Government, Australia’s media is showing signs of neglect.
Public and political support for AAP’s crowd funding campaign demonstrates that Australians care about media diversity and public interest journalism.
It also demonstrates that it is beyond this Government to do the right thing at the right time.
FRIDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2020