Regional newspapers under threat: investigation | the islander

Australia’s regional media organizations say they need more support, nearly 12 months after the landmark news media bargaining code came into effect.

The code was created to help ensure that media companies are paid fairly for content that appears on Google and Facebook.

But the head of Australian Community Media – which publishes 140 masthead titles, the majority in regional Australia – says the code, while helpful, is not enough.

Chief executive Tony Kendall said negotiations under the code had so far provided just 5% of ACM’s revenue.

Without more help from the federal government, 20-30% of the organisation’s mastheads are at risk, Mr Kendall told a survey of Australian regional newspapers.

“We negotiated terms with both (Google and Facebook), but the regional players negotiated their terms after the subway players reached important agreements,” he told the committee on Monday.

“(The Metro companies) had taken quite a large chunk of the money that Google and Facebook were willing to put into this code.”

Meanwhile, Australian Associated Press general counsel Emma Cowdroy said the newswire was not included in the code and therefore there was no legal obligation for the giants technology to negotiate with AAP for use and payment for content.

The AAP relied on an emergency grant provided through the federal government’s Public Interest News Gathering Program.

CEO Lisa Davies said ongoing government funding was needed for the organization to support rural, regional and local media across the country.

“Our sole mission is to deliver as much high-quality news as possible to as many media clients as possible. This is in the interest of all Australians,” she told the committee.

On Monday, the government announced that it would review the operation of the bargaining code.

The review will assess how commercial agreements between digital platforms and news companies have supported public service journalism in Australia.

Since February 2021, Google and Facebook have reportedly entered into around 30 commercial agreements between them.

Some news organizations, including smaller and independent publishers, have expressed concern that they have not been able to strike a commercial deal, which the review will address.

A Google spokesperson said the company has signed dozens of deals to support 170 small, independent and big Australian media titles across the country.

In October, Google signed an agreement with AAP to add the newswire content to its News Showcase.

“Last month we announced new deals with smaller, independent publishers including Region Group, Central Coast Newspapers and Star Observer, and we are still engaging with many more,” the spokesperson said.

“This is in addition to the financial, technical and training support we have provided to the Australian news industry for two decades.”

Australian Associated Press