Media Reforms May Give New Opportunities To Australia’s Grassroot Journalism

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomes the new media reforms saying “the changes bring Australia’s outdated media laws into the 21st century.”

These media laws and legislations were made in the 1980s before the Internet existed.

Journalism in Australia is currently in crisis prompting the Federal Government’s announcement of a shake up to laws governing media ownership in March this year, which will have major implications for Australia’s local media sector.

The “two out of three” rule will be scrapped, a rule originally implemented to maintain competition and prevent mergers between existing players across the media spectrum to avoid leading to the dominance of a media proprietor.

Additionally, what was known as the “75% reach rule” will also be removed allowing mergers between regional broadcasters and bigger metropolitan affiliates such as WIN TV and Nine Network, with concern this might lead to considerable decline in the amount of content and news made for rural audiences. 

Opposition to these media reforms say they allow “large media companies to dominate markets”, while others “think the reforms will unshackle media companies so they can compete more effectively in the media age”. 

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) chief executive officer Paul Murphy wasn’t completely sold on the idea: “Any initiative to support new investment in journalism is welcome, but it should not come at the price of existing safeguards being removed.”

To gain support from the Nick Xenophon Team, the Federal Government “agreed to establish a $60.4 million fund for regional and small publishers”, including training young reporters to help at the grassroots of the journalism profession.

Senator Nick Xenophon says “this is the best package to ensure that we can actually get more journalists being employed not fewer.”

“I’ve done my level best to try and redress the crisis that journalism is facing in this country”, Senator Xenophon says.

This package will include:

  • A $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund
  • A Regional and Small Publishers Cadetships programs to support 200 cadetships and;
  • 60 regional journalism scholarships.

The InDaily reports, only small Australian companies can qualify to access these funds with an “annual turnover of more than $300,000 but less than $30 million, ruling out big corporations like Fairfax and NewsCorp.”

The fund available over three years will grant small media companies with the opportunity to apply to “buy or upgrade equipment and software”, train journalists, develop apps, as well as “undertake business activities to drive revenue and readership”. 

Additionally, “30 cadetships to study journalism will be funded each year, as well as 50 cadetships at regional and small media organisations with up to $40,000 of wages subsidised by the Government”, states the InDaily. 

Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion said “the cadetship program is another great initiative which will boost employment opportunities through funding for more cadets in the regions”.

Recently, the voluntary administered Ten Network has accepted a CBS takeover, rejecting the possibility of a Gordon and Murdoch ownership following these new media reforms being passed through Senate early September. 

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