Meta pulls out of news deals

The future of regional journalism is at risk following Meta’s announcement that it will no longer pay for Australian news content earlier this month.  

The future of regional and rural newspapers across Australia may be at risk in the wake of Meta’s decision to stop paying for Australian news content. Photo: Bonnie Collings

After the introduction of the News Media Bargaining Code in 2021, Meta entered into its own deals with Australian media outlets, promising to pay for news content.  

With these deals set to expire in coming months, Meta announced it would not renew the agreements and would also shut down the Facebook news tab. 

President of Country Press Australia, Andrew Schreyer, said the announcement from Meta was a “devastating blow” to the more than 230 regional and rural newspapers in operation across the country.  

“There will be newspaper closures, that’s for sure,” Schreyer said.  

With the business model of a regional newspaper being “squeezed” in recent years, including increased printing costs and declining advertising revenue, Schreyer said without funding from Meta, publishers will be forced to evaluate their sustainability, putting local news at risk.  

“Inevitably what happens is (newspapers) start looking at costs to remain sustainable, you can’t really pull advertising representatives because you’re cutting revenue, so you’ve got to look at production and journalism costs to remain viable,” he said. 

“Some (newspapers) have already (considered) that and they’re at the end, so if Meta pulls their funding, those papers will have to close.”  

Schreyer said local newspapers are often the only source of public interest journalism in a regional community. 

“We hold the powerful to account and give a voice to those that would otherwise go unheard, we have the ability to cover issues that no one else will,” he said. 

“Our news is professionally written, it’s not biased, it’s not fake news, it’s independent content that people can rely on as fact.” 

One regional publisher facing the reality of Meta’s announcement is the Loddon Herald.  

Servicing a readership of more than 10,000 across the Loddon Shire in central Victoria, the Loddon Herald is written, edited, and managed by journalist Chris Earl.  

In the three years the Loddon Herald has been in operation, Earl said he had covered several major events, as well as covering smaller stories relevant to the community.   

“There’s been major flooding twice, and a renewable energy transmission line has gone through the area,” he said. 

“They’re the big stories, but then there’s equally the achievements of people that everyone wants to read about. This community has the same aspirations, same hopes as anyone else, and we’re allowing them to tell and share their stories.”  

Earl said the announcement from Meta was “disappointing” and raised concerns for both the short and long-term sustainability of public interest journalism.  

“Newspapers remain the most credible form of communication, whether it’s for news or other information that connects communities,” Earl said. 

“Meta has certainly benefited from using newspaper content on its platform. That content does come at a price. Without a fair and reasonable acknowledgment in a monetary sense of the role that newspapers play, then the industry will have this spectre around its sustainability.”  

Schreyer and other members of Country Press Australia met with Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland and Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones recently, to discuss the possibility of designating Meta under the News Media Bargaining Code. 

“I have no doubt that they are considering their options, working with the ACCC to determine if designation is the right path,” Schreyer said. 


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