Following the news that News Corp Australia will suspend the printing of 60 community titles across the country, Labor and the Greens have called on the government to intervene and help keep the sector alive.
The community mastheads will continue to publish digitally, with News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller saying the decision to suspend printing of its community newspapers was not taken lightly.
“The suspension of our community print editions has been forced on us by the rapid decline in advertising revenues following the restrictions placed on real estate auctions and home inspections, the forced closure of event venues and dine-in restaurants in the wake of the Coronavirus emergency,” he said.
The sector has been troubled for a while, and the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated its challenges.
As such, opposition communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland wrote to the deputy PM Michael McCormack asking the government to give regional media access to a $1 billion fund for vulnerable regions and communities.
She wrote: “Local media coverage is vital to communities and performs a critical role in the effective functioning of democracy at all levels of government and society.
“Regional media in Australia was already in crisis and the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the strain the sector is under.”
Meanwhile, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has asked the government to “urgently unlock” the publishers’ fund to stop the closure of community newspapers.
“Right now the community needs good, local, accurate news and information and yet every day there is news of another regional paper closing their doors,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
While Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted community newspaper, he “welcomes News Corp’s commitment to preserve jobs”.
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