Regional broadcasters support the continuation of the $50m Public Interest News Gathering fund to support local news but maintain media reform is a better solution.
Under the current law, at least four independent media voices, across radio, newspaper and free-to-air TV must exist in regional markets. But Andrew Lancaster, Chief Executive Officer of WIN, yesterday told a Senate Estimates hearing on media diversity in Australia regional broadcasters were losing money in making local news but outdated laws were holding them back.
“The issue from our perspective is those who produce the content and air the content, those who produce more regional bulletins than any other broadcaster in Australia should probably be at the higher end of the ratio for the funding, not at the lower end of the ratio,” he said.
“Our view collectively is that government funding is not the solution. Our view is removing outdated, 29 year old legislation that doesn’t apply in this day and age is more of a solution.
“There is no magic pill that’s going to turn around viewership. There is no magic pill that’s going to turn around revenue in regional Australia. What there is… is an opportunity to allow the businesses who run the local content in regional Australia to become economically more sustainable. At the moment that’s not there.
“From our perspective, the diversity comes from the local news content we produce, not the 99% of content that comes (from metropolitan broadcasters).”
Also addressing the committee were Alice Springs-based broadcaster Imparja and Prime7.
Ian Audsley CEO from Prime7 said, “There’s a reluctance to grapple with the realities of the market. And the reality is that, if any one of us wasn’t here, diversity is dead in regional Australia. If all of a sudden the three of us can’t afford to produce local news anymore.. there’s no television news, only the ABC.
“So that needs to be fixed and the only way that can be fixed is to enable us to rearrange ourselves in a more economically sustainable way. We’ve been arguing for that for near on seven years and we’ve made no ground to date.”