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Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher doesn't commit to backing SOV campaign

In opening the Batemans Bay NBN Local Community Hub this morning the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP was grilled by WIN journalists over the ongoing financial support being lobbied for by regional media via a "Save our Voices" Across Regional Australia the "Save our Voices" campaign, led by ACM (publisher of the Bay Post and Narooma News), Prime TV, SCA, WIN and Imparja, are using their own platforms and social media (the very tool they say is stealing their revenue) to say that: "Local media plays a critical role in fostering community initiatives, including support for various clubs, services and charities. They offer that "We provide publicity and free advertising to community endeavours large and small, even in the most remote regional communities. We know how important this support is because we live and work in these communities too.

"Our services, whether they are on-air or in print, help to bring communities together.

"Without local media, all this would be lost." To this last statement I have to call BULLSHiT, simply because THEY suggest that THEY are the ONLY local media. On the South Coast we have ABC South East, 2EC, Power FM, 2EAR, The Braidwood Bugle and The Beagle providing quality, informative, timely local news. Each has its own audience and each delivers varying degrees of depth to their news articles. And most importantly each delivers their news for FREE. During the bushfires it was the above local media outlets that kept the community informed of the critical timely information required. Our predominantly older community needed more than a nightly TV news summary of what might have happened that day and they certainly did not want to wait three or four days to buy a paper that told them of what happened last week. It was the ABC and local radio, along with local independent online newspapers that stepped up and filled a void across the community. In the end, with electricity and telecommunications down, it was battery powered radios that came to our rescue as the sole communication device. The community knows what is happening to the ABC in regards to funding, however, true to their word, they have committed to their emergency role and today announced the ABC Emergency portal. Combined with improvements in the Fires near Me App, and further improvements to safeguarding telecommunications, the road ahead appears to offer a little more certainty around preparation and responsiveness. But what of the singular "Save Our Voices" campaign that appeals for millions more dollars to keep local media afloat. Today's publication of the Bay Post is 12 pages. It comes in a four page advertising wrap around and includes a double page TV guide. The paper is, as usual, a delivery vehicle for an advertising insert. It also has 2 pages of advertising. As usual it contains a fishing report that is a week old and is padded with cloned copy. The ACM Wednesday papers are now primarily a delivery mechanism for the new ACM real estate supplement and offers little in the way of commentary on Council matters, instead basically regurgitating a small selection of the many media releases received (as supplied to all media outlets) that have already been published days before. If, by their example, that is the measure of regional news then it is sorely lacking. In regard to TV coverage by commercial TV; there is very little coverage of South East local news unless it is either extraordinary, political or convenient. Fortunately we do have quality and relevant ABC TV coverage on the more important local issues. So the statement "Our services, whether they are on-air or in print, help to bring communities together." is correct in that every little bit helps however to then add, by inference, "Without local media, all this would be lost" is simply an insult to the many VOICES that work hard at delivering quality, timely, accurate, LOCAL journalism to their communities, and do so under sustainably functioning financial models. I believe that the South East community is all the richer for having the commitment of ABC South East, 2EC, Power FM, 2EAR, The Braidwood Bugle and The Beagle. Unfortunately ACM's Bay Post and Narooma News have fallen by the roadside and the once proud Moruya Examiner masthead has become a distant memory, having been dumped during Covid by ACM under the guise of economic rationalism. Chief executive of Australian Community Media (ACM), Allen Williams, resigned on October 29th 2020 after more than 30 years with the company, and will finish up on 18 December. Mr Williams understood regional Australia and the important role that local media once played and his loss to the industry and to ACM will be widespread. Mumbrella reports "Williams’ almost 40-year career in media spanned senior roles in Australia, New Zealand and the US. He joined Rural Press in 1990 after stints at News Limited, Australian Consolidated Press, and The Asher Joel Media Group. From there, he was elevated to general manager of the Victorian operations and held that role until 1993, when he moved to the US to become president of Rural Press USA. In 1996, he returned to Australia and joined Rural Press’ senior management team, overseeing the agricultural business units, digital investments across Australia, New Zealand, and the US, regional operations, and joint ventures."

Above: Owner of the once vibrant Moruya Examiner that has now ceased publication. source So, when we hear Ray Martin say "Save our Voices" let's ask, is it more about saving profits as there appears to be no increase in the depth of the news on offer by these big media companies as a result of already receiving millions. Maybe, just maybe, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP has seen the "Save our Voices" campaign for what it is.

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