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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

When will they stop propping up a dead horse

ACM and other Main Stream Media are once again going cap in hand to the government for a bailout. This time they need more money because the cost of paper is going up. Last time they declared the sky was falling because of Facebook and Google were taking their advertising so they were propped up with a lovely $50 million of which ACM (the publisher of the Bay Post and Narooma News) received a generous $10.3 million. The intention of that money was to go towards employing and retaining regional journalists to tell regional stories and ensure the continuity of regional news. In 2020 Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, said “These are unprecedented circumstances in regional media – with COVID-19 triggering catastrophic drops in advertising revenue leading to many newspapers suspending operations and threatening the sustainability of regional broadcasters" “Public interest journalism is critical to keeping communities informed. PING will provide direct support for the continued provision of local and regional journalism, which has never been more important than in recent times when communities across Australia need access to trusted sources of news and information” he said at the time. “The majority of the publishers receiving grants under this program operate small‑to‑medium businesses. Local papers are the life-blood of many towns across Australia. They connect communities and keep people informed,” said Fletcher.

“Successful applicants will put these funds to good use to support a broad range of activities such as staff wages, training and technology upgrades that will allow them to keep delivering news that local communities need and want.” So here we are again. Apparently the $10.3 million for ACM wasn't enough after they down sized their journalists, cloned their regions so that each of the once dignified "mastheads" carry the same 16 pages of "news". What isn't being mentioned is the revenue ACM and others now received from the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code that has resulted from Google and Facebook striking commercial deals with a wide range of Australian news media companies across the country. Paul Fletcher is now promising, if re-elected, that they will establish a new $10 million round of the Public Interest News Gathering program that "will allow eligible regional newspaper publishers to apply for funding to support their sustainability in the face of newsprint prices rising by up to 80 per cent from 1 July 2022". "A re-elected Coalition Government will provide targeted support for regional newspapers to assist them in the face of dramatically rising costs driven by global pressures affecting print production". How good is it to have such a generous Minister making such generous promises to keep a dead horse standing so that it appears to still be alive. Regional readers are not stupid. In the South East we have witnessed the accelerated death of MSM with the reduction in content, the unapologetic removal of the Moruya Examiner , the cloning of mastheads, the reduction of staff and the reduction of publication of the Bay Post from twice a week to just once a week. To offset this ACM brought back the Independent, a free Thursday edition that carries advertising and a TV guide. If you want to look at the economy of that decision all you need to do is to look in the Independent bins at supermarkets and service stations and see them still there a week later. There is the news print that they claim will cost 80% more. At best the editions are free fire lighters for winter so be sure to pick up a copy or 10 before these too disappear. Fortunately he does add a proviso to his "if elected promise" saying "Funding will be contingent on no newspaper closures or job losses due to increased newsprint prices. Funding amounts will be determined based on the demonstrated cost impacts to eligible applicants of newsprint cost increases". Finally ACM will be required to reveal to the community, and to their advertisers, just how many papers they actually print and how many are actually sold. The Bay Post tells us that they have a 5,096 Ave Issue Readership for Print based on circulation – calculated at 3.3 readers per copy *. This implies that you buy a paper and then pass it on to 3.3 other people. Source: * Publishers statement Mar 2021. Their website then tells us that they carry 1300 inserts. The fact is that, if their figures are correct, they only distribute 1300 copies, of which the return rate for no-sales is increasingly higher. If they sold all the copies their revenue would be sales $2,800 plus advertising which, when you look at it occupies around 40% of the paltry 16 pages. You would also recognise that the advertising is primarily for ACM or for major corporation or the government. Local ads are rare. So what exactly is the worth of these news papers if they fail to provide the quality news that Paul Fletcher tells us is vital to regional communities?

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NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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