Government should boost regional media spend

Adjournment

December 3, 2021

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (22:10): (1683)

My adjournment is for the Minister for Government Services (Hon Danny Pearson MP), and the action I seek is for the minister to review the campaign expenditure requirement for advertising in regional and rural media.

It is government policy that regional and rural communities should have equal access to government communications and that regional media channels are used to deliver this. The Victorian government spent $84.6 million on media advertising for the 2019–20 financial year, and $9.5 million of this was spent on non-digital regional and rural media, which includes press, radio and outdoor advertising. This represents 17 per cent of the government’s total campaign advertising expenditure.

Departments and agencies are required to spend at least 15 per cent of campaign advertising expenditure on regional and rural media, so at least spending was slightly above this threshold. However, I suggest to the government that a 15 per cent base requirement is ridiculously low given the expanse of regional Victoria, the number of regional media outlets and the heavy reliance of local communities on local media for trusted information.

WIN Television’s Albury bureau closed in June 2019, and mid-year nine local bulletins were axed, including Shepparton and Bendigo. A number of print news outlets have shared concerns with me that the government has not utilised them for advertising, not only for COVID-19 pandemic information but across agencies and departments.

I was dismayed last week to learn that the ABC has cut Goulburn-Murray region local programming, and the 9.00-11.00 morning program has been replaced with a statewide show. ABC Goulburn-Murray, most recently with Sandra Moon and Alice Walker, has supported our region through the pandemic, with regular updates on border closures and restrictions. Back in the early days of my justice advocacy through the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign, the ABC supported me on this program back when Joseph Thomsen was on the microphone. Last week I also received news of the closure of the Macedon Free Press, another blow for regional media.

Regional outlets provide essential information at times of natural disaster along with local context and scrutiny of state and federal politics. Losing local news is bad for small communities. In their absence people are turning to social media, where information published may not have the integrity of professional journalism. My constituents value their local media. Our government should value it too, not just for sharing important news stories but through advertising. There is a balance that can be achieved to support the survival of regional media and ensure our local communities have access to both local content and local context.