Regional media deserves COVID recovery support

Adjournment speech

October 7, 2021

Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (22:42) –

My adjournment is to the Minister for Small Business (Hon. Jaala Pulford MP), and I ask this on behalf of regional media, who continue to experience difficulty accessing financial support.

Regional media outlets in my electorate are concerned that their sustainability is at risk. The requirements of the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund are not reflective of the hardship experienced by regional media outlets.

News media organisations incur high weekly costs in wages, printing, distribution and overheads. They have experienced reductions of 60 per cent in revenue over months and months, which is a serious threat to their sustainability, but because it is not quite 70 per cent it has left them ineligible for the COVID hardship fund.

News media organisations are not included in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification codes that define hardship and determine eligibility for the business costs assistance program grants. Newsagents are, but not the media organisations that produce the publications they distribute.

By remaining open, regional media have continued to deliver news at a time when timely and quality information is extremely important in keeping residents up to date. At the same time, they report a sustained reduction in advertising revenue.

Regional media rely on local businesses for their advertising revenue and this revenue has been significantly curtailed due to continued lockdowns and border controls. Many clients who would usually advertise across regional TV, newspapers and radio have been unable to trade and they are heavily restricted or they have ceased to advertise because of the uncertainty and their own financial hardship. Similarly, the advertising that would support promotion of local events has also vanished.

Minister, we know how important local news content is to the fabric of our regional communities. Regional media offer an important news service and share stories of experiences unique to country communities. Regional media are important in keeping our communities together at a time when so much connection has been curtailed.

I seek your assistance for our regional media by addressing these concerns, broadening the eligibility to allow regional media outlets to access support. This would be welcomed by the sector. Alternatively, regional media need a specific stream of assistance for the industry to ensure it remains sustainable.