CBAA addresses inquiry into Australia's regional newspapers

Amy Leiper, 8th March 2022
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CBAA’s CEO, Jon Bisset, and Head of Advocacy and Communications, Holly Friedlander Liddicoat represented both CBAA and the Local & Independent News Association as they appeared in front of the House of Representatives' Standing Committee on Communications and Arts to address its inquiry into Australia’s regional newspapers. They were joined by Ian Cole, Station Manager for Outback Radio and Editor/Publisher of The Western Herald.

We discussed the synergies between community radio stations, hyperlocal publishers, and discussed the opportunities that exist to foster these connections. For example, stations are reviving local news publciations in their area, like 2WEB.

We also emphasised that with strong Government investment, our independent industries can do more in this space to innovate business models and support local news.

To support these aims, we discussed the role of the new Local & Independent News Association (LINA). The association will help existing hyperlocal media to survive and grow, and to encourage new hyperlocal media entrants by providing capacity-building support, expert advice and access to critical third-party services. The hands-on support provided by LINA will directly address the challenges commonly cited by hyperlocal news organisations.

Responding to a question from Emma McBride MP, the Member for Dobell, about how LINA will address the emergence of news deserts and how it identifies the locations of news deserts, Jon Bisset responded:

“The Public Interest Journalism Initiative as I’m sure you’re familiar, has done a lot of work mapping the rise and fall of newsrooms over the last few years. That piece of research is critical in identifying where news deserts are. Also, we're seeing local communities themselves identify where these news deserts are, and organisations like Outback Radio start to address those issues by moving beyond broadcast to newspapers. The Torres Strait has done that. Certainly, in other areas—for example, the Horsham Times—they are beginning to appear where there are news deserts. Now, I think there's an opportunity to identify some of those news desert areas and help facilitate the growth of a hyperlocal publication or help a community radio station that's already in those areas evolve their business model and what they are doing to fill the gap. So I don't think there's one simple solution. I think there are lots of opportunities to address the challenges that are out there, and hyperlocal media community radio is not the total solution. There's a whole lot of different ways that those gaps can be filled. I think there are fantastic examples of how communities can receive the news and information that they need.

 “We can continue to innovate as an industry as long as we are effectively funded by Government.” He added.

The Committee’s two days of public hearings in Canberra heard from a range of stakeholders, including Australian Community Media, ABC, SBS, AAP, Free TV Australia, Country Press Australia and the Public Interest Journalism Initiative. Also appearing were Government agencies Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Read more about the CBAA’s submission.

Read the full transcript.

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