Your newspaper in peril: Newspaper publishers unite to ask for help to maintain the printing of regional newspapers | News from the region

news, regional newspapers, Antony Catalano, Barnaby Joyce, media, local news

The news you read in your favorite local newspaper is worth more than the paper it’s printed on. But the cost of the paper it’s printed on is about to skyrocket, threatening the very existence of your local newspaper. This week, ACM – Australia’s largest regional news publisher and owner of this masthead – is putting the crisis facing regional newspapers on the front pages across the country under the headline ‘Your Newspaper at Risk’. The ACM was recently informed that Australia’s sole supplier of newsprint used for regional newspapers will soon raise prices by up to 80 per cent. For ACM’s 140 newspapers and the 190 smaller independent newspapers represented by Country Press Australia, the impact could be catastrophic – threatening regional news coverage and journalism jobs. “Regional communities around Australia will be horrified and angered by the prospect of losing local jobs and local newspapers,” ACM Executive Chairman Antony Catalano and CPA Chairman Andrew Manuel told the key Liberal, Labor and National leaders in a joint letter. Together, ACM and CPA are calling for bipartisan support for emergency financial assistance to save regional newspaper publishing. “Our readers are passionate about their local newspapers and we expect them to react strongly to closures, changes in frequency or huge increases in the price of cover,” write MM. Catalano and Manuel. When ACM told a federal parliamentary inquiry in February that an impending newsprint price increase would threaten the viability of its newspapers, the price increase was expected to be in the order of 30%. READ MORE But when new newsprint prices from July 1 were recently confirmed by the supplier, the cost had skyrocketed by as much as 80%. “An increase of this magnitude, imposed by Australia’s only newsprint supplier, almost defies the imagination,” said Messrs. Catalano and Manuel. “Our titles do vital good to the community and we are devastated that their future is about to be snatched away by a factor that we simply cannot control.” The letter sent to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, Labor Communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland and Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce warns that without urgent financial help: The ACM network of 140 newspapers includes 14 daily titles such as The Canberra Times and Newcastle Herald. The company employs more than 1,300 people across the country, including 600 journalists. In its detailed submission to the recent parliamentary inquiry into regional newspapers, the ACM said it did not want to “become dependent on continued government subsidies” and instead recommended guaranteed levels of annual government advertising in regional newspapers and tax refunds for regional businesses that advertise in their local newspaper. The final report of the investigation released in March supports a number of practical measures recommended by the ACM. In their joint letter to the principal parties, CMA and CPA note that the tax relief they had recommended at the inquiry as a means of offsetting rising newsprint prices would not be enough. READ MORE “An 80% increase in such short notice means we now need immediate financial assistance to avoid closures and job losses,” write Messrs. Catalano and Manual. “We understand the government is in caretaker mode, but by the time the election is held, we will only be weeks away from an unsustainable increase in our costs.” Labor said it was ready to work with the Coalition to formulate a “crisis response” under the interim conventions. “Intervention to support public interest journalism, including direct grants, must be done within a principled and evidence-based framework,” said Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce acknowledged that “the Fourth Estate is incredibly important”, but refrained from pledging to support regional newspapers with emergency funding. “You can’t have democracy, even when it comes to local levels of government, unless you have investigative journalism,” he said. “You might not like them all the time, but they’re vitally important to spreading the stories.” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher met with ACM and CPA officials this week for a briefing on the emergency support needed to prevent closures and job losses.

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