ABC adds 50+ journalists following payments for news content

The ABC has added over 50 additional journalist roles in regional locations as a result of deals struck with Meta (formerly Facebook Inc) and Google.

Following the passage of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code in February, which included the public broadcasters, the ABC entered into commercial negotiations with the digital platforms.

Finalised agreements with Meta and Google were signed in November 2021. Revenue from both will go towards increasing the ABC’s investment in regional and rural journalism across Australia, for example adding additional reporters.

NineNews CorpSeven West MediaAustralian Community Media (ACM) and The Guardian have also signed commercial deals with Google and Meta. Other news organisations that have collectively bargained with Meta and Google, following authorisation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), including Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and the Country Press Association (CPA).

The ABC currently employs around 550 content makers in its 48 regional bureau. The new roles created by this agreement represent an increase in the number of regional journalists of around 10%

In the first 12 months of the roll out, the ABC will run a series of pilots to inform longer term planning. All positions and placements will be reviewed towards the end of 2022. The initiatives build on the investment the ABC made in regional Australia in 2017 when it put in 83 additional positions to support the upgrade of its regional bureau to multimedia hubs.

Starting next week, the ABC will begin placing journalists in more than 20 locations in all states and the Northern Territory with all positions expected to be filled by early 2022.

Some positions will be located in existing ABC regional bureau and others will be placed in areas that have not had an ABC presence before.

ABC managing director, David Anderson, said the agreements provided a significant boost to the ABC’s services in regional areas.

“We decided at the very start of these negotiations that any net revenue we received from these deals would go where it is needed most – and that is in regional Australia,” he explained.

Anderson added that the ABC would be placing the additional journalists into the areas where they were needed most and would have the most impact.

“We want to provide greater coverage of regional stories in areas that are under-served by the media or are in news deserts. Extra regional services are a great way to start 2022, our 90th year, and this announcement is fitting given the ABC’s relationship with rural and regional Australia over those nine decades,” he said.

Five ‘mini-bureaus’ will be trialled in Warragul, Batemans Bay, Carnarvon, Hervey Bay and Charleville.

Individual reporters will be placed in Swan Hill, Whyalla, Victor Harbor, Northam and Gladstone where there are currently no ABC reporters based.

Regional hubs that serve large areas will also get additional support in Horsham, Burnie, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Katherine, Esperance, Karratha, Longreach and Toowoomba. Reporters will also be embedded for limited times in other, more remote locations.

In addition to these roles, several new national specialist rounds will be added to the ABC’s regional team, covering topics such as water, mining, social affairs and health.

ABC’s acclaimed regional youth initiative ABC Heywire, also benefits, with plans to embed teams in regional locations, starting in Victoria and focusing on the stories and issues impacting young people in the region.


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