Activists, trade unions and foreigners banned as Federal government’s publishers innovation fund opens

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has opened its innovation fund for small and regional publishers with strict provisos ruling out access to publications associated with political parties, trade unions and lobby groups.

Part of the Federal government’s media reform package, the fund will offer up to $16m across three tiers of funding for projects helping publishers and content providers compete in the evolving media environment.

To qualify for the grants, applicants must be incorporated Australian companies with an annual average turnover of more than $150,000 but less than $30m for the three years prior to lodging the application.

Notable in the criteria is that the requirement initially mooted that applicants be members of the Australian Press Council instead stating: “applicants must have a code of conduct, guidelines or similar framework relating to the provision of quality journalism. This could include adherence to the Standards of Practice established by the Australian Press Council.”

Along with a code of conduct, applicants will need a “robust and transparent process’ for complaints, which ACMA suggests could include complying with Australian Press Council’s processes.”

Further requirements on applicants reflect the political horse trading that saw the scheme stuck in the Senate earlier this year and delaying the fund beyond its 1 July launch date.

The key sticking point with Senators was the local ownership requirements with the scheme now only being available to companies in which “Australian residents or Australian entities, either alone or in aggregate, hold a majority interest.”

Another consideration for applicants is the provision that “applicants must not be formally affiliated with a political party, union, financial institution, non-government organisation or policy lobby group.”

The first round of funding applications under the program will close on July 27. Details on the grants are available at the ACMA website.


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