Budget 2021: AAP receives funding boost, regional in focus and ACMA gains additional support

The Federal Government handed down the 2021 budget overnight, with several areas of the media, tech and regulatory sectors to receive funding boosts.

A joint release by Minister Paul Fletcher and Minister Mark Coulton recognised that the pandemic had created ongoing challenges for the arts sector, and also outlined the importance of digital service delivery for the economy going forward.

Josh Frydenberg hands down the 2021 Budget / Twitter

Regional was a significant theme, both in terms of funding journalism in regional areas and ensuring regional connectivity, with the government committing a further $84.4 million to its Regional Connectivity Program, which will go towards 81 telecommunications infrastructure projects.

The government will also provide $15 million over two years to the Australian Associated Press Newswire (AAP), following an initial commitment of $5 million in the back end of 2020.

The funding will support the AAP’s provision of newswire services to regional media outlets across Australia so that regional media can concentrate on local news stories.

AAP CEO, Emma Cowdroy, welcomed the news. “In the context of AAP’s exclusion from the Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, this grant will help underpin the AAP newswire on its path to sustainability.

“The AAP newswire is an essential part of our democratic infrastructure. Supporting the national newswire means supporting the industry as a whole.”

The MEAA’s chief executive, Paul Murphy, added: ““AAP performs an essential service by providing balanced, independent and trusted news from all over Australia to dozens of outlets large and small.

“We commend the federal government and the MPs who took up the AAP cause for providing some financial certainty over the next two years with this new funding of $15 million.”

There was also $8 million in the budget for community broadcasting, with a specific focus on community radio. The additional support comes in recognition of the contribution community radio played during the 2019-20 bushfires and 2020 pandemic, with 450 community radio stations to benefit.

The MEAA’s Murphy welcomed this funding too, but called on the government to clarify funding future for the ABC and SBS. “Overall, funding of public broadcasters will fall in real terms with nothing to replace the massive cuts since 2013.

“The expected cessation of the regional and local news gathering funding is short-sighted and will hurt those communities it is meant to help.”

Following the introduction of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code into law as a means of allowing news businesses to bargain with digital platforms like Facebook and Google to charge for news, the government has pledged additional funding.

There will be $4.2 million to implement the code, which will be provided to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) over three years to enable the regulator to perform functions including registering news businesses, and maintaining a register of arbitrators.

Minister Fletcher said: “Digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way that media content is produced, distributed and consumed, which is why the Morrison Government introduced this world-leading Code, to support a diverse and sustainable Australian news media sector.

“Our investment will enable ACMA to fulfil its functions under the code.”

As part of its Digital Economy Strategy, there will be $18.8 million provided in funding over four years for a new Digital Games Tax Offset.

The Offset will give a 30% refundable tax offset for qualifying Australian digital games expenditure ongoing from 1 July, 2022. Its goal is to drive investment and growth in the sector, to help Australia share in more of the approximately $250 billion global video games development market.

Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) CEO Andrea Martens, said the budget’s support for digital infrastructure and digital skills are critical for competitiveness, as the Australian economy rebounds post COVID.

“We were heartened that AI, cyber security and digital cadetships were identified as key to encouraging more innovation in Australia, three things that ADMA believes allows our industry to grow further and be internationally competitive,” she said.

Small and family businesses were also identified by the treasurer as being the “engine room” of the economy, which is something ADMA has focused on with the development of sole traders and small business training programs.

“As more flexibility, freelancers and working from home have become prevalent within our industry, investment into small business will allow more training for those who are not part of bigger organisations,” Martens added.

In broadcast television, there will be an additional $11.9 million provided to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) to support the development and distribution of quality Australian children’s content.

The ACTF has historically played a key role in programs including Round The Twist and Dance Academy, and more recently, shows including Bluey.

The government said the funding will assist the ACTF to support producers of children’s content as the regulatory and funding framework that underpins Australian content is modernised.

There will be a total of almost $300 million invested in the reopening of Australia’s creative and cultural sector. This will include $125.6 million in RISE grants for productions festivals and events, with $50.8 million for the Temporary Interruption Fund for the screen industry.

There’s also $20 million in grants providing support to independent cinemas, and $75 million to reinstate the 40% Producer Offset Rate for Australian film of creative and cultural significance.

$20 million has been granted to various arts organisations including $10 million for the music charity Support Act, and $5 million is going towards national performing arts touring.

Multiple cultural institutions will also receive additional funding, from a pool of $85.4 million, to help them improve financial stability and undertake capital works.

These include the National Film and Sound Archive, which contains more than 3 million culturally significant items including pieces of film, television, sound, radio, video games, new media, and related documents and artifacts.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.