Daniel Andrews’ newspaper ad ban dubbed dangerous and discriminatory

The Victorian opposition has accused Daniel Andrews of endangering public safety with his snap decision to cease virtually all government advertising in print newspapers.

From next month, public service campaigns covering everything from bush fire preparedness to health and wellbeing will exclude the Herald Sun and The Age.

News Corp Australia’s managing director Michael Miller labelled the unprecedented call by the government “an act of spite against those who dare hold it to account”.

Several non-government organisations, including the Council of the Ageing Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria, have expressed concern about the implications.

Tim Bull, the Coalition’s spokesman for disability, ageing and carers, said seniors will “suffer” as a result of vital information being stripped from their main sources of news.

“The reality is we have a number of seniors who do not own smart phones or a computer, and as they have done for decades, rely on the daily papers for their information,” Bull said.

Ending newspaper advertising “discriminates against older people”, he said.

Data from the Australian Digital Inclusion Index shows 42% of people aged 75 and older are seen as being highly digitally excluded.

“And as an MP representing a rural region dependent on tourism, I also note the concern of tourism bodies warning other states will capitalise on the advertising vacuum to lure Victorians to their destinations rather that holidaying in our regions,” Bull said.

Michael Miller has labelled the decision “an act of spite”.

Ann-Marie Hermans, the Liberal Nationals’ spokesperson for emergency services, said daily papers are a source of important information about weather concerns, bushfire updates, the road toll and health and safety initiatives.

“Some of our most vulnerable community members rely on printed information for emergency updates and warnings,” Hermans said.

“Banning government print advertising significantly reduces communication with the aged and vulnerable communities who need it the most.”

The Herald Sun is Australia’s biggest-selling masthead and almost half of all Victorians read a newspaper each month, with 2.6 million picking up a copy of the Herald Sun or The Age paper.

Of the $84.6 million spent on government ads in 2019-20, 14.7% went to newspaper spots, equating to roughly $12.4 million.

“Advertising is an important part of promoting the work of the government in our hospitals, our schools and kinders, our transport infrastructure projects and our $31.5b tourism sector – boosting our economy and creating jobs,” a Victorian Government spokesperson said.

“We’re also finding kinder teachers to give our youngest Victorians the best start in life, hospital workers to look after Victorians, and the best people to build roads, remove level crossings and build the infrastructure a growing Victoria needs.

“As we return to pre-pandemic levels of annual advertising, and ensuring value for money, television and digital channels will remain an important part of the government’s advertising agenda.”

Victoria’s government advertising is purchased through a function known as Master Agency Media Services (MAMS), via a contract managed by Treasury.

OMD currently holds the MAMS contract.


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