Federal government to announce Publishers Innovation Fund winners next week

Communications minister Mitch Fifield will announce the first round of successful applicants of the federal government’s Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund next week, Mumbrella understands.

The first round of the scheme, originally scheduled for a July launch, will see $16m of grants given to publishers for projects to help them compete in an evolving media environment.

While the initial delays in the scheme were due to legislative changes required to give ACMA the power to manage the scheme, Mumbrella understands the agency was overwhelmed by the response which saw publishers submit 186 grant applications.

The industry evaluation committee, headed by PwC’s Megan Brownlow, handed down its recommendations in late October with ACMA working on processing the grants since.

A number of publishers made multiple applications under the three tiers of the scheme which offered grants of up to $20,000 for small projects, up to $250,000 from medium-sized initiatives and over $250,000 for schemes promising a significant impact on the provision and availability of public interest journalism.

The criteria for publishers eligible under the scheme narrowed the field with publications associated with political parties, trade unions and lobby groups such as GetUp excluded.

The fund is worth $60m, according to the government

The requirement that publishers had to be members of the Australian Press Council was dropped, instead being replaced with a requirement that applicants had a code of conduct and a “robust and transparent process” for complaints.

Next week’s launch comes at time when a number of private sector funds have been announced, with Media Super launching a $20m innovation fund for publishers in September, Google launching its Asia-Pacific innovation challenge offering up to US$300,000 for publishers’ projects and Sydney billionaire Judith Neilson launching a $100m journalism fund in November.

Despite the scheme not yet being launched, the ACCC flagged in its interim digital platforms report released yesterday that it wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of the scheme when it expires in 2021.

Applications for the second round of funding are due to open in the new year.


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