Government’s $5m support fund for small and regional publishers opens for applications

The Morrison Government’s $5m fund to support small and regional publishers through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has opened with a maximum of $400,000 available for each applicant.

The funding has been fast-tracked according to Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher and will be administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Fletcher (left) has announced the $5m fund is open for applications

The money comes from a bigger $48m fund announced in 2018 and has been tipped to support public interest journalism. The $5m grant has been called ‘wholly inadequate’ by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA).

According to Fletcher, the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund will assist regional and metropolitan news publishers with the significant challenges they face in the current media landscape and resulting from the public health response to COVID-19.

“We recognise the significant pressures our media industry is facing and in bringing forward this round of the program we are supporting publishers to sustain the important work they do in delivering news and information to local communities at this critical time for our nation,” Fletcher said.

“We’ve broadened the criteria so more organisations are eligible to apply for grants to get this money to where it is needed as quickly as possible.”

Funds will be available to eligible applicants to support the costs associated with public interest newsgathering, which can include staff training, new digital technology and website upgrades.

The ACMA will assess each application for the 2020 Round in accordance with the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund: 2020 Grant Opportunity Guidelines, working closely with an Independent Advisory Committee.

Applications are now open for a four-week period closing on 22 May 2020, with successful applicants expected to be announced in July 2020. Publishers can apply through the ACMA website.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the funding will assist publishers of public interest journalism, particularly in regional areas.

“The Innovation Fund has a strong record of helping publishers improve their sustainability and develop a range of innovative projects,” O’Loughlin said.

“We hope to see a diversity of publishers from all over Australia apply for this grant. It is designed to assist publishers adapt to the challenges in the evolving media landscape.”

In a piece written for The Guardian, Fletcher pointed to the jobseeker and jobkeeper payments in response to the ongoing allegations that the government isn’t doing enough to support the entertainment and arts industries through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Typically work in the arts sector is collaborative and project-based – with a group of people working on the project under different arrangements. Some are full-time employees, some are contracted for the life of the project, some are casuals employed for just a short time,” Fletcher said.

“The government has deliberately structured a range of support arrangements which responds to this variety of employment arrangements.”

However, the payments have come under fire from the industry for not considering workers who are on a casual or freelance basis, which reflects a large portion of the film and TV industry.

The Government also this week announced the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will develop a mandatory code to address commercial bargaining imbalances between digital platforms and news media businesses. The code will cover the sharing of data, ranking and display of news content and the monetisation and sharing of revenue generated from news.


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