Morrison Government reveals 107 publishers and broadcasters to benefit from $50m PING program

The Morrison Government’s $50m Public Interest News Gathering (PING) Program will see 107 regional publishers and broadcasters receive funding to support news services operating in rural and regional areas in 2020-21.

The Government began contacting successful parties for the grant on Sunday. Approximately 130 applications were received, with minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher, saying the funding will turn around the futures of some media businesses.

Minister Fletcher

“These are unprecedented circumstances in regional media – with COVID-19 triggering catastrophic drops in advertising revenue leading to many newspapers suspending operations and threatening the sustainability of regional broadcasters,” said Fletcher.

“Through this program the Government is providing $20 million for television, $18 million for publishing and $12 million for radio, with funds to flow from July.

“Public interest journalism is critical to keeping communities informed. PING will provide direct support for the continued provision of local and regional journalism, which has never been more important than in recent times when communities across Australia need access to trusted sources of news and information.”

92 of the successful 107 applicants are publishers, 13 radio businesses and five are television. Three were successful across two of the streams.

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) is one of the businesses which will receive a payout from the grant, announcing to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) that it will receive around $10m in funding.

SCA was found eligible for the grant under both the regional radio stream and through the television stream with its regional television licenses. SCA CEO Grant Blackley said the funding would help keep the business afloat in a trying time.

“Regional communities and businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19. As Australia’s largest regional media business, SCA is no exception. This funding will assist SCA‘s network of radio and television stations continue to keep 8.8m Australians and their local communities in regional and remote Australia informed about news and events that matter most to them,” said Blackley.

Despite the size and scale of SCA, Fletcher noted most successful applicants were smaller operators.

“The majority of the publishers receiving grants under this program operate small‑to‑medium businesses. Local papers are the life-blood of many towns across Australia. They connect communities and keep people informed,” said Fletcher.

“Successful applicants will put these funds to good use to support a broad range of activities such as staff wages, training and technology upgrades that will allow them to keep delivering news that local communities need and want.”

One of the conditions of the payout is that publishers put suspended publications back into print. Australian Community Media (ACM), which came under fire early on in the COVID-19 pandemic for its suspension of a number of publications, has announced printing will resume this week.

ACM chief executive officer Allen Williams urged audiences and advertisers to support their local newspaper by buying a copy, taking out a digital subscription or booking an advertisement.

“We are showing our commitment to regional media and the important role our local newspapers play in keeping their areas informed, however as we’ve seen with recent closures by other publishers these titles need support to prosper,” Williams said.

“We’re certainly grateful for the many supportive messages ACM’s trusted mastheads have received from loyal readers, customers and community leaders who say they have missed the local newspaper.

“Now we need those communities to rally around the local paper and our dedicated journalists and advertising sales staff so these titles can return to sustainably serving regional readers and advertisers.”

Non-daily mastheads such as the Goulburn Post, Wimmera Mail-Times, the Maitland Mercury, Southern Highland News, North West Star, The Area News, Armidale Express and Port Macquarie News will all return to print in the coming days.

Williams also confirmed ACM had received confirmation of a payout under the PING project.

“I am pleased to say that the amount of the proposed grant to ACM reflects the scale of our commitment to regional media in Australia,” Williams said.

“We will now work through the details of the grant offer and what it means for our business.”


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.