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Ray Martin fronts regional media campaign pushing for media ownership law reform

Regional media companies have banded together to demand law reform through a new TV, radio, and newspaper campaign titled ‘Save our voices’, fronted by veteran journalist Ray Martin.

Australian Community Media (ACM), Prime Media Group, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), and WIN Network said laws preventing consolidation threaten the future of regional media, and the 9.2m Australians who rely on it.

The campaign launches with a series of ads across TV, radio, and newspapers, and a website – www.saveourvoices.com.au – going live tonight.

Martin fronts the campaign

Ray Martin interviewed industry leaders, politicians, and community figures for the campaign, which ACM boss Antony Catalano said is crucial to draw attention to the role regional media plays, and the regulation reform it needs to survive. Earlier this year, ACM suspended non-daily newspapers and stood down hundreds of employees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has since closed three printing sites.

“To keep the voices of regional Australia strong and to keep our trusted local news services viable, regional media needs to be able to make commercially sensible decisions that allow us to stay profitable, sustainable and self-sufficient,” Catalano said.

“Regional media outlets that have been part of their communities for decades – and in the case of a number of ACM’s newspapers more than 150 years – need the freedom to structure our businesses efficiently so we can achieve the scale necessary to compete with the unregulated digital services of metropolitan media and global internet giants.”

Prime, SCA, and WIN have submitted a plan to the government which “will enable regional media businesses to more effectively compete against international and metropolitan media companies now operating in regional media markets”

“Media ownership laws blocking regional media companies from operating efficiently are outdated and from the pre-internet era,” explained WIN’s CEO, Andrew Lancaster.

“To continue to provide essential news, information and support services to regional Australia, our industry needs modern regulations that reflect the dramatic increase in competition facilitated by the NBN.”

Grant Blackley, SCA’s chief executive and chair of the Boomtown committee, added that 40% of small to medium businesses are located in regional Australia.

“We should envision a better place where there is a strong and sustainable local voice and where government recognises the contribution of people and businesses outside the capital cities,” he said.

And Prime boss Ian Audsley acknowledged the assistance of the government’s $55m Public Internet News Gathering fund – which funds public interest journalism in regional communities throughout the pandemic – and Jobkeeper programs, but noted that “we need the government to act quickly again on a more economically sustainable plan to ensure regional Australians receive the very best local media services beyond 2021”.

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