Regional media risks ‘losing voice’ amid cuts and Govt apathy, warns Prime Media chairman


Speaking at an event to celebrate Prime 7’s 50th anniversary, the former News Corp chief executive said the regions are suffering, with recent cuts by ABC and Fairfax eroding services and “reducing the number of voices in the national debate”.

In March, Fairfax confirmed a plan for 80 redundancies of full-time equivalent positions across Victoria including 62 editorial roles. Management, sub-editing, photographic, administration and some sales positions are also affected.

Hartigan called on politicians in the regions to stand up and fight for regional media.

“We are now living in the era of the internet, high speed broadband, catch up TV services and online streaming, just to name a few. All this brings significant competition to our broadcasting services,” Hartigan said.

“We welcome competition, but meeting this competition is challenging when regional broadcasters remain shackled by antiquated and anomalous regulations in what is now essentially a borderless media environment.

“The greatest risk facing our industry is the number of regional voices in the national debate will decline further and the consequences for regional Australia will be profound.”

Referring to cuts to regional media by ABC and Fairfax in the past 12 months, Hartigan added: “Make no mistake, it’s happening now.

“Regional media and the capacity for regional Australians to participate in the national debate is under threat”.

Hartigan said his early years spent in country Australia gave him an insight into the struggles experienced by regional media compared with counterparts in the cities.

He said regional media is “scrambling to compete”, and does not have the “opportunities afforded to media companies operating in the metropolitan cities or overseas”.

“Unless the government takes steps to address the inequities, regional media will be relegated to the role of the country cousin.”

Hartigan urged politicians who serve regional and rural communities to “stand up and be counted”.

“On your watch, are you prepared to sit on the sidelines and witness the erosion of regional voices and regional jobs? I hope the answer is no,” he said, adding that communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has demonstrated “apathy” in tackling “serious imbalances in the market”.

“We at Prime are proud of our commitment to the local community and we believe that regional stories are an integral part of the nation’s tapestry and that regional Australians deserve a voice,” Hartigan said. “Let’s hope that sentiment is shared by the heavyweights in Canberra.”


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