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15 July, 2021

Katter supports regional journalists

JOB losses along with the closure and downgrading of local media coverage by the major media players has prompted the launch of a “Regional Journalism Rescue Plan” from Katter’s Australian Party.

By Peter McCullagh

Launched this week the “Regional Journalism Rescue Plan” in a bid to secure State and Federal Government support for regional journalists, photographers and cameramen who continue to be affected by the sector’s unprecedented instability.  

Katter’s plan provides support for job security of journalists in Regional Australia.

Communities deserve to have local news, created by local people who invest in the future prosperity of the region.

The push to develop this plan has been brought after the Queensland Government made changes to legislation that prevented Government bodies from advertising in regional print publications.

 KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said in recent years Queensland’s rural and regional communities had been failed by media bosses trading regional papers and bulletins for metro ratings, and that the Government needed to make legislative changes in support of the industry.

 More than 125 Australian newspapers were impacted last year when News Corp restructured its print business, with the majority of papers closed and some moved to digital-only mediums.

Since the closure by News Corp of many of their regional papers, new independently owned and operated papers have stepped in to fill the void created by News Corp’s closures.

Cairns Local News is one such newspaper. Covering not just Cairns, but also the Cassowary Coast and Mossman / Port Douglas, Cairns Local News provides an essential news service to residents impacted by the closure of the Innisfail Advocate and the Mossman Port Douglas Gazette.

Cairns Local News’ editor Peter McCullagh believed is it important to put local back into newspaper.

“The trend over the past 15 years shows the major players reducing their local content and pushing readers to an on-line platform.

“With a tight economy readers cannot afford the paywall subscription and most importantly, not everyone wants to read their news on-line,” he said.

Earlier this year News Corp made 70 photographers redundant including one here in Cairns.

News Corp also plan to cease deliveries of their remaining papers to the western and remote areas of Queensland, another move that impacts severely upon the availability of news in regional Queensland.

The winding back of local news and diversity of voice in the presentation of news in Queensland is not an issue exclusive to newspapers.

Mr Katter is equally disappointed that Win News was moving to a state-wide evening bulletin as part of its merger with Nine, which would cost dozens of jobs in the regions.

In addition to this, Southern Cross Austereo the broadcaster in regional Queensland for Network Ten do not have a local news service, further limiting the access to local news in our communities.

 “A well-informed public is vital to the functioning of a democracy and while I’m sure certain political leaders in our midst would prefer less scrutiny, KAP MPs are not among them,” Mr Katter said.

 “Local journalism is on its knees, and this is in no one’s best interest,

“If the Government and media organisations work cohesively, we believe new opportunities can be created for journalism in regional Queensland.

 “Moreover, this plan could serve as a blueprint for the rest of the country.”

Mr Katter said society was poorer if there were fewer professional journalists working in local communities.

 “When it comes to news, local content is key; we need trusted local media voices to inform our communities of local events and issues,” he said.

 “I applaud those start-up newspapers that have popped up in place of closed publications – as communities and as a Government, we should now be doing all we can to support them.”

 Greg Watson from the Queensland Country Press Association said there were some real glimmers of hope in Queensland’s print sector.

 “There is a resurgence going on in Queensland Country Newspapers with over thirty news and/or independent publication start-ups since News Corp have stopped printing in regional communities,” he said. 

 “These regional independent outlets have been strongly welcomed by the communities; I think when the papers closed there was an outpouring from communities who have lost their local newspaper.”

 Mr Katter said the KAP would write to both the State and Federal Governments seeking their assistance in providing a strong and sustainable future for regional journalism.

 Further KAP Kennedy MP Bob Katter will meet with the Federal Government’s Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, at the next sitting of Parliament to discuss the decline of regional media.

 Mr Katter said that regional TV stations had a monopoly over the market because they are handed out a limited number of licences and should be reminded of their obligations to provide local news.

 “One station in regional Queensland has stopped all its local news and another has cut back to a state-wide service, this isn’t acceptable,” he said.

 “We will have lost around 30 reporters and camera operators in North Queensland and the Federal Government has just rolled over; the regional networks need to be hauled in to front of the Minister and read the riot act.

 “We need our stories told in the regions; the cities already ignore us enough as it is.”

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