Over the last few months over 150 newsrooms have closed doors and since the lockdown it is unclear if they will reopen.
“The crisis is unprecedented and for Australia it’s a triple whammy of ongoing long-term effects of digital platforms, the coronavirus effect, which unfortunately may generate some irreversible changes, and the bushfires had some effect,” Public Interest Journalism Initiative chairman Allan Fels told Guardian Australia.
“Public interest journalism is an important part of our community and our political system. It keeps the public informed; it helps the community keep an eye on what governments, courts and others are doing; it’s an antidote to corruption, malpractice and incompetence in management of the public sector and whistleblowing in the private sector,” Fels said.
Ad revenue in decline
Paul Murphy, president of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance says the pandemic may not have single handedly caused the fallout, but rather exacerbated the issues in an already struggling industry.
“The government has finally put in place that $50m regional fund recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last year,” Murphy told Guardian Australia.
“I think most major media organisations are reporting bigger audiences and people are relying on trusted news sources – but the revenue just doesn’t follow.”
“The two biggest holes are if nothing replaces AAP and finding a way to address the growing local and regional news deserts.
“There has to be a way found to make these digital platforms pay for the content they’re carrying,” Murphy said.
“Otherwise you’re just going to continue seeing decline. I mean obviously there are other policy tools the government can use like tax concessions.”
Speaking specifically on Australian Community Media (ACM) and News Corp, Murphy added, “Years of redundancies and cost-cutting hollowed out those newspapers.
“It depends on how the advertising market rebounds. Print comes with considerable cost and if the advertising revenue is not there it may well accelerate the move to only publishing online,” Murphy said