NSW Government faces backlash for insufficient measures in Multicultural Media Review

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The New South Wales government has this week released its 2023 Multicultural Media and Policy Review Report, following a review of government advertising practices in the multicultural media sector.

The review was completed by the Department of Customer Service (DCS) and Multicultural NSW, and involved consultation with multicultural media outlets and government agencies.

Members of Independent Multicultural Media Australia (IMMA), including The Greek Herald, La Fiama, Monthly Muktamancha, Turkish News-Press, Indian Link, Persian Herald, Macedonian Weekly, Chinese Herald, (Vietnamese) Sunrise Newspaper, (Arabic) El Telegraph, and Neos Kosmos, had met with representatives from the DCS over the past 18 months, with no significant progress made.

The Greek Herald spoke to media representatives that participated in the review and found it focused primarily on workflow and the message to DCS of their concerns had become diluted and the narrative lost.

the greek herald
The Greek Herald, along with other multicultural media outlets, engaged in consultations with the DCS.

Following these consultations, the 2023 Multicultural Media and Policy Review Report has made 10 recommendations which the NSW Government will adopt when working with multicultural media outlets.

In summary, these recommendations include:

  1. NSW Government departments to tailor their outreach efforts to multicultural communities and languages by adopting a case-by-case approach.
  2. Raising the required expenditure targeting multicultural and First Nations communities in government information campaigns from 7.5 percent to 9 percent.
  3. Implementing more robust data collection and reporting practices to enhance understanding of media consumption behaviour within NSW multicultural and First Nations communities.
  4. NSW Government should retain current arrangements for placement of government advertising (via the contracted media agency and intermediary agency) based on the comparison with alternative models (detailed in the report).
  5. NSW Government to develop an action plan for increasing consideration of traditional multicultural media to stem steep decline.
  6. Increasing the total number of languages targeted across advertising campaigns.
  7. Annual reporting on multicultural and Aboriginal advertising spend.
  8. NSW Government to require its contracted media planners and placement agents to increase their knowledge and consideration of local digital multicultural channels.
  9. Increase NSW Government’s knowledge and consideration of independent multicultural media.
  10. Department of Customer Service to report on the proposed approach to reach multicultural audiences in the Cabinet Submissions for campaigns over $1 million.

The NSW Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Jihad Dib said these findings mark “an important step forward” in the government’s drive “for a more inclusive approach to government communications.”

“The increased focus on distributing information through independent multicultural and First Nations media will help ensure government agencies are sharing important messages with the diverse communities of NSW,” Minister Dib said.

“The detailed findings of this review provide a roadmap for the NSW Government to build further understanding, transparency and effectiveness of its multicultural advertising practices.”

The NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper also responded to the report recommendations and said the state government’s “advertising campaigns should be targeted to reach all communities with important messages.”

This comes after Minister Kamper was unable to answer questions during Budget Estimates in NSW Parliament last week regarding the government’s pre-election commitment to offer greater support to independent multicultural media.

nsw minister for multiculturalism steve kamper mp
NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper MP at Budget Estimates on Tuesday, February 20. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer / The Sydney Morning Herald.

Key concerns not yet addressed:

IMMA members have since responded to the report recommendations, saying the NSW Government needs to do more to support multicultural media outlets.

“While we acknowledge the government’s effort to address the issue of advertising spend reporting and make improvements, we believe that the current recommendations put forward in the review report do not adequately address the challenges faced by independent multicultural media outlets that have been raised in both round-table discussions over an 18-month period and during the review process,” IMMA member and Publisher at The Greek Herald, Dimitra Skalkos, stressed.

IMMA Secretary Fotis Kapetopoulos added that “DCS has provided a map of the whole multicultural media ecology and did so with significant detail,” but was disappointed IMMA’s role as an organisation was not acknowledged in the report.

“While the report mentions individual members of IMMA, it does not make clear that IMMA initiated the discussions with DCS and Multicultural NSW, representing some 30+ media organisations,” Mr Kapetopoulos said.

IMMA members added that although they appreciate the increase in advertising spend from 7.5 per cent to 9 per cent, the current 7.5 per cent allocation already fails to reach independent multicultural media outlets.

This was a key concern IMMA raised with the NSW Government during extensive discussions. The Association referenced the Victorian government’s position as a model where advertising spend was increased to 15 per cent, excluding translation services and expenditure with the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

The NSW government’s increase to 9 per cent still includes SBS, which is already a government-funded organisation, as well as overseas media platforms and social media giants, thereby not effectively supporting independent multicultural media in Australia.

Other issues of concern raised by IMMA include how the report does not mandate spend with independent multicultural media, and it identifies a significant decrease in print or “traditional” media spend, despite market research reflecting it is a more trusted source of information in multicultural communities.

“The report identifies platforms in the multicultural media ecology, yet it takes the OMD agency’s binary view of ‘traditional media’ and ‘digital media’,” Mr Kapetopoulos said. 

the greek herald
Other issues of concern raised by IMMA include how the report identifies a significant decrease in print or “traditional” media spend.

The recommendations also only state that government contracted media planners and placement agents increase their knowledge and consideration of local digital multicultural channels.

This does not align with the pre-election commitment to reduce the reliance on multinational social media platforms in favour of home-grown digital media channels.

Currently, the contracted media planners are predominantly spending their digital budget with overseas platforms and social media giants, despite the presence of multiple active digital platforms and social media channels operated by independent multicultural media outlets that have a wide reach and directly engage with their communities.

“Independent multicultural media employ journalists who have deep connections to the communities they serve. Unlike foreign digital platforms, they are seen as these communities’ valid media voices in heritage languages and English,” Mr Kapetopoulos said.

IMMA said the sustainability of multicultural media in NSW was also a key concern not addressed by the report.

The government made a pre-election commitment to develop “ways to support digital transformation and journalistic excellence in the multicultural media sector.” IMMA members were told this commitment would be fulfilled through grants and government funding, none of which have been raised in the report.

Members of IMMA will continue to work with NSW government during this ongoing review process to ensure they remain viable into the future.

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