Steve Kamper MP stumbles when pressed on multicultural media neglect in NSW

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During his Budget Estimates hearing in New South Wales Parliament on Tuesday, February 20, the Minister for Multiculturalism, Steve Kamper MP, was unable to answer when questioned about the government’s pre-election commitment to offer greater support to independent multicultural media.

In March 2023, Minister Kamper announced that NSW Labor would review the state government’s advertising practices to ensure the role of the independent multicultural media is elevated and supported. This was matched by then-NSW Multicultural Minister Mark Coure who said if re-elected, the NSW Liberals would double the proportion of mandatory multicultural advertising spend for government departments from 7.5 percent to 15 percent.

In a message seen by The Greek Herald, Minister Kamper also said that $2 million in funding for multicultural media was approved in the budget prior to the election.

Almost one year since being elected to power, the NSW government has broken its promises and independent multicultural media around the state continue to lobby for a fair share in advertising spend and to ensure media dollars actually go towards supporting them.

Kamper stumbles:

In Budget Estimates on Tuesday, the Deputy Opposition Whip in the Legislative Council, Wes Fang MLC, questioned Minister Kamper about what stage the proposed review was at.

The Minister replied that the review into multicultural media had been conducted by the Department of Customer Service (DCS), which falls under the control of Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Jihad Dib MP.

“The Department of Customer Service has undertaken extensive stakeholder engagement so we can get it right,” Minister Kamper said.

When pushed on what the outcome of the review was, Minister Kamper was unable to answer and appeared flustered as he palmed the question off to the CEO of Multicultural NSW, Joseph La Posta.

Steve-Kamper-Minister-for-Multiculturalism-NSW
Steve Kamper MP was unable to answer questions on multicultural media.

Mr La Posta confirmed that Multicultural NSW had been working closely with the DCS “to make sure the voices of our multicultural media agencies is heard and understood.”

“There was a commitment made around reviewing the [advertising] spend to multicultural media and as the Minister [Kamper] said, it was one of the key pillars around trying to boost the investment in that space to ensure the lived experience and blockages that had occurred in communicating with multicultural communities were addressed,” Mr La Posta said.

“The review has since been concluded and Cabinet has made a decision. It is a decision for Minister Dib to announce.”

Mr La Posta then thanked independent multicultural media outlets for taking part in the review and helping the NSW Government form a potential solution.

Members of Independent Multicultural Media Australia (IMMA), including The Greek Herald, have met with representatives from the DCS over the past 18 months, with no significant progress made. Instead, the NSW government continues to neglect multicultural media and refuses to acknowledge multicultural media outlets as suitable platforms for government messaging.

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. This has now left members unsettled that a final decision has been reached by Minister Dib, considering IMMA members did not engage in direct consultations with him.

Comparing state government strategy towards multicultural media:

Questions around which independent multicultural media outlets took part in the review were also put to Minister Kamper. Again, no answer was provided with the Minister asking Mr La Posta to respond.

The CEO of Multicultural NSW replied that about 15 – 20 media publications took part in the review, including the Chinese Herald and Chinese Daily. He also stressed that strong representations had been made to the NSW Government around policies implemented by the Victorian government on multicultural media spend.

In July 2023, the Victorian government announced that departments and agencies must spend at least 15 per cent of their campaign media spend on multicultural media. In December 2023, the Victorian government also announced it would support culturally and linguistically diverse media outlets across the state with grants of up to $25,000 through the 2023-24 Multicultural Media Grants Program.

multicultural-media
The Victorian government announced that departments and agencies must spend at least 15 per cent of their campaign media spend on multicultural media.

Minister Kamper ended the debate by saying he was aware of concerns by independent multicultural media.

“Their concerns are around dealing with content they had to introduce to communities but they weren’t getting paid for it,” the Minister said.

“They called for a greater percentage of spend to multicultural media groups. They wanted 15 per cent of overall media spend going to multicultural media groups.”

A critical time for multicultural media in NSW:

IMMA Secretary Fotis Kapetopoulos said Minister Kamper characterising the 15 per cent advertising spend as the association’s primary request is inaccurate. IMMA did not make such a request; instead, it cited recent changes in 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).

“IMMA presented Victoria to the NSW government only as an example of what can be done to support multicultural media,” Mr Kapetopoulos said in a statement.

“We sought support across a range of areas including the increase of advertising. The sort of support that regional and mainstream media have received.

“Mr La Posta was better versed on the details of IMMA conversations with DCS than Minister Kamper. After two round table meetings with DCS, which were initiated by IMMA’s and Multicultural NSW’s advocacy, there was consultation by DCS, yet it did not include any official approach to IMMA.

“IMMA is keen to see independent multicultural media take a more prominent position and have more advocacy from the Minister for Multiculturalism.”

Publisher of The Greek Herald, Dimitra Skalkos, said the NSW government’s disregard for multicultural media is disappointing given not only the continued emphasis the state places on its rich multicultural fabric, but also the substantial support it provides to regional media by contrast. In early 2023, the NSW Government pledged $3 million annually towards regional newspaper advertising, with nothing similar offered to multicultural media.

“This is an incredibly critical time for multicultural media and all media in Australia. It is a reality that soon many of these titles that work with communities and have served them will be taken away due to a lack of attention and follow through from NSW Government, particularly when compared to Victoria,” Ms Skalkos said.

The NSW government recognised the role that multicultural media played during the COVID-19 pandemic and were quick to realise their approach to this sector needed to be improved.

NSW Premier Chris Minns himself said recently in a public statement that multicultural media “work for free” and offer a vital public service.

Now, with record immigration this year, both NSW and Victoria are faced with an unexpected wave of new members of multicultural communities. Victoria is taking steps to deal with this through supporting multicultural media outlets, but NSW continues to hide behind committees and fails to provide adequate updates.

“NSW risks having an information desert within multicultural communities as mainstream media will not extensively cover community-specific topics of interest in a culturally nuanced manner,” Ms Skalkos said.

Ms Skalkos, alongside IMMA members, are calling on the NSW Government to stop breaking their pre-election promises and show they remain committed to supporting vital multicultural media outlets.

“Independent multicultural media is essential public interest journalism, and it should be supported on a bipartisan level. IMMA members are the voice of and for NSW multicultural communities,” Mr Kapetopoulos said.

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