Regional and multicultural media left in the lurch amid government’s broken promises

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Regional and multicultural media in Australia have been left in the lurch amid broken promises by governments and a failure to meet pre-election commitments.

Tony Kendall, the managing director of the nation’s largest regional publisher Australian Community Media (ACM), told The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) that despite extensive lobbying, the company has been “significantly impacted” by an “unprecedented reduction” in federal government advertising spend.

With rising printing costs adding to ACM’s headaches, the company closed a number of regional titles in April.

According to the SMH, federal advertising spend hit a record high of $239.6 million in 2021-22. Of that figure, $15 million, or 6 per cent, was spent in the press category.

Mr Kendall said revenue for regional media from state governments has also been drying up.

In NSW, Premier Chris Minns said a Labor government would commit $3 million annually towards regional newspaper advertising. Mr Kendall said none of that funding has “come through at this stage.”

Independent multicultural media in NSW are in a similar situation as they continue to call on the state government to meet their pre-election commitments.

In March this year, the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper announced NSW Labor would review the state government’s advertising practices to ensure the role of the independent multicultural media is elevated and supported.

NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper.

The review would include things such as auditing how much has been spent on multicultural advertising and where it was spent; and reducing the use of consultants and other ‘intermediary’ agencies to increase the share of spend reaching local multicultural media.

With NSW Labor now in government for over 100 days, no such review into advertising practices has been announced by the state government as yet.

Dimitra Skalkos, Publisher of The Greek Herald and member of Independent Multicultural Media Australia (IMMA), said they will continue to lobby the NSW government for a fair share in advertising spend and to ensure media dollars actually go towards supporting independent multicultural media.

“Our platforms continue to deliver government messages or announcements relevant to our communities using our resources with reduced support being provided in return,” Ms Skalkos said.

“For years now, government messaging has been pushed through government departments and language services – not always in a timely matter – rather than providing direct financial support to independent multicultural media to continue to provide their own in-language information.

Whilst we welcomed the NSW Labor government’s announcement of a review into advertising spend, we now call on them to follow through with their pre-election commitment.”

In a statement to the SMH, a NSW government spokesperson said it remains committed to safeguarding regional and community media, adding it plays a critical role in its efforts to provide important information to communities across the state.

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