Newsprint support snub

Paul Thomas has attacked the Government's media support package, which snubs outer-suburban suburban publishers.

A Federal Government $10 million fund for regional newspapers has again “disappointingly” snubbed outer-suburban media publishers, says the head of Star News Group.

The Public Interest News Gathering funding round would address steeply-rising newsprint costs faced by publishers, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced on 9 May.

Newsprint costs are expected to rise by up to 80 per cent from 1 July due to multiple worldwide factors.

They include international demand, Covid, the war in Ukraine, rising input costs in Europe, oil prices and global shipping issues, the Government stated.

Star News Group general manager Paul Thomas called on the Government to include “smaller outer suburban groups” such as Mornington Peninsula News Group, Star Weekly and Star News Group newspapers.

“What is disappointing here is that it appears that the Government is only committing to regional newspapers, yet the cost pressures and the importance of newspapers operating in the fringe areas of capital cities are even greater.”

The Federal Government’s recent round of a $10 million cadetship grant and so far $50 million in Public Interest News Gathering grants only supported regional media, Mr Thomas noted.

“This announcement from Minister Fletcher comes at a pivotal period for all newspaper publishers, given the massive increasing costs of newsprint.

“It is now vital that the Government and the Opposition commit to the recent recommendations of the lower house committee’s inquiry into Australia’s regional newspapers.”

In response, the Labor Opposition has pledged a “principles-based” and “evidence-informed” support package for media, “including funding to address the newsprint crisis”.

“Around Australia, regional and community media publishers and broadcasters face great uncertainty as a result of Scott Morrison’s failure to provide policy coherence or a stable set of measures to support the local media that millions of Australians rely on,” a spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Mr Fletcher said the Government would “move quickly to consult on and finalise the guidelines” of the impending support package.

“As this will include eligibility criteria, we have no further comment.”

Mr Fletcher said the Government had provided critical support for regional media during the Covid-19 pandemic and was standing with them again.

“Ongoing volatility overseas is having an impact back home, which is why Australians need a Government with strong economic management that can steer the Australian economy through uncertain times.

“Regional newspapers provide a vitally important role in bringing regional communities together and keeping them informed of local news and events.”

Mr Fletcher said the new round of funding would be delivered “urgently” after the 22 May election, if the Coalition Government was returned.

“Payments (are) expected to be made from 1 July when newsprint prices are due to increase.”

Funding will be contingent on no newspaper closures or job losses due to the increased newsprint prices.

Funding amounts will be determined based on the demonstrated cost impacts to eligible applicants of newsprint cost increases.

Star News Group publishes newspapers in the South East, including Pakenham-Berwick Gazette, Berwick Star News, Cranbourne Star News and Dandenong Star Journal.