Regional journalism to receive $10 million in federal government support

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The federal government will spend $10 million to support training and jobs for regional journalists in a bid to grow news coverage outside major cities.

A Journalist Fund announced today would help media organisations adapt to digital business models, hire cadets and upskill experienced journalists, including in digital literacy.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher revealed the funding while announcing the next stage in media reforms aiming to help the sector respond to technology changes.

Mr Fletcher said the $10 million Journalist Fund would support public interest journalism in the regions.

It will be available through grants over two years to assist news organisations, which will access the funds through competitive, merit-based selection processes.

One funding stream will support selected regional media organisations to employ new cadet journalists with a package of up to $150,000 per cadet for a two-year cadetship, under a co-contribution arrangement.

Funding may be used for remuneration, travel costs and training. The program will require cadet journalists to be based in the local community for the duration of the program.

A second stream will support training to upskill existing journalists. Funding may be used for developing and delivering new training material and courses, or to expand access to existing materials and courses for regional journalists.

A new federal government media policy statement said the fund would support an increase in cadet journalists in regional Australia, and help the industry transition to digital business models.

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"Access to quality, public interest journalism is critical to the health of Australia's democratic system," it said.

"However, the challenges to the business models for the production and dissemination of journalism have had a particular impact on the availability of news in our regions.

"There have been significant reductions in the numbers of journalists employed in regional areas, as well as the closure and contraction of various local news outlets, as revenues have declined."

COVID-19 had accelerated the trend, and some estimates suggested more than 1000 journalists lost their jobs due to closures of smaller independent publications in 2020, the policy statement said.

Mr Fletcher also announced several measures allowing the government to work with the broadcast television sector on a future regulatory structure adapted to changes in technology including the emergence of streaming and subscription television.

This story Regional journalism to receive $10 million in federal government support first appeared on The Canberra Times.