MEDIA REFORM MEASURES NEGOTIATED BY NXT

14 September 2017 | media, media reform

NXT has negotiated a substantial package of media reforms we believe will help media - particularly smaller and regional publishers - thrive in today's challenging environment.

If you're interested in the detail, read on:

We have negotiated an Australian Consumer and Competition Commission inquiry into digital platforms. The competition watchdog's inquiry will probe the impact of the new digital environment on media. We expect the ACCC will assess the impact of these platforms on the media landscape, and will also consider what flow-on effect this is having on advertisers, as well as on readers, listeners and viewers.

It will look into the methods these platforms use to distribute original content created by third parties, and the terms they oblige third parties to accept. Importantly, it will also look at whether their practices impede media organisations from recouping their own costs. The Treasurer will direct the ACCC to conduct the inquiry, which will start no later than 1 December 2017.

We have also negotiated the following:

Regional and small publisher’s jobs and innovation package: 

Following negotiations, the Government has agreed to implement a regional and small publisher’s jobs and innovation package worth $60.4 million over three years.

To assist smaller publishers and to foster diversity, the Government will establish a one-off Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund involving $16.7 million worth of grants a year over three years, from the 2018/19 financial year, totalling $50 million. The Government will set up the architecture for the fund such that the first round of grants can be announced no later than 1 June 2018, with the first grant monies to flow from 1 July 2018.

The purpose of the fund is to assist small publishers to transition, compete and innovate more successfully in a changing media environment. The grants will be able to be used by publishers for initiatives that support the continuation, development, growth and innovation of Australian civic journalism, including initiatives that explore and expand the journalism funding model.

‘Civic Journalism’ is journalism that has the primary purpose of investigating and explaining public policy and issues of public interest or significance with the aim of engaging citizens in public debate and informing democratic decision making.

Grants could be allocated, for example, to programs and initiatives such as the purchasing or upgrading of equipment and software, development of apps, business activities to drive revenue and readership, and training, all of which will assist in extending civic and regional journalism. This support will enhance the ability of small publishers to maintain and expand employment. The Government intends for the range of initiatives that are eligible for grant funding to be broad and flexible, but will not extend to the payment of salaries.

To be eligible to apply for grants, entities would need to meet eligibility criteria. The criteria include: 

  • a primary purpose test (of producing civic and public interest journalism with an Australian perspective);
  • an Australian residence test (being incorporated under Australian law and having their central management and control in Australia);
  • an independence test (not affiliated with a political party, union, superannuation fund, financial institution, non-government organisation or policy lobby group);
  • control test (not controlled by an entity that is not majority owned by Australian residents);
  • being a member of the Australian Press Council or having a robust and transparent complaints process; and
  • having in place editorial guidelines, a code of conduct or similar framework relating to the provision of quality journalism.

Eligible publishers are those with annual revenue of between $300,000 and $30 million. Large publishers (such as News Corp and Fairfax) are ineligible. Public broadcasters are ineligible.

Funding grants would be capped at a maximum of $1 million per year for any media group.

The Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund will be administered independently of government by Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). It will seek input from an advisory committee comprised of a representative invited from each of the Australian Press Council, The Walkley Foundation and Country Press Australia to give advice on the distribution of the fund.

The advisory committee’s recommendations will be made public. Further transparency measures will include details of the administration of the fund being included in the ACMA's annual report and scrutiny through Senate Estimates.

There will be an independent review of the Fund after 12 months of operation, including examining the efficacy of the Fund in the promotion of civic journalism. The review will have input from the Department of Communications and The Arts and the ACMA. The review will be made public. The review will be completed within 16 months of the Fund’s commencement.

At least two thirds of funding must go to regional publishers and not less than 25 per cent will be allocated to non-regional publishers.

Regional and small publishers cadetship program         

To assist in creating employment opportunities in regional media, the Government has agreed to establish a regional and small publishers cadetship program. The Government will support these cadetships with a wage subsidy, modelled on the Department of Employment’s existing wage subsidy program. Eligible organisations would be able to apply for a wage subsidy or grant of up to $40,000 (GST inclusive) for each journalism cadet.

The intent of the cadetship program is to increase journalism resources, not to supplant existing resources.

Two hundred cadetships will be available for funding over two years, with 100 cadetships available each year. Of the 100 cadetships in a single year, at least 80, but not more than 90 cadetships, will be for regional publications. 

Media organisations have different structures for graduate and cadetship programs, so the program will have some flexibility to enable it to work in successfully with different media organisations. But there would be an expectation of matching funding from employing organisations.

 To be eligible for cadetship funding, entities would need to meet eligibility criteria: 

  • Small metropolitan publishers qualify if they meet the same tests as apply for the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund.
  • Regional media organisations must meet the same tests as apply for the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund, other than the control test.
  • Regional media organisations are those located in commercial radio markets that are classified as “regional.” The metropolitan commercial radio markets are Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
  • For avoidance of doubt, regional media organisations include publishers, commercial television and commercial radio.
  • Public broadcasters are ineligible.

The regional and small publishers cadetship program will be administered by the Department of Communications and the Arts with transparency about the processes it undertakes and the decisions it makes regarding the selection and placement of cadets.

The cadetship program will also have a degree of flexibility. If there is insufficient demand for cadetships, the funding will be reallocated to the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund. Equally, if there is higher demand for cadetships, there will be flexibility to reallocate funds from the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund to accommodate additional cadets. The ACMA and the Department of Communications and the Arts will work cooperatively to assess demand for the Fund and allocate the additional cadetships as needed.

Regional journalism scholarships

To provide opportunities for students, including graduates, in regional areas to access journalism training, the Government has agreed to establish 60 regional journalism scholarships. These will support regional students to take up opportunities to study journalism courses with the aim of equipping more regional Australians with journalism training.

Thirty scholarships a year will be made available over two years commencing in 2018/19, with each scholarship valued at $40,000 in total and able to be expended on related expenses such as tuition fees and accommodation costs. Funding for the scholarships would be provided to a number of our premier journalism and media training institutions. Scholarships will be allocated proportionally such that students in every state and territory have an opportunity to apply for scholarships.

The Department of Communications will work with journalism schools at universities to administer the scholarship program.

FURTHER MEASURES

Enhanced local content in smaller regional markets

The Government will support an NXT amendment to increase more local content in smaller (i.e. non-aggregated) regional television markets, from 360 points over six weeks to 600 points over six weeks. This will mean a minimum of 50 minutes per week of local news would need to be broadcast in smaller regional areas where previously there was no such requirement.

Community Television

The Government will grant a further six month extension for community television licensees, taking these licences through until 30 June 2018. In the interim, the Government will hold a roundtable discussion with the sector to discuss its future.

Review of Asia Pacific broadcasting services

The Department of Communications and the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will conduct a review into the reach of Australian broadcasting services in the Asia Pacific region, including examining whether shortwave radio technology should be used. The review will include public consultation and the report of the review will be made public.

 

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