Regional people need to advertise in regional newspapers to show their support for their local news source.
That was the sentiment from Federal Member for Lyne, Dr David Gillespie when asked about how he's supporting the future of regional news outlets.
"I run a regular ad in the newspapers in my electorate," he said. "That's my way of supporting them."
Dr Gillespie was speaking about the Save Our Voices campaign recently launched as a collaboration between Australia's largest regional media news organisations, WIN Network, Prime Media Group, Southern Cross Austereo and ACM, the publisher of this newspaper.
The campaign is asking the Federal Government to abolish restrictive media ownership regulations which prevent regional media businsesses from merging to compete with capital city and international news and entertainment services.
During an interview with journalist and campaign spokesman Ray Martin, ACM executive chairman Antony Catalano said current media laws prevented his company from purchasing a television network because it would reduce the ownership in a market down to three owners from four. He said that because the laws didn't class digital news outlets as 'owners' in the same manner, they weren't included in the count.
"When it comes to combining ACM's resources with, say, a regional TV network to build a stronger, more sustainable business - one that's better equipped to compete with the big digital players from the metro markets or overseas now vying for regional audiences - we are constrained," Mr Catalano wrote in the Canberra Times.
But Dr Gillespie has concerns about the future of jobs for regional media employees if mergers were allow to proceed. Instead, he's supporting the findings of the Digital Platforms Inquiry conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). In the inquiry's report, it identified that digital platforms Facebook and Google have become unavoidable trading partners for Australian news media in reaching audiences online, resulting in an imbalance in bargaining power.
A concepts paper on the introduction of a News Media Bargaining Code to help address the imbalance was placed on public display in late May, then was drafted as legislation which has undergone further consultation.
Dr Gillespie is the chairman of the House Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts, so he's well versed on the topic.
"I'm supporting the mandatory bargaining power code to make sure that huge digital platforms pay for the content," Dr Gillespie said. "Regional media has a business model that is being chewed away by these digital websites."
Google has launched a public campaign against the code and Facebook has threatened to block Australian publishers and users from sharing news on Facebook and Instagram if it becomes law.
During Mr Catalano's interview, he stated that if media companies aren't able to invest in regional areas, referring to the desire to merge outlets, then they will close.
"They may be exactly right," Dr Gillespie said on the matter. "Which is why I want them to get a fair go, so they can strive and thrive."
Dr Gillespie also referred to the COVID initiated payout of the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) Fund, which saw more than 90 newspaper publishers receive a share of $18 million, regional radio broadcasters - $12 million, and regional television broadcasters - $20 million. ACM was offered this funding.
Mr Catalano and Dr Gillespie both agree on the need for local businesses to start advertising in their new local newspapers.