Regional newsrooms will be able to apply for a slice of a $50 million public interest journalism fund.
Regional newsrooms will be able to apply for a slice of a $50 million public interest journalism fund.

Tax breaks, more cash for struggling media

Australian media companies suffering from sharp advertising declines during the coronavirus crisis will receive tax relief and government grants.

Publishers and broadcasters across the country have been forced to shut down or scale back services as revenues plummet during the outbreak.

The latest was Australian Community Media, which publishes more than 160 regional newspapers.

The company is standing down workers, suspending some publications and closing several printing sites.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher stepped in on Wednesday with a range of relief measures.

Commercial television and radio broadcasters will not have to pay spectrum tax for the next 12 months, saving them $41 million.

Regional newsrooms will be able to apply for a slice of a $50 million public interest journalism fund.

Free-to-air networks will not have to produce a minimum amount of Australian content for the rest of this year.

The government will also fast-track discussions on imposing mandatory quotas on streaming services.

There is currently no requirement for companies like Netflix and Disney Plus to produce local content.

"Subscription video on demand has grown enormously over the last few years and yet there are very few regulatory requirements," Mr Fletcher told reporters in Sydney.

"Whereas free-to-air television, which is under pressure, which is seeing reductions in revenue, faces onerous regulatory requirements."

Labor says the bailout package is too little too late, given swathes of regional and community media outlets have already gone under.

Media and competition experts have been given two months to consider options, including imposing a content quota on streaming services or scrapping it altogether.

Mr Fletcher announced $13.4 million in new money for regional newsrooms, with the rest of the $50 million kitty drawn from existing grants programs.

The government has also thrown its support behind a plan for tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay media companies for their news content.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it would negotiate with big tech and media companies on a voluntary code of conduct.

But if a code can't be agreed upon, the government said it would make it mandatory by November.


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