Demise of regional newspapers is a Covid-19 public health danger
(Note: Above map highlights areas where regional papers have stopped publishing due to Covid-19. Map created by Saffron Howden. Link to map here)
SFF Murray MP Helen Dalton has called on both state and federal governments to urgently subsidise regional newspapers, saying older residents are being left in the dark during the Covid-19 crisis.
“At least 14 regional papers have stopped printing since the start of Covid-19 restrictions, including the excellent Broken Hill Paper (Barrier Daily Truth) and Mildura paper (Sunraysia Daily),” Mrs Dalton said
“It looks like several more will go bust in the coming weeks.”
“People in isolated towns are being denied their main news source during a national emergency - a time they need it most.”
“This is not just an economic issue. It's a public health issue. Many older residents are not online, so newspapers are their only source of information on how to stay safe during this crisis.”
“The town of Wentworth has no doctor during the pandemic. It's local paper the NSW Standard Bulletin has just stopped printing. Mildura's Sunraysia Daily were putting pressure on government to get a GP to the town, but that paper has stopped printing too".
Mrs Dalton has backed calls by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) for regional papers to be able to access $40 million from the federal government’s Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package.
“The funding has already been allocated. It should be directed to regional media immediately," Mrs Dalton said
“But really, all MPs, state and federal can play their part”.
“Many editors have complained to me that government MPs and departments don’t advertise much in regional papers anymore. They spend all their money on big city metros”.
“These small newspapers are going out of business because they’ve lost their advertising revenue. Private sector businesses have been forced to shut their doors, so they no longer need to advertise”
“Government departments and all MPs could be making up that shortfall by advertising good reliable information on the Covid-19 crisis”.
Mrs Dalton said she will ramp up her regional advertising in the coming weeks, and her office welcomes calls from local newspapers wanting to fill spots in their papers.
“What’s going to happen when we have no regional newspapers?”
“A lot of huge stories on the Murray Darling Basin were covered by the Sunraysia Daily and Barrier Daily Truth, but ignored by the big metros”.
“Governments will be able to do whatever they like, without scrutiny”
“I’ve copped a hammering from some regional newspapers. I’ve hated it. But we absolutely need them to hold politicians to account”.