Australian Associated Press has been handed a $5 million lifeline by the federal government, which says its existence is vital for maintaining regional news and media diversity.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced the funding for the beleaguered newswire on Friday after months of lobbying, extolling AAP’s commitment to accurate, fact-based and independent journalism.
“The AAP Newswire provides services to more than 250 regional news mastheads across Australia, covering public interest content on national, state and regional news,” he said.
“This allows regional mastheads to concentrate on local news stories important for their communities.
“Importantly, AAP also provides regional stories for national distribution so that regional issues and voices are heard across the country.”
The money will be drawn from a public interest news gathering fund.
AAP chair Jonty Low and chief executive Emma Cowdroy welcomed the funding announcement.
“Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister is a welcome endorsement of the role that AAP plays in providing a key piece of Australia’s democratic infrastructure,” they said in a joint statement.
“AAP provides content to hundreds of newspapers and radio stations, most of which are in regional areas, who couldn’t possibly each send journalists to cover what happens in our nation’s capital cities, our courts or our sporting fields.
“In supporting AAP, the prime minister is supporting a key plank that supports Australia’s media diversity.”
Earlier this week, three influential crossbench senators wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to support AAP.
Tasmanian Jacqui Lambie and South Australians Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff said an urgent intervention was needed to save AAP and the hundreds of regional publishers who rely on its content.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young had earlier indicated the Greens would be willing to help the government pass contentious new laws to make global tech giants pay local news media companies for their content, with one of their conditions that AAP get the money.
“If the work of AAP is as valued as it ought to be, the Morrison government must invest in it,” the crossbenchers wrote.
“Should AAP be unable to secure public funding, we fear that it might be lost forever.”
The senators believe the funding should be provided annually for three years to ensure AAP stays afloat beyond the coronavirus economic crisis.
They acknowledged the amount of money was “not insubstantial” but said AAP underpinned the jobs of more than 1000 regional journalists and delivered news to millions of people.
The downsized not-for-profit news wire is also running a crowdfunding campaign to drum up support, raising almost $120,000 of its $500,000 goal so far.