New research shows 41 per cent of local print and digital news outlets are not covered by deals under the News Media Bargaining Code, more than 12 months after its introduction.
The Public Interest Journalism Initiative (PIJI) released the data as part of its submission to the Treasury’s review of the legislation, which came into effect in March 2021.
Print news outlets have a higher number not covered by deals under the code at 42 per cent, while 30 per cent of digital outlets are not covered.
PIJI is calling for the newly-elected Federal Government to reduce uncertainty for the sector by clarifying the terms for designation under the Code and introducing an R&D style tax rebate to ensure the sector’s viability in the face of ongoing market volatility (such as rises in the price of news print).
According to PIJI’s Australian News Index, which currently records print and digital news production, out of the 296 news outlets without deals, 284 are local operations. The addition of television and radio news data into PIJI’s data sets later this year is also expected to increase the number of news businesses and outlets without reported deals.
PIJI is concerned an uneven playing field is emerging between those news businesses with increased financial capacity from deals, compared to those without. As the sector faces ongoing volatility, it is important the Code doesn’t contribute to any decline in media diversity or the production and supply of public interest journalism.
PIJI recommends government establish a clear set of guidelines outlining financial and non-financial measures to be considered in determining the designation of a platform under the Code.
“With this likelihood of changing market conditions and assuming no designation is made before the Australian deals expire, the Code’s litmus test will be the levels of Australian deal renewal in two years’ time,” the submission states.
“Currently there is market uncertainty for all participants around what will, and will not, trigger a digital platform’s designation under the Code,” says PIJI CEO Anna Draffin. “Clear criteria would go a long way to easing this and provide greater transparency around the public benefit.”
To improve transparency and accountability, PIJI also recommends that the Code’s Professional Standards Test should be amended so that registered news businesses are subject to the oversight of an external complaints process.
About The Public Interest Journalism Initiative
The Public Interest Journalism Initiative was established to ensure Australia develops a sustainable ecosystem of independent, pluralistic journalism. We are a non-partisan organisation conducting research, developing policy solutions and building a public conversation on the importance of this issue.
PIJI’s work is guided by its core principles of public interest, neutrality, independence, a diversity of voices and duration.