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PIJI shows emerging gaps in Australia’s news coverage for the first time

February 9, 2022

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The Public Interest Journalism Initiative’s (PIJI) Local News Producers database – part of the Australian Newsroom Mapping Project (ANMP) – has shown for the first time where the emerging gaps in Australia’s print and online news production are situated.

Of all the local government areas (LGAs) included in our database (which has logged a total of 800 outlets so far based on 2,000 community submissions) 6.3 per cent or 33 LGAs have no local print or digital news coverage.

PIJI emphasises that this data does not include broadcast news, which will be collected in the next phase of the Local News Producers database.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission compiled a list of gaps in news coverage, but has never publicly released it due to it being commercial-in-confidence.

This new information is included in PIJI’s submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts inquiry into Australia’s regional newspapers, examining regional news’ vulnerabilities.

Examples of LGAs with no local print or digital news production are Central Highlands in Tasmania, Balranald and Central Darling in New South Wales, Barcaldine, Quilpie and Barcoo in Queensland and Upper Gascoyne in WA. See below this release for a full list of the 33 LGAs.

PIJI’s submission also calls on the Australian Government to make a long-term investment in core sector data to measure and monitor the health of public interest journalism in print, digital, radio and television across the country.

Since its inception in January 2019, the ANMP has recorded more than 400 changes, two-thirds of which are market contractions. The data collected to date shows an overwhelming 70 per cent of entries in the database are skewed to regional areas and that regional contractions are more likely to be closures or decreases in service, whereas the majority of metropolitan contractions are end of print editions.

“Regional and local news is essential to community cohesion, but it also performs the most important function of journalism, which is to keep a check on government and other institutions. US research shows that where there is no local news coverage of local government, fraud is more likely to occur,” explains PIJI CEO Anna Draffin.

“Civic infrastructure such as police, the legal system and emergency services also need to be subject to visibility and transparency for the safety of all.

“With the fiscal model for news production broken, government must act to support regional and local news production. To its credit the government has undertaken several initiatives, such as the News Media Bargaining Code, but more is needed to secure the future of the landscape in regional areas and more broadly.”

All data produced by PIJI is publicly available. To view our mapping data or leave a tip for our researchers, please visit our website.

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.

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