ABC Press Release July 20, 2023
In the face of declining local media coverage in regional and rural Australia, the ABC will partner with researchers at Deakin and Griffith universities to look at innovative ways in which the public broadcaster can support local news sustainability.
The three-year Australian Research Council project will determine how the ABC can best develop partnerships and collaborations with regional news outlets to support public interest journalism. The project follows a recommendation by the 2022 Parliamentary Inquiry into Regional Newspapers suggesting Australia’s public broadcasters should increase their efforts to support regional news sustainability through partnerships.
ABC News Strategy Research Lead, Dr Angela Ross, said the crisis in local news deepened during the pandemic, as hundreds of regional and rural newspaper titles closed.
“The cuts and closures have led to fewer regional issues, stories and perspectives being reported and worryingly, less accountability reporting at the local level.” Dr Ross said the ABC had been able to fill some of the local news gaps with around 60 additional journalist roles placed in regional locations through funding from commercial agreements signed with Google and Facebook in 2021. “The ABC plays a critical public service role in connecting rural and regional communities and elevating regional stories and issues but it can’t fill all local news gaps.
“The ABC is keen to use this project to consider how it may help design a unique and effective partnership model targeting regional areas underserved for local news.”
The project’s lead investigator Professor Kristy Hess, of Deakin University, said rural and regional communities wanted and deserved access to reliable, original and quality local news and information.
“We need to look at what existing media infrastructure and service provisions are out there and determine whether there is an appetite to work together to support especially vulnerable areas of the ecology,” she said.
“Ultimately this is about helping to secure the long-term sustainability of a sector that has struggled in a period of digital disruption to ensure rural and regional audiences have access to genuinely local news.”
The research team will identify the challenges faced by regional broadcast, print and digital news providers, particularly in communities underserved by local media. It will then recommend the best ways in which the ABC can support the local news sector.
The team led by Professor Hess, along with Deakin Professor Matthew Ricketson; Professor Susan Forde of Griffith University; Dr Ross and the ABC’s Victorian Regional Editor Hugh Martin, will also consider and incorporate lessons learnt from existing partnerships between the ABC and groups such as the Local and Independent News Association (LINA) and First Nations Media Australia (FNMA).
Any individuals or groups who play a role in delivering local news to regional and rural communities and are keen to be consulted as part of the project are welcome to contact Angela Ross via email at email@example.com or Professor Hess at firstname.lastname@example.org.