2020-11-20 20:00:49 #MEAAMedia #walkleys MediaRoom Speeches

MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy delivered this speech at the 2020 Walkley Awards on Friday, November 20.

Good evening.

I’d like to pay respect to the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we gather tonight, and to their Elders, past and present.

This year of bushfire and pandemic has underlined the need for reliable, accurate and timely news. And communities have been turning to trusted outlets in increasing numbers.

But at the same time our industry has experienced a deepening crisis.

In the past eight months, COVID has caused 150 print and broadcast newsrooms to close, either temporarily or for good, at the cost of at least 1000 jobs.

Large media outlets have consolidated to the bigger towns and cities. Smaller outlets that provided an essential community service during drought and bushfires, have been lost. The work of many of tonight’s finalists is proof of the importance of regional and local community journalism.

Australia is one of the most concentrated media markets in the world – so even greater concentration through mergers and acquisitions is not the answer.

This year MEAA launched the Our Communities Our Stories campaign to encourage regional communities to lobby politicians for local media support. Belatedly, the government has directed $50 million for public interest journalism.

But that is a one-off – more is needed for survival.

A Mandatory News Media Code, as recommended by the ACCC, will ensure the giant digital platforms pay for the news content they use. It must return revenue that can help sustain journalism.

However, the draft code needs more work.  This fund cannot be for media giants alone. It must support small outlets and start-ups; it should encourage innovation and investment.

And currently, there is no requirement that funds will be used for producing news content. MEAA believes any money flowing from the code must be invested in the work of staff journalists as well properly compensating freelance contributors.

The national public broadcasters are also currently excluded – that is unfair.

But the Code alone is no silver bullet. Government needs to do more to support a robust and diverse media industry.

It could start by implementing recommendations from reports it has received in recent years, most recently from the ACCC, who recommended reforms including;

•  Stable and adequate funding for our public broadcasters,
•  An annual grant fund of $50 million for local and regional journalism, and
•  Tax incentives to encourage investment in journalism

Public interest journalism is critical for our democracy.

And tonight, we celebrate the public interest journalism that excels in serving our communities. MEAA congratulates all the finalists and winners of this year’s Walkley awards. Thank you.