Regional newspaper companies, including ACM which owns this masthead, are asking for urgent federal government help in the face of an existential crisis brought about by a dramatic rise in the cost of newsprint.
Proprietors have known for some time Australia's only newsprint manufacturer was planning to increase its prices and had factored in a 30 per cent jump in the cost of paper. What they could not prepare for was an actual increase in the cost of the product of 80 per cent.
This is why ACM, in conjunction with the Country Press Association, has appealed to the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher for emergency funding to soften the immediate impact of the new pricing structure.
While Mr Fletcher is yet to accede to the request, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has spoken out in support of regional newspapers saying they play a vital role in the lives of the communities they serve and needed to be protected.
Although the federal government is already considering recommendations for assistance to regional and community mastheads following the recent parliamentary inquiry into regional newspapers there are fears this may come too late.
Labor's communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese have already flagged bipartisan support for an immediate positive response.
The CPA and ACM want an urgent intervention in the form of emergency funding to stop mastheads, some of which have served their communities for up to 150 years or more, from falling off a cliff. Longer term assistance, based on the recommendations to the parliamentary inquiry, would then provide a bridge to a more sustainable future.
Key recommendations from ACM to the inquiry included tax concessions for newsprint purchases, tax rebates for local businesses that take out advertising in their community masthead and a minimum spend by the federal government on advertising in regional print media.
With the price rises to take effect on July 1 time is short. Unless a rescue package is developed soon it may be too late for some communities to save the local newspaper.
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