Community voices silenced by closure of local newspapers

By OTS publisher and writer, Marje Prior

John B Fairfax, shareholder and chairman of Rural Press once told me over a media presentation lunch that ‘the day rural communities started publishing their own local newspapers was the day that he would go out of business.’

We were speakers at an event hosted by Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. He spoke on the role of Rural Press in country NSW, while I spoke about the emergence of community-owned newspapers in rural and remote communities filling the gap for local news and content that was left by his publications.

It was the same argument put by the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters in the mid-1970s who lost their battle against the opening up of the airwaves for community radio broadcasters—protecting their market share against any form of broadcasting diversity, especially for minority groups. It was the community broadcasters who paved the way for the SBS.

With the closure of regional and local papers by NewsCorp and Australian Community Media (ACM), rural Australians will find themselves disenfranchised from the mainstream news media as local news is just that – local – and local news doesn’t attract a broad audience.

It is time that Australia had a non-profit local newspaper network that can service rural, regional and remote communities, and the suburbs. This is where the government can target funding to keep non-metropolitan communities seen and heard.

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