Speech - Local and Independent News Association Summit

Hi, I’m Michelle Rowland, Communications Minister in the Albanese Government.

Thank you for inviting me to address you at this year’s Summit, which unfortunately I’m not able to attend in person on this occasion.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to join you at your inaugural Summit last year, and would have loved to be with you in beautiful Port Douglas.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands from which I am recording this message in Canberra, and where you are gathering today. 

I pay my respects to Elders past and present, and extend that respect to First Nations people attending the Summit.

The work of LINA and its members is vital to the communities you serve and what brings us together – so it is important that you come together at the Summit to focus your energies going forwards.

Commitment to LINA

The principles that guide the Local and Independent News Association are imperative and enduring in Australia.

Media diversity and the sustainability of local, independent journalism are important to this Government.

As Communications Minister, I am focused on ways to enable a diverse and sustainable media landscape to support a strong and healthy democracy.

Local, hyper-local, digital and independent news is key to this.

All Australians – regardless of where they live – want, and deserve, access to local news that they can rely upon.

LINA’s members provide precisely that.

Created by locals for locals, your coverage connects people around the issues that interest and impact them.

You promote participation, improve local governance, and fill gaps in local news coverage.

And you provide an important community platform through which local voices can be shared – and heard.

There is no doubt that LINA is helping to sustain a diverse news media ecosystem; an ecosystem the Albanese Government is committed to fostering.

We are doing this through a number of ways – including through the News Media Assistance Program - or News MAP – for short.  
LINA was among the first organisations we partnered with to see this important program of work under the News MAP developed.

I am pleased to see LINA’s growth and development – supported, in part, by the $1.5 million in Federal funding we provided.

Your association is helping to:

  • Foster growth in digital news publishing; 
  • Enhance diversity and localism in media; and
  • Run programs that support digital, hyper-local, and independent newsrooms to operate as small businesses;
  • This includes through micro-grants and revenue-growth programs.

Last year, LINA’s membership grew to 62 publishers - producing 86 mastheads.

This is a healthy growth rate and I understand that LINA’s member retention rate is also very high.

In the field, in 2023, members generated more than $14 million in revenue and published more than 75,000 local stories on important issues.

The Illawarra Flame for example, actively debunked mis-information surrounding the risk of off-shore turbines to whales.

The Pineapple launched local fashion photographers onto a national platform on The Project.

Then there’s Neos Kosmos, serving the Greek community, which it has been doing since 1957. 

It was the first multicultural masthead to have stories in both Greek and English. 

The Public Interest Journalism Initiative also highlighted the work of Murray Bridge News in delivering public-interest journalism and local content, with no syndicated material at all.

NewsMAP update 

The expertise of LINA and its members is informing the Government’s approach to the News MAP.

We welcome your submission to the News MAP consultation, which covers a range of important issues, including: 

  • ways to enable newsrooms to enter the market; 
  • fostering a skilled workforce of journalists;
  • and addressing the spread of misinformation through media literacy. 

We are designing our News MAP policy framework around four objectives: 

Firstly: access – because everyone should have access to quality news media.

Secondly: quality—because audiences expect public-interest journalism to be accurate and impartial.

Thirdly: diversity – which is key to fostering a media landscape where local news can thrive and a diversity of voices are heard.

And, finally: engagement. Everyone needs the skills to critically engage with news and information. 

And we know that a key enabler of engagement is media literacy. Research shows that strong media literacy promotes meaningful participation, connection and mental wellbeing.

Throughout the public consultation, we received more than 70 written submissions, many rich in research and considered advice. 

And the Government met with many stakeholders.

To this end, I want to thank Claire Stutchbery (CEO) and LINA’s members for contributing.

These conversations do not stop because the consultation period has ended. 

We are working through the feedback, against the backdrop of Meta’s decision to stop paying for news in Australia, and the process the Government is following under the News Media Bargaining Code.

As we step through these issues, work on the NewsMAP is progressing at pace. 

My Department and I are consulting across Government to progress the issues raised, as we work to release the News MAP later this year.

As you can appreciate, this work is complex, and demands consideration and collaboration as we seek to advance the long-term interest of the news media sector in Australia. 

We are working to ensure the policy settings and measures reflect the rich advice and deep insights stakeholders - like you - have provided.

Meanwhile, we are embedding other media reforms, with the recent passage of the Community TV bill and the anticipated passage of the Prominence and Anti-siphoning reforms.

We are also preparing to introduce a bill for an Australian content obligation on streaming services as well as legislation to empower the ACMA to hold digital platforms to account for seriously harmful misinformation and disinformation online.

In closing, it is wonderful to see your growing network help support newsrooms and improve media diversity in Australia.

The Albanese Government is committed to working with you, and the wider media sector, in a principled, consultative and evidence-informed manner. 

We want our reforms and measures to move the dial and stand the test of time.

We are delivering on our media reform agenda to help support a strong, diverse, local and independent news media sector in Australia, well into the future. 

And we wish LINA and its members every success in growing from strength to strength in the vitally important work you do.

Thank you