Current state of Australian media is unsustainable: MEAA tells Senate inquiry

Paul Murphy, MEAA (center) speaking at the Senate inquiry into media diversity. Photo- Senate inquiry

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 12 March 2021: MEAA’s Green Murphy today told the Senate media diversity inquiry that the current state of Australia’s media is unsustainable with too much power vested in too few voices. New ways to support old and new media must be found to preserve democracy, he said.

In his opening statement, Green Murphy detailed the main issues which made the inquiry important as :

– media reforms over the past five years have worsened the state of media diversity

– journalism jobs have continued to be lost in great numbers despite a growing appetite for Australian news content

– coverage of critical areas of civic and commercial affairs continues to fall

– the effectiveness of the News Bargaining Code is unknown, and

– notwithstanding the success of otherwise of the Bargaining Code, there are no evident support measures for small to
medium or new media providers.

He said, ” MEAA surveyed journalists across Australia about the state of media ownership and concentration in Australia in preparing its submission for this inquiry. Approximately 350 responses were received.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents rated concerns about Australian media concentration highest of all the issues canvassed, followed by funding for public broadcasting (20%), the state of local, regional, and rural media, and public trust in responsible journalism (both 13%).

More than 92% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that Australia’s media ownership is too highly concentrated; 94% agreed or strongly also agreed that this was bad for democracy.

Support for increased funding for the ABC and SBS was at almost 90%.

There was strong support (80%) for government action to financially support small, independent, community, and regional media outlets which may not have been the case even five years ago.

This demonstrates a growing recognition of the need for Government action in a situation where the market is clearly failing to deliver in the public interest.”

In conclusion, the MEAA emphasized that “The current state of Australia’s media is unsustainable. There are too few voices and too much power is vested in these voices.

New and credible ways of supporting the old media and the new media must be found in order to preserve the health and transparency of Australia’s democracy.

The concentration of ownership, market failures, and the grinding down of public broadcasters have combined to put our media sector in an extremely perilous place at a time when quality, reliable content is needed more than ever.”

Read MEAA submission to the Senate inquiry into media diversity in Australia.

Australia must heed call for greater media diversity: Media Entertainment Arts Alliance submission to Senate enquiry


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 12 March 2021: Media diversity is the need of the hour is accepted the world over. Australia is no exception. This will be the call of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) today when it will tell the Senate inquiry that greater diversity is needed in Australian media to allow for a wider variety of voices to be heard to better serve the community.

“Australia has one of the most concentrated media sectors in the world, denying consumers a real choice for quality news, limiting job opportunities for journalists, reducing competition for advertisers, and giving inordinate power to a few entities to influence policy, ” says an MEAA media release posted on Twitter today.

In its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications inquiry into media diversity in Australia, MEAA has called for:

• Changes to competition and other laws to prevent mergers that lead to more harmful levels of media concentration.
• The federal government extending the operation of the Public Interest News Gathering program to make it an ongoing annual program.
• Public Broadcasters to be funded in a way that acknowledges the need to provide comprehensive, high-quality cross-platform media content in all parts of Australia.
• AAP’s future should be sustained through regular, annual relief grants.
• Consideration of critical measures recommended in the United Kingdom and Canada such as governments directly funding local news and part-funding editorial positions.
• Taxation incentives for media organisations to support existing small and medium entities, and encourage new players.
• Offering consumers the ability to claim media subscriptions on their taxes.
• Government assistance to be reset to ensure funding is available for new media organisations, as well as traditional media companies.
• Regulation of media content should be strengthened and overseen by a single entity.

“There is a clear link between the lack of diversity of media ownership and falling trust in media,” said MEAA Media Federal President Marcus Strom, who will appear at the hearing alongside Federal Vice-President Karen Percy and Chief Executive Paul Murphy.

“The solution must be to encourage and assist new entrants and smaller players so there is a wide range of voices in Australia’s media landscape.

“We urge all levels of government to take heed of the alarm bells that are ringing loudly right now and take steps to address the crisis in the media sector. After all, a strong media sector means a strong democracy which serves all Australians.”

MEAA will appear before the inquiry at 11.40 am. today and the full submission will be available

MEAA’s full submission is available here.

News bargaining code remains essential to support small media outlets: MEAA

BY SAT Newsdesk

MELBOURNE, 18 February 2021: The decision of Facebook to stop news through main Australian media outlets, after the House of Representatives passed the News Media Bargaining Code that will force high-tech companies to pay media houses for content has drawn a sharp reaction from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the organization representing Australian journalists.

Content deals reportedly struck between major publishers and Google in recent days should not deter Federal Parliament from passing News Media Bargaining Code laws this week, says the union for Australia’s journalists.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance says the reported deals between Google and both Nine Entertainment Co. and Seven West Media are welcome developments, but Parliament must proceed with the bargaining code legislation to ensure that all media operators – including AAP, regional and local organisations, and others regardless of their size – are compensated by digital platforms for the use of their content.

MEAA Media Federal President Marcus Strom said the laws were essential because smaller publishers and broadcasters did not have the same ability to negotiate directly on relatively equal terms with Google and Facebook as did media conglomerates like Nine and Seven.

“The deals which have been reported in the past 48 hours only came about because of the threat of arbitration under the proposed news bargaining code,” Mr Strom said.

“Media companies have a moral obligation to demonstrate that the millions they will receive from Google will be spent on news gathering and not on share dividends.

“Any monies from these deals need to end up in the newsroom, not the boardroom. We will be pressing the case for transparency on how these funds are spent.

“But it should be noted it is only Google who has been willing to negotiate. Facebook continues to resist compensating media outlets.

“The news bargaining code is still needed to ensure both of these global digital platforms contribute to the cost of all the journalism that they benefit from, and that smaller players are also compensated for their content, especially community, regional and rural outlets.

“It must also be mandated that when media companies are able to negotiate commercial agreements with digital platforms, they must commit to allocating the funds to journalism, and not other parts of their organizations.”

Mr. Strom said the Morrison Government also must assure Australians that any commercial agreements negotiated by the ABC or SBS will not be used as an excuse for further funding cuts at the two national broadcasters.

The media code is yet to be passed by the Australian Senate.

In a rebuff to big media outlets, the Fair Work Commission rules digital journalists also covered by Award benefits

Photo: MEAA

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 21 November: In a landmark verdict on 20 November 2019 the Fair Work Commission ruled digital journalists will be entitled to penalty rates, overtime and other key conditions, which print journalists access from the Journalists Published Media Award, the benchmark award in the published media industry (covering news titles and magazines).

The verdict removes an anomaly where digital journalists, doing the same job as print journalists, were denied access to Award conditions.

In its historic ruling yesterday but announced today, the full bench of the Fair Work Commission has agreed with the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance’s (MEAA), the premier media union in Australia, argument that digital media workers should have full access to the Award.

The decision removes an anomaly where digital journalists, doing the same job as print journalists, were denied access to the award.

It means that digital media journalists will have access to minimum standards for their wages, penalty rates, overtime and other conditions of employment such as hours of work and breaks.

A media release from the MEAA says, “The Fair Work decision is part of the four-yearly review of modern awards. MEAA first put its case to the Commission in 2015. MEAA’s arguments for including digital journalists were strongly opposed by some of Australia’s biggest media outlets (including Nine Entertainment – incorporating the former Fairfax company, Rural Press and the Daily Mail).”

MEAA Media director Neill Jones says, “The Fair Work ruling means that if you work for a digital media start-up or a digital-only publication you are no longer treated as a second-class journalist.

“This decision removes the award’s outdated focus solely on print journalists which placed digital workers at a disadvantage. The decision to modernize the award brings those journalists together under one standard, in recognition of their shared roles and responsibilities as media professionals, regardless of whether they work online or in print.”

MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom says, “Digital is the reality of all newsrooms today. It’s about time the award caught up with the working lives of our members.

“Congratulations to the MEAA Digital Media Committee made up of working journalists at a range of online publications. Now, more than ever, journalists working in digital media need to join the union so we can collectively enforce these new entitlements.”

The FWC has also ruled that journalists working for country non-daily newspapers should be entitled to a 10% weekend penalty rate loading if they have to work on a Saturday or Sunday. This is the second significant outcome for workers in this Fair Work ruling.

The decision has a 12-month transition period before it comes into full effect.