News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said many of News Corp’s community newspapers had become “more community service than commercial businesses”.
“What we are unable to ascertain is how pubs, clubs, restaurants and real estate are all going to survive this period of time and are they are going to come back,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
“I would like to be hopeful, but unfortunately I am pessimistic about it.”
The potential end of the Wentworth Courier print edition, which has long been full of glossy property ads for Sydney’s affluent eastern suburbs, is an example of how the slowdown in real estate markets is hurting other industries.
Going for Google
Media companies are stepping up their lobbying of the federal government for policy changes that will ease their financial pressures.
In an opinion article due to be published in Thursday’s Australian newspaper, Mr Miller asks the federal government to end what he says is Google’s monopoly over the digital advertising, and lift other restrictions on the media, including copyright, defamation and ownership rules.
“Successive governments have stood by and watched as the traditional business models of Australian media companies have collapsed, and the real danger is they stand by and watch as our future collapses as well,” he writes.
“Australian media is passing its tipping point. The tragedy is that for more than a decade, broadcasters, filmmakers, publishers and local content creators have been warning successive governments this day was coming.
“But time and again, governments have chosen political self-interest over the right of Australian communities to have their voice.
“When confronted with issues threatening the future of our industry, governments have acted either too slowly or not at all.”
Code of conduct
The companies are in negotiations over an ACCC-recommended industry code of conduct that newspaper publishers hope will lead to Google and Facebook paying more for their journalism.
If neither side can agree, the federal government has threatened to ask the ACCC to set a mandatory code by the end of year.
Mr Miller, whose company is famous for wielding political influence, said an agreement looked unlikely soon and the Coalition Government should be prepared to step in next month and enforce a deal that would increase payments to newspaper publishers.
Google didn’t respond to a request for comment. Facebook couldn’t be reached for comment.
Separately, the Judith Neilson Institute, a media charity established by the Sydney philanthropist, said it would provide short-term financing to support journalism through payments for freelancers and casual contributors; a free news service for the 450 community radio stations; and by helping tackle misinformation on COVID-19, including on social media.