Government adds $13.4 million to 'repurposed' innovation fund cash

Almost two-thirds of the $50 million PING support for Australian media announced today is funds already promised two years ago.

A "$50 million Public Interest News Gathering programme" announced today will "repurpose" funds from the government's Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package, while adding only $13.4 million of new money.

Communications, cyber safety and the arts minister Paul Fletcher said repurposing unallocated funds from RSPJIP was a response to an ACCC recommendation following its Digital Platforms Inquiry, but earlier this month the government was criticised for its "paltry" release of funds from the package.

The package of measures - which include tax and 'red tape' relief - will "help sustain Australian media businesses as they do their vital work of keeping the community informed during the COVID-19 pandemic".

The measures announced include:

Tax Relief - A 12-month waiver of spectrum tax for commercial television and radio broadcasters worth $41 million;

Investing in Regional Journalism - A $50 million Public Interest News Gathering programme;

Short-Term Red Tape Relief - Emergency suspension of content quotas in 2020; and

Harmonising Regulation to Support Australian Content - Release of an Options Paper developed by Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority, commencing a fast-tracked consultation process on how best to support Australian stories on our screens.

Fletcher said broadcasters and newspapers faced significant financial pressure as COVID-19 led to a sharp downturn in advertising revenue.

"We are acting to offer urgent short-term support to the media sector," he said. "At the same time we are progressing our December 2019 commitment to consult on the future framework to support Australian stories on our screens."

He said the government recognised that public interest journalism was essential in informing and strengthening local communities.

Broadcasters have also been released from the obligations which set out the amount of Australian drama, children's and documentary content, as COVID-19 has effectively halted production of Australian screen content. There will be no change to the requirement for broadcasters to meet an overall 55 per cent Australian content obligation.

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