ACM suspends newspaper printing
Australian Community Media is suspending printing at four sites, halting production of the majority of its non-daily local newspapers. ACM publishes around 160 newspapers. Its 14 daily papers will continue.
The printing operations of Australia's largest regional and local newspaper publisher at its sites at Canberra, Murray Bridge, Wodonga, and Tamworth are being suspended from next Monday until the end of June.
Advertising in ACM newspapers has plummeted in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, causing the decision to suspend print.
The government is indicating it will step in with assistance for regional newspapers, which are closing operations at a rapid rate, many after more than a century of local news publishing. It has just announced a $50m scheme for regional news reporting, although that is across all media.
All ACM non-daily newspapers will now not be printed, although its 14 daily papers including the Canberra Times and the Newcastle Herald will continue in printed form. ACM staff are reportedly devasted, with the MEAA union up in arms over lack of consultation on the shock move.
Regional papers in Australia and around the western world are under serious pressure as advertising migrates online, and brands engage directly with consumers, the Covid-19 crisis may push many over the edge.
Two weeks ago, News Corp suspended printing of 60 of its community newspapers, including its former star brands the Wentworth Courier and Manly Daily. A week prior to that some of Victoria's oldest local newspapers, owned by Elliot Group, including the Sunraysia Daily, were closed until further notice. Other regional publishers including McPherson Media, Seven West Media and North East Media have also been closing or reducing papers and news operations.
In a statement Paul Fletcher, federal communications minister said the media sector is "doing it tough" and "sharing the pain" of many Australians.
He said, "Broadcasters and newspapers, especially in regional areas, are facing significant financial pressures, with advertising revenues sharply down.
"The government recognises that regional media is essential in informing and strengthening local communities.
"I am working closely with the media sector to better understand the impacts they are facing, and expect to be able to say more this week about potential measures the government is considering."
ACM was formerly Rural Press, owned by Fairfax until its merger with Nine, when it was sold to former Domain.com.au CEO Antony Catalano and billionaire Alex Waislitz, they both own 50 per cent of the business. Its newspapers are mainly in NSW, and South Australia, with a smattering across other parts of the country.