A CAMPAIGN to change legislation around regional media ownership is being heard in Canberra, according to Federal Regional Communications Minister Mark Coulton.
The Save Our Voices campaign, fronted by Ray Martin, was recently launched by regional media outlets Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, WIN Network and ACM (the publisher of this masthead) in a bid to overturn outdated legislation.
Nationals MP Mr Coulton said the coalition government was supportive of the campaign and was committed to supporting regional media.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has hit a lot of media outlets hard, but I think it is just symptomatic of a much larger issue regional media faces," the Member for Parkes said.
"There's a lot of competition now from social media, streaming services and alike, which has taken away from regional media.
"I personally believe if there needs to be changes to allow a more sustainable model for the companies that deliver media to the regions, then I'm open to that."
Mr Coulton's support for the changes comes after Deputy Prime Minister and former regional newspaper editor Michael McCormack resisted calls to support changes last week.
"My focus isn't so much on the ownership of companies, my focus would be to make sure whatever changes we see ensure the news gathering is done on a local level," Mr Coulton said.
"Country people do not want a news service directed to them that comes out of a city from people who don't understand what's going on.
"The only way you can do that is to have journalists based in the region and ultimately that has to be our long-term aim."
Despite Mr McCormack staying tight lipped on potential changes, Mr Coulton said the government was investigating the issue.
"The campaign is very well in line with my own personal thoughts of what's happening and my colleagues and I have been discussing this issue for some time," he said.
"As the Minister for Regional Communications, I talk to the communications minister Paul Fletcher on a very regular basis about these issues.
"What we need to do as a government is to ensure whatever changes in legislation are requested actually do what needs to be done, which is ensure regional Australians have locally produced news."
Mr Coulton said country people would be worse off without local news.
"I worry because without local news regional people will have to rely on social media, which is often not a source of news but a source of opinion," he said.
''We mustn't lose that ability to have genuine news because the people of the bush need to know what's going on."