Murdoch withdraws newspapers from regional Queensland
Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Member for Traeger Robbie Katter has appealed to the State and Federal Governments to intervene as the deadline approaches for the cancellation of all newspaper deliveries to at least 30 rural Queensland communities.
Mr Katter said thousands of Queenslanders would effectively be cut off from the rest of the state in a matter of weeks in what could be termed as regional “newspaper blackout”.
He said, as proven by the McKell Institute’s new report, Bridging the Digital Divide, rural and regional Queenslanders were already adversely impacted by digital exclusion by virtue of geography and socio-economic challenges.
Removing their printed newspapers from the equation would be a final blow and would have hugely negative flow-on effects to local businesses like newsagencies, Mr Katter said.
According to the McKell Institute, geography is a huge disadvantage to when it comes to accessing the internet – for example, people in North West Queensland (including Cape York) have been found to be less likely to use digital technologies.
From September 26th, towns like Mount Isa, Winton and Clermont will no longer be provided with print newspapers.
Earlier this year, NewsCorp – who publishes major mastheads like The Courier Mail and The Australian – announced it would cease the delivery of its papers to central and North-West Queensland due to freight costs.
Rural Newsagent Merry Higgins from Cunnamulla, said, “I can’t increase the retail price to cover the price because of contractual conditions.
“During COVID lockdown I was required to continue trading as an essential service to provide the public with newspapers reporting on COVID. Now when it suits Newscorp they have decided to stop supplying the papers and the government is powerless to stop them.
“It has been extremely stressful dealing with the customers and their questions and also considering the direction I need to take my business.
“There has been scant interest from local government not even a conversation. This is disturbing given that council is at the moment rolling out an economic policy that includes strategies to attract more people to town and asking businesses to support them.”
Ms Higgins also said, “As far as receiving the newscorp papers – freight needs to be subsidised. There were several very good solutions offered to Newscorp regarding ways to decrease their freight charges, but they chose not to listen.
“I fully support Robbie’s plan – We have always had a privately owned local Cunnamulla paper and since the closure of the regional publications this has expanded to include neighbouring shires and districts.
“I’m not sure how profitable the paper is for the owner but I’m sure subsidised freight and legislation to ensure that the government advertises with the local papers would be of benefit to keeping them operating. Also support for employing cadet journalists would be an investment in the community.”
Mr Katter, said, “due to the high interdependency of delivery logistics in the bush, it was likely papers published by Nine (Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review) and Australian Community Media (The Land, Queensland Country Life and The North Queensland Register will also stop making their way to the regions in the near future too.”
Mr Katter is calling on all Queenslanders, and particularly those living in rural and regional communities, to sign his petition by September 10th – https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/Work-of-the-Assembly/Petitions/Petition-Details?id=3590
In the immediate future, the Government needs to offer subsidies to get these papers into regional and rural areas until local communities are able to develop their own regional newspapers, which is currently happening all around the state.
Currently, many rural communities are currently developing their own way of delivering news to their regions and once fully established, we will be in a position to replace the existing publications and remove the need for Metropolitan based media monopolies all together.