Industry led call for media ownership reform backed by Susan Templeman

As a former journalist, Macquarie MP Susan Templeman knows the importance of regional media in local communities.

She is keen to add her support to an industry driven campaign calling for reforms to media ownership laws.

Save Our Voice: Federal Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, who is in Canberra this week, supports local media. Picture: Archive.

Save Our Voice: Federal Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, who is in Canberra this week, supports local media. Picture: Archive.

"Save Our Voices" was launched last week by Australian Community Media (the publisher of the Gazette) together with broadcast rivals Prime Media Group, WIN Network and Southern Cross Austereo.

The campaign calls on the federal government and regional MPs to move urgently to overhaul 30-year-old broadcasting regulations that prevent traditional media outlets in regional Australia from competing fairly with the metropolitan media and global digital giants using the NBN to reach regional audiences.

Ms Templeman said she had always appreciated how important having local papers were for communities, small business and the democratic process.

"So, I have advocated strongly in the Parliament and on social media for support for local and regional media, be it newspapers, magazines or local community radio," she said.

"The goings-on in the Hawkesbury are often ignored by city media because they think we're just too far out. But the issues of the Hawkesbury - the scandals and heart-warming stories - all deserve to be told.

"Having trustworthy, impartial sources for our local news is of the utmost importance so that announcements and claims can have scrutiny, and that's what journalists do best."

Ms Templeman said that it was important for people to have access to information that had been fact-checked, especially in times of crisis like floods, fires or pandemics.

"I was a journalist for more than a decade, I have always double-checked the information that I have shared with the media - but not everyone does that," she said.

"The stories close to home are the ones that often most affect our daily lives or are about the people we know, and the loss of any local media is a massive blow to the community.

"I would urge Hawkesbury people to support regional media - whether that means buying or subscribing to the publication, picking it up from your front lawn and opening it, or listening to your community radio station. Have them in your Facebook feed or go online.

"Whatever you do, remember it's a case of if you don't use it, you'll lose it."

Ms Templeman said that the current laws had done little to support regional media.

"The Government knows its laws are last century, but it has failed to update the rules, she said. "We need new models - but are yet to see them.

"The Government currently has a road map for media reform, which it released in December 2019, but this makes no mention of regional media.

"The Broadcasting Amendment bill currently before Parliament is just a bit of regulatory housekeeping - it helps a bit, but doesn't address structural challenges.

"The fact is, this Liberal National Government has had seven years to support regional media but have let the sector down, and let regional Australia down."

Veteran television journalist Ray Martin has been enlisted to help spearhead the "Save Our Voices" campaign and Ms Templeman said she was pleased to see someone so respected backing local and regional media.

"Ray and I are of the same reporting generation, and we share a fundamental belief that healthy newsrooms lead to a healthy democracy," she said.

"In the Hawkesbury, we should also remember that North Richmond has a long tradition of producing quality regional media, with publications like The Land, and has employed many people not just as journalists but as printers."