AAP closure triggers media stoush

 

A FURIOUS war of words over the future of journalism has erupted following the closure of the Australian Associated Press this week with claims of "gobsmacking hypocrisy" and accusations the service had been shut down to "punish" some news organisations.

But companies involved in the debate, including publisher of this paper News Corp, have argued that the impact of tech giants Facebook and Google had caused AAP's ultimate demise.

They also warned journalism would continue to be "eaten alive" by cashed-up companies using content for free unless the Morrison Government intervened.

Today, The Guardian published accusations that Nine Entertainment and News Corp closed AAP to stop subsidising "a breaking news service for their competitors".

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance media federal president Marcus Strom said the report suggested a "sinister motive" behind the imminent closure of a well-respected news source, putting the jobs of 600 people in jeopardy, including 300 editorial staff.

"The fact that they didn't put AAP up for sale indicates that News and Nine simply wanted AAP to shut down," Mr Strom said.

AAP chairman Campbell Reid and AAP CEO Bruce Davidson announcing AAP’s closure at the head office in Sydney. Picture: AAP
AAP chairman Campbell Reid and AAP CEO Bruce Davidson announcing AAP’s closure at the head office in Sydney. Picture: AAP

But AAP chairman Campbell Reid slammed the accusations as "conspiracy theory nonsense" and said the report showed "gobsmacking hypocrisy" from The Guardian after it "slashed the amount it was prepared to pay for AAP" last year, contributing to its closure.

"The fact is, at News in particular, we compete against The Guardian all over the world and we love competing. Competition for good journalism is a hallmark of a good society and we revel in it," Mr Reid said.

"The people at AAP face an uncertain future because of the earthquake that is shaking through global media. For people to characterise this as a petty, tit-for-tat move is an insult to the people at AAP who face an uncertain future.

"The notion that Nine and News would take an action like this, which costs so many Australians their jobs, in order to have a petty competition with other media organisations just defies any logic."

It's understood that Guardian Australia reduced its annual payment to AAP by almost 40 per cent last year.

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AAP newswire service is closing after 85 years with 500 jobs losses.
AAP newswire service is closing after 85 years with 500 jobs losses.

But Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor said the organisation paid less to AAP as it was using fewer of its services, and played down accusations of anti-competitive behaviour from rivals.

"In an opinion piece today, I clearly wrote that it was a commercial decision caused primarily by the impact of the digital platforms on the media's business model," Ms Taylor said.

"I did make the point that the decision will make it more difficult for other new start-ups in Australia but that is a consequence, not an accusation about intent."

Both the MEAA and News Corp have called for the Morrison Government to fast-track a code of conduct between news organisations and digital platforms to ensure a fair playing field for journalism in Australia.

The recommendation was one of 23 made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission after an 18-month investigation into tech giants.

"To preserve a vibrant Australian media industry and to prevent more losses then we need the Federal Government's proposed codes of conduct between the tech giants and publishers to deliver a genuine framework that means these tech companies start paying for our content," he said.



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