Michael McCormack says the Riverina has “already lost so much” of its media landscape to internet disruption and the region can “ill-afford” any further whacks to localised stories.
The Riverina MP was speaking as a campaign run by regional television networks flares against ‘‘antiquated laws’’ they say are killing news services in the bush.
The timing of the campaign comes in the wake of the WIN Network’s shock decision to pull out of Mildura and Mackay last month. Those communities were given less than a day’s notice their bulletins would cease.
At the centre of the skirmish are the so-called “reach rules”, which restrict any media player from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population.
Television broadcasters pay heavily for government licences to transmit into regional centres.
But in the new digital world, national and even international news services are increasing their market share in those areas without the need to pay any licence fees.
With market share dwindling, regional broadcasters say they’re left with no choice but to slash or close newsrooms.
Mr McCormack, a former newspaper editor and journalist, pointed out that Griffith had already seen the departure of television news.
It comes against the backdrop of streamlined operations at the ABC and Fairfax Media.
The decision by WIN to not replace Griffith’s video journalist in the city has been a white-hot issue.
A local edition of Prime7 News does not broadcast into western Riverina and Southern Cross Ten runs "rip and read"-style updates, as it also does in Wagga.
“Griffith goes without television news coverage most of the time apart from its radio and newspapers – but people like to see television news during the evening – it provides that extra dimension,” Mr McCormack said.
“Something needs to be done.”
Mr McCormack said the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the communications minister would meet to discuss “what they could do and where they could go”.
Prime Media Group chairman John Hartigan warned ‘‘we’ll hear about more regional newsroom closures in the coming weeks’’ – but stopped short of saying where.
And WIN chief Andrew Lancaster hit out at regional MPs for “inaction” on the issue. WIN has previously failed to guarantee the future of its Wagga bureau.
‘‘I’m sure (those MPs) are keen to ensure that regional communities continue to have a voice but very few seem to be doing anything about it in Canberra … this is not a future issue, it’s a now issue,’’ Mr Lancaster said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.