Supporting independent public interest media

Apr 19, 2024
Digitally generated News made of digital screens in blue.

Government media funding supports the failing mainstream media (MSM) and right-wing advocacy groups like the Institute of Public Affairs.

The News Media Bargaining Code gifts $1b over four years from Google and Facebook mainly to Nine Network, Seven West Media, Guardian, and News Corp. The last two are foreign owned.

The right-wing advocacy body, Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) which is a training ground for aspiring Liberal politicians has Deductible Gift Recipient status (DGR) which means that Gina Reinhardt and Rupert Murdoch receive tax deductions for their very large donations to IPA. By contrast independent public interest media such as Pearls and Irritations, Crikey, Croakey and Michael West Media do not have DRG status.

We were refused only a few weeks ago.

News Media Bargaining Code

The monopoly MSM strong armed the Morrison Government to force Google and Facebook to subsidise them, claiming that the tech giants were freely accessing the news they produced.

That is special pleading for two main reasons.

First, because billions of people click through the Google and Facebook search engines to access publisher web sites like News Corp and the Nine Network. That increases the readership and revenue of the entrenched MSM media.

Second the MSM media have largely themselves to blame for their loss of advertising revenue and particularly classified advertising revenue. A former Managing Director of the Sydney Morning Herald, Rags Henderson described classified advertising revenues as ‘rivers of gold’. As a result of management failure by the legacy media, this revenue was syphoned off to, and

The Bargaining Code is a political fix to subsidise the monopoly MSM that is dependent on news and propaganda out of Washington and London. They largely ignore our region except to exaggerate the China threat in the interest of US hegemony. This failing legacy media has lost the trust of most Australians. News Corp is the least trusted of all.

The Code is corporate welfare writ large. It should not be renewed. It entrenches the old monopoly media.

In a breathtaking review to justify the Code, Treasury said:

“While some stakeholders raised concerns about the Code’s impact on competition and media diversity, the objective of the Code is to address bargaining power imbalances so as to ensure news businesses receive fair remuneration from digital platforms for the value their content generates. It is not designed to redistribute resources across the news sector or to guarantee that all news businesses receive funding. Other policy and funding tools are available to achieve these objectives.”

News media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code

We all thought that Treasury believed in markets and competition. This was a real opportunity to encourage diversity and new players but Treasury turned its back on that opportunity.

If a new Code is negotiated it should be administered by an independent body with a major responsibility to support more diverse, independent, and quality media. It should not fund the entrenched and declining monopoly media. We need a much more diverse media landscape.

DGR Status

Why is it that IPA has DGR status but not Pearls and Irritations and other independent media such as Crikey, Croakey, MWM and others?

The reason is past political favours for wealthy right wing advocacy institutions – rewarding their supporters.

Fortunately, Treasurer Chalmers, in February last year, asked the Productivity Commission (PC) to review Philanthropy. The PC is due to report back to the Treasurer next month on Philanthropy.

In its draft report the PC has recommended that DGR status be expanded to include public interest media and journalism. Along with other independent journals we support this recommendation.

Speaking of the draft report on 25 March this year, the Deputy Chair of the PC said that ‘the DGR system is broken’.

Significantly he added (see particularly 3. below on possible outcomes.)

The deductible gift recipient (DGR) proposed reforms would have four possible outcomes for charities:

1. Charities retaining DGR status: Most charities that currently do have DGR status, including public benevolent institutions, health promotion charities, animal welfare, environmental, cultural and formal higher education charities. More than 20,000 charities are in this group.

2. Charities not gaining DGR status: Charities undertaking activities including advancing religion, advancing industry, as well as some aged care, childcare and education charities would remain outside the DGR system. About 15,000 to 20,000 charities are in this group.

3. Charities gaining DGR status: Charities that currently do not have DGR status, such as those focused on advocacy and prevention, a wider range of animal welfare charities and many local community-based grassroots charities run solely by volunteers. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 charities could gain DGR status.

4. Charities with DGR status withdrawn: Mainly charities that have DGR status for school building funds or to provide religious education in government schools. Fewer than 5,000 charities are in this group.

Initial responses to the draft report have predominantly focused on the reforms to the DGR system. We have received a high volume of feedback centred around entities that will have their DGR status withdrawn. There has also been support for broadening eligibility for DGR status, including those engaged in advocacy and prevention activities.”

DRG status for Pearls and Irritations and other independent public interest media would be helpful.

We think we have a better case than IPA!

Pearls and Irritations will shortly be transitioning to a not-for-profit public company with new directors who are supporters of our ongoing work. We are determined to remain independent. We do not accept advertising and we do not have a paywall. We rely on donors to support us. Most of our income comes from donors who contribute an average of $16 per month.

As a reader described us, we ‘live on the smell of an oily rag’.

We do not accept donations of over $5,000 or any contributions from governments or their agencies or any organisations in the fossil fuel, gambling, or arms industries.

We have an endless public debate about the failure of Mainstream Media and particularly the Murdoch media but no worthwhile action is taken for fear of upsetting the media barons.

A recasting of the Media Bargaining Code and a broadening of the DRG status to include advocacy and prevention charities would at least be a start in redressing the abuse of power that we see in our MSM.

Fearful of our region, Australia has clung to remote imperial powers, first the UK and now the US. Similarly our derivative main stream media clings to the legacy media of the UK and the US.

We have a White Man’s Media in which the hegemony of the UK and particularly the US is entrenched.

This hinders our task of equipping ourselves for our future in Asia.

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