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Canberra should help fund AAP to protect against News Corp: ACCC

Media and marketing

Australia’s newswire, AAP, has a compelling case for government funding, the head of the nation’s competition watchdog says.

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Australian Associated Press has launched a crowdfunding campaign as part of its new not-for-profit model, but Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims has suggested Canberra could also play a vital role.

“The government provides significant money to the ABC and the SBS, that’s so we do get that independent source of news,” he told the public broadcaster.

“The argument for funding AAP – obviously in much lesser amounts, because AAP doesn’t need much money, but it does need some – that argument is also compelling.”

Saved by a group of philanthropists after former shareholders News Corp and Nine planned to close the 85-year-old news service, AAP is operating with reduced staff numbers in an increasingly brutal media market.

News Corp has started its own ‘wire’ and Sims said his agency will be closely monitoring the landscape.

“Our concern is going to be that it’s not undercut, there’s not predatory pricing, there’s not other mechanisms where News Corp might seek to disadvantage AAP, and in a sense, force it out of business so that the only newswire service left is News Corp,” he said.

While the commission is in place to ensure fair competition, Sims said AAP’s independence at times makes it the perfect fit for when there’s only one journalist in the room.

“AAP providing that broad news coverage for events that really only one journalist should go along to, and then distributing the news more widely, in many ways, that can be a monopoly business.

“And it would not be good for that monopoly business to be in the hands of one of the main media players.”

AAP provides photography, coverage of sport, politics and court, world and breaking news, plus a FactCheck service.

The content is replicated across print, digital and broadcast platforms in Australia and overseas.

Scores of high-profile public figures including past prime ministers, sports and media personalities have shown support for AAP since its crowdfunding campaign was launched on Monday.

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