Why does the federal government no longer value regional newspaper readers as taxpayers worth talking to through its advertising campaigns?
Why is federal government advertising rarely appearing in the newspapers that regional Australians trust to keep their communities strong, informed and connected?
These are some of the questions regional news publishers have asked out loud in Canberra this week as part of their continuing campaign for a fairer allocation of the federal government's advertising budget.
"This should be an ad from the Australian Government", an otherwise blank back page of The Canberra Times declares in its September 13 edition.
"They should be communicating with you here about the services you need while supporting trusted local journalism like you do," the newspaper and its publisher ACM tell readers.
Copies of Wednesday's special edition of The Canberra Times were delivered to the Parliament House offices of every one of the 76 senators and 151 lower house Members in Canberra for this week's sitting of parliament as ACM, the publisher of this masthead, and other regional newspapers call on the government to commit to steering some of its advertising budget away from "foreign-owned, algorithm-driven digital giants" to local newspapers employing local journalists.
"In the 2022-2023 financial year, Australian Government advertising across the regional newspaper sector plunged by more than 70 per cent," an open letter to the government published in The Canberra Times says.
The message is co-signed by ACM managing director Tony Kendall and Country Press Australia president Andrew Schreyer, and accompanied by a list of 300 newspapers around Australia they represent.
"We tell the stories that matter to the 9 million people who live in regional Australia," the open letter says. "And yet the local newspapers serving 36 per cent of the population get next to 0 per cent of the government's advertising spend.
"Regional Australia deserves better from the Australian Government. Regional Australians deserve to see a fair share of their hard-earned tax dollars flowing back to their communities and the local newspapers they trust to keep them informed and connected."
The publishers point to the Dan Andrew government's commitment to run a full page advertisement in every regional paper in Victoria every week as a simple model for providing "certainty and sustainability" for local news.