ABC to add 50 journalists in Regional Australia with News Media Bargaining Code funds

The ABC has announced an additional 50-plus journalist roles in regional locations as a result of deals struck with Facebook and Google.

Following the passage of the News Media Bargaining Code in February, which included the public broadcasters, the ABC entered into commercial negotiations with the digital platforms.

An agreement was signed with Facebook this week and follows an agreement reached with Google last month.  Revenue from both will go towards increasing the ABC’s investment in regional and rural journalism across Australia.

When we asked exactly how much the ABC has received  from the News Media Bargaining Code money, an ABC spokesperson told us it was commercial in confidence. So we did some maths.

Let’s assume that most of the journos are young full time staff paid up to $80k with oncosts and allowances, while others are part timers and stringers paid on an hourly or story submission basis. Then add costs for setting up remote offices or home offices in the various regional towns where there had been no previous ABC presence, plus supervision and training. Let’s say that averages out at $60k per year x 50 journalists. That equals $3 million dollars. That’s our guess of how much the national broadcaster is getting from Google and Facebook each year.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson says the agreements provided a significant boost to the ABC’s services in regional areas.  “We decided at the very start of these negotiations that any net revenue we received from these deals would go where it is needed most – and that is in regional Australia.”

The ABC currently employs around 550 content makers in its 48 regional bureaux. The new roles created by this agreement represent an increase in the number of regional journalists of around 10 per cent.

Mr Anderson says the ABC would be placing the additional journalists into the areas where they were needed most and would have the most impact.  “We want to provide greater coverage of regional stories in areas that are under-served by the media or are in news deserts.  Extra regional services are a great way to start 2022, our 90th year, and this announcement is fitting given the ABC’s relationship with rural and regional Australia over those nine decades.”

In the first 12 months of the roll out, the ABC will run a series of pilots to inform longer term planning will all positions and placements to be reviewed towards the end of 2022.

The initiatives build on the investment the ABC made in regional Australia in 2017 when it put in 83 additional positions to support the upgrade of its regional bureaux to multimedia hubs.

Starting next week, the ABC will begin placing journalists in more than 20 locations in all states and the Northern Territory with all positions expected to be filled by early 2022.  Some positions will be located in existing ABC regional bureaux and others will be placed in areas that have not had an ABC presence before.

Five ‘mini-bureaus’ will be trialled in Warragul, Batemans Bay, Carnarvon, Hervey Bay and Charleville.

Individual reporters will be placed in Swan Hill, Whyalla, Victor Harbor, Northam and Gladstone where there are currently no ABC reporters based.

Regional hubs that serve large areas will also get additional support in Horsham, Burnie, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Katherine, Esperance, Karratha, Longreach and Toowoomba.

Reporters will also be embedded for limited times in other, more remote locations.

In addition to these roles, several new national specialist rounds will be added to the ABC’s regional team, covering topics such as water, mining, social affairs and health.

ABC’s acclaimed regional youth initiative ABC Heywire, also benefits, with plans to embed teams in regional locations, starting in Victoria and focusing on the stories and issues impacting young people in the region.