The decision by WIN News to close some regional media outlets is a blow to democracy, detracting from the role of local news plays in keeping government’s accountable, says John Mickel, a former Speaker of the Queensland Parliament and QUT adjunct associate professor.
WIN Network is cutting journalism jobs in regional Australia as it moves to statewide news bulletins across Queensland, Victoria and parts of southern NSW.
As part of the changes, which kick in when its affiliation with Nine begins on July 1, the broadcaster is also moving its weeknight WIN News bulletins to 5.30pm, which will be followed by National Nine News at 6pm, and then A Current Affair at 7pm.
“The announcement last month by Win News that regional TV news in Queensland, Victoria and parts of southern New South Wales will move to state-wide bulletins means job losses in those communities but also the loss of a regional voice,” he says.
“Fundamentally, it means fewer reporters breaking the local stories that have traditionally kept all levels of government on their toes. Local politicians had a platform but were also more easily scrutinised.
“The WIN News closures follow hard on the 2020 decision by News Corp to shut down the print editions of most of their local regional media papers and to put some of the content online.
“Last year also saw the Australian Community Media group suspend dozens of non-daily titles and close four printing presses.
“This trend has resulted in a loss of accountability by governments – a news service running from Brisbane will not have the same impact at all in a place like Mt Isa or Goondiwindi.
“Local content and local journalists can put the tough questioning on service delivery to all levels of government.
“It has been reported that WIN News will close its stations in Cairns and Far North Queensland, Townsville & North Queensland, Rockhampton and Central Queensland, Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, and the Sunshine Coast.
“The real losers are people living in regional and rural Queensland who lose media diversity and a media voice speaking out on their behalf.
“There are independent newspapers doing what they can, including some new ones opening up but you also have ‘news’ coming in the form of websites like Bundaberg Now which is operated by and a mouthpiece for the local council.”
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