The Australian Associated Press (AAP) on Monday urged donors to help salvage the continent’s “media diversity,” especially news supplied to smaller publishers. 

Last March, two Australia-based media networks, News Corp and Nine Entertainment, quit as stakeholders in AAP, fueling fears of further media concentration, with News Corp planning a new content provider codenamed NCA. 

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Backing AAP’s survival campaign on Monday were prominent journalists and commentators, including former Sydney mayor Lucy Turnbull — partner of Australia’s ex-prime minister — and Annabel Crabb, political writer for public ABC broadcasting. 

“If [AAP] goes under (as it nearly did), then the only newswire in this country would be the one News Corp is building,” Crabb tweeted.  

AAP itself urged potential donors: “We don’t rely on clicks [tracking internet usage], advertisers or even a profit, but we do rely on you,” reminding them that in the past they had followed major news events “because AAP was there.” 

Founded in 1935, AAP says its output of “over 1,500 original stories per week as they happen” — from bureaus across Australia — reaches millions of newspaper readers, including those subscribing to “smaller” publishers across the continent, and more than 5 million radio listeners.  

Its three mainstays are Newsroom, comprising “wire stories and images… fed into most Australian newsrooms around the clock,” AAP’s photo library billed as Australia’s “biggest and best” and FactCheck, scanning social media content. 

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‘Brutal news landscape’ 

AAP chief executive Emma Cowdroy said the news agency’s client subscribers, including rural publishers, were facing the “toughest advertising market in modern history” — exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has long clashed with internet giants, such as Google and Facebook, over his “fair competition” plan to force them to share their advertising earnings from recycling copyrighted content with Australia’s media.  

AAP’s new chair Jonty Low on Monday described said any demise of her agency would be “unimaginable for most Australians,” urging them to help raise $A500,000 ($364,000) to retain “priceless” journalism and photography. 

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Bushfires, Pell trials 

AAP recent months-long coverage included massive bushfires across Australia’s southwest and the trials of Catholic Cardinal George Pell despite judicial gags.  

The Guardian reported Monday that News Corp planned to offer rival content via NCA, once a non-compete clause with AAP expired at the end of this year. 

Read more:Study: Google, Amazon ad revenue funds pandemic disinformation 

AAP’s team, cut by about half from its 180 staff before the August relaunch, also had foreign bureaus in New Zealand, Britain and the United States.  

Its retired veteran journalist John Coomber in July described AAP as the “purest form of journalism. We have no political ax to grind, nor advertisers to please. News value is paramount.” 

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ipj/rc (dpa, AFP) 

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