Independent MP Helen Haines backs Save Our Voices, says local media is crucial

Indi MP Helen Haines says the Save Our Voices campaign is
Indi MP Helen Haines says the Save Our Voices campaign is "making a very sensible call on government and, in particular, on the Deputy Prime Minister". Picture: James Wiltshire

Independent MP Helen Haines has urged the federal government to take regional media's Save Our Voices campaign "very seriously".

The Member for Indi has supported the campaign, which calls for media ownership laws to be updated to reflect the current landscape where regional outlets must compete with metropolitan and international digital players that do not have the same restrictions.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher have so far resisted calls to support the changes.

"Regional media has been under intense pressure for years, clearly the pandemic has accelerated this and already we've seen far too many closures of regional media outlets across the nation," Dr Haines said.

Save Our Voices: How to show your support

"I think what the Save Our Voices campaign is doing is actually making a very sensible call on government and, in particular, on the Deputy Prime Minister who is the leader of the National Party and indeed a former regional newspaper journalist himself.

"I think the Deputy Prime Minister should be taking these calls very seriously."

The Save Our Voices campaign, fronted by Ray Martin, is being led by regional companies Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, WIN Network and ACM, the publisher of this masthead.

When our regional newspapers, TV stations and radio are calling in a united voice to do something about this, I think we need to listen.

Independent MP Helen Haines

Dr Haines said in a time where the government had been listening to health experts during the coronavirus pandemic, it should also listen to regional media as "the experts of their own landscape".

"When our regional newspapers, TV stations and radio are calling in a united voice to do something about this, I think we need to listen," she said.

"If we see further closures of regional media outlets after you've been making these constructive calls and collaborative ones, then I would be calling on the National Party to explain to regional Australia while they failed to act.

"I'm very much in support of this call."

Dr Haines has been in the national media a lot this week as she promotes her federal integrity commission bill, but said local media in her electorate of Indi in North East Victoria was more important to her.

"It's absolutely crucial for a Member of Parliament to have a great local media that can spread my message up and down the little places."

She said not only were local stories important, but also the media jobs in the regions that gave journalists based in those communities important local knowledge and insights.

"It just adds a richness to our community when we have journalists living amongst us. It's a no-brainer to me - we have to support regional media," Dr Haines said.

This story Our local news is crucial: Haines first appeared on The Canberra Times.