Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce acknowledges "the fourth estate are incredibly important" but has stopped short of committing to support regional newspapers with emergency funding.
The price of the newsprint used by hundreds of regional newspapers around Australia is set to skyrocket by as much as 80 per cent from July 1.
ACM - the owner of this masthead - and industry association Country Press Australia have jointly written to major political parties to warn of newspaper closures and job losses without emergency financial assistance to offset the steep jump in the price of paper.
While announcing a $600,000 upgrade for facilities at Armidale Rams Rugby League Club, Mr Joyce was asked on Monday if he would back government support to help keep regional newspapers printing.
The Deputy Prime Minister said he was "not going to announce it on the fly" but noted the government had done this in the past and saw regional media as vital for the community.
"They're under attack from the cost of the actual paper itself and the print itself but also because money has been lost to online platforms," he said.
Mr Joyce said the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Google were making "so much money out of advertising revenue" but not setting up journalism bureaus like media outlets.
"At this point in time, they're just leeching all the advertising revenue off the people who actually do the job of the fourth estate so my belief is very strong that we'd support community papers," Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce acknowledged "people don't want rip and read from Sydney" and instead valued local news relevant to their community which is why "for that process to continue on, we're going to need support".
On Saturday, Labor's communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said the party would seek Coalition cooperation for emergency support to publishers of regional newspapers "before it's too late".
In March this year, a parliamentary inquiry found local news should be better supported by government, specifically a recommendation was that local and regional newspapers should receive a greater proportion of government advertising.
Anne Webster, who chaired the inquiry, said rural and regional newspapers were "the main source of local information" and they played "an important role in maintaining an interconnected community".
Mr Joyce noted the role newspapers play in democracy and said he had "supported not only papers in the past but also community radio stations".
"You can't have a democracy even in regard to local government levels unless you've got investigative journalism," he said.
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