Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund

Up to $1M is available from Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund to support regional and small publishers to transition and compete successfully in the evolving media environment.

 

Background

As part of the landmark reforms being made to Australia’s media laws, the Turnbull Government will provide much needed support to regional and small publishers through the $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package.

This Package includes:

  • the $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund
  • the Regional and Small Publishers Cadetship Program, which will support 200 cadetships, and
  • 60 regional journalism scholarships.

The Government recognises that the media industry is in significant transition and that this poses great challenges for small publishers and small regional newspapers in particular. The business models that have traditionally supported journalism—particularly those funded by advertising revenue—are being challenged, and the need to adapt successful subscriber and revenue models is proving especially demanding for smaller publications. The provision of quality journalism is under pressure.

  • Quality journalism is an important underpinning of our democracy, and access to locally relevant factual journalism is important to developing and maintaining strong regional communities.
  • Effective journalism also plays a vital role in holding our institutions to account and creates a framework in which complex issues can be understood, offering the public reliable information to support decisions in political, economic and social life.

 

Objective

The objective of the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund is to encourage small and regional news publishers (which includes publishers of newspapers, magazines or other periodicals, as well as content service providers that provide online news services and journalism) to develop and trial sustainable models for the provision of public interest journalism.

For the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund to meet its objectives, it will achieve the following outcomes:

  • support projects aimed at improving the capacity of small and regional news publishers and content service providers to generate revenue from the production of public interest journalism
  • encourage innovation and experimentation in digital journalism
  • support business improvement activities to strengthen the financial position of small and regional news publishers and content service providers.

 

Funding

The Australian Government has announced a total of $48 million over three years for the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund.

Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund grants will be provided on a per project basis in three tiers:

  • Small grants of up to $20,000—intended to support early stage projects to develop and plan new ways of producing and disseminating journalistic content. A small project, for example, might be the first step in a phased program of work that the applicant intends building and extending over time (at their own cost). Other examples of small grants might be to support small-scale IT upgrades.
  • Medium grants from $20,001 to $250,000—intended to support the pilot or trial of initiatives to improve the way a news media business develops and publishes public interest journalism. Such projects may test or demonstrate the commercial and audience potential of new applications or initiatives.
  • Large grants from $250,001 to $1 million—intended to support large-scale projects that will have a significant impact on the provision and availability of public interest journalism. Large grants would be allocated for transformative projects, overhauling the way a news publisher operates in the digital media environment. These projects will improve the availability of public interest journalism for existing audiences, with genuine potential to increase that audience.

 

Eligible Activities

Consistent with the objective of the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund, funded activities will directly support the provision of public interest journalism. They will deliver innovative and transformative outcomes that improve how a publisher develops and distributes public interest journalism. Grants will not be made available for projects that represent ‘business-as-usual’ with little or no change in the way the applicant produces journalistic content or the way that it reaches its audience.

As a guide, it is expected that Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund activities may fall into one or more of several broad streams:

  • Efficiency measures—initiatives that deliver savings in terms of the costs of generating, collating and publishing public interest journalism content, particularly those that harness technologies and exploit the benefits of collaboration.
  • Digital projects—initiatives that enable publishers and content service providers to use online platforms to broaden their audience, such as video streaming services, digital editions or news apps.
  • Revenue development projects—initiatives that seek to develop and grow new sources of revenue for publishers and content service providers who are providing public interest journalism.

Consequently, when outlining the project proposal, applications should demonstrate how a project will support the provision of public interest journalism by fitting into one or more of the above streams, and how the activities to be undertaken under the project fall within the suitable categories for grants expenditure (set out below).

 

Eligible Expenditures

Categories of expenditure suitable for the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund will be relatively broad, including:

  • project delivery costs (that are directly related to the project)
  • purchase or lease of assets and equipment (particularly technology)
  • commissioning advice or contracting services from third parties
  • acquisition of relevant intellectual property or other rights.

The following Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund list is non-exhaustive, but provides some examples:

  • Project delivery costs—costs paid to a vendor or contractor to install equipment or systems required to deliver the agreed outcomes for the project. They must be reasonable and appropriate for the activities performed by the vendor or contractor. They must not include expenditure for staff employed by the applicant or any overheads associated with such staff.
  • Commissioning—this may relate to commissioning feasibility studies or planning work (likely to be applicable for small grants) through to commissioning full IT builds or installations (more likely to be applicable for medium or large grants).
  • Intellectual property and technology—the costs of acquiring intellectual property and the costs of acquiring and installing new technology. Ongoing maintenance, repairs or depreciation are not eligible.
  • Plant and equipment—the costs of assets that are directly and solely used to achieve the project outcomes. This may take the form of acquisition costs or lease costs, with the latter limited to those incurred for the duration of the grant agreement. Repairs, maintenance or depreciation will not be funded.
  • Staff training—the cost of training staff that directly supports the achievement of project outcomes.
  • Audit and assurance—the costs of financial auditing of project expenditure.

 

Eligible Applicants

To be eligible to apply for a grant under the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund, applicants must meet statutory criteria set out in section 205ZH of the BSA, namely that an applicant is either:

  • a constitutional corporation that publishes a newspaper, magazine or other periodical; or
  • a content service provider.

 

Timing

It is anticipated that applications for round two will open in the first quarter of 2019.

 

Top 18 Tips to Get This Grant

These are the things you will need to focus on in order to get this grant

  1. Strategy – how the proposed project aligns with, and supports, your own strategies for business growth and the sustainable production of public interest journalism
  2. Go or No Go – whether the project will proceed, in whole or part, without support from the Innovation Fund.
  3. Adapt – how you could or will adapt your business to take on the improvements and innovations from the proposed project
  4. Skills – your current and proposed access to appropriately skilled and experienced project personnel
  5. Resources – your current and proposed access to the infrastructure, capital equipment and technology necessary to deliver on the proposed project
  6. Intellectual Property – how you have or will secure beneficial use of any IP necessary to complete the proposed project
  7. Competitiveness – how the proposed project will improve the competitiveness of you.
  8. Costs – that the project is a cost-effective way to deliver the intended outcomes of the Innovation Fund
  9. Risks – the risks associated with the proposed project and how these risks will be managed
  10. Finances – how you will monitor the performance of the proposed project and manage the financial aspects of the grant funding
  11. Governance – how you will provide suitable and effective governance arrangements to successfully deliver the proposed project.
  12. Revenue – how the proposed project will improve the capacity of you to generate revenue from the production of civic and public interest journalism
  13. Innovation – how the proposed project will encourage innovation and experimentation in digital journalism
  14. Financial Position – how the proposed project will support business improvement activities that will strengthen the financial position of you within the level of grant funding being sought
  15. Sustainability – your capacity to maintain and extend the benefits of the project beyond the grant funding period
  16. Measurement – how you will measure the effectiveness of the proposed project, including audience reach and impact.
  17. Justification – how the grant amount sought for the proposed project represents a proportionate and appropriate allocation of resources relative to the scale of the proposed project
  18. Detail – how your budget for the proposed project contains an adequate level of detail and is appropriate to achieve the proposed project activities.

Contact me if you need more assistance with the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund [email protected]

 

Media Release

Communications minister Mitch Fifield will announce the first round of successful applicants of the federal government’s Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund next week, Mumbrella understands.

The first round of the scheme, originally scheduled for a July launch, will see $16m of grants given to publishers for projects to help them compete in an evolving media environment.

While the initial delays in the scheme were due to legislative changes required to give ACMA the power to manage the scheme, Mumbrella understands the agency was overwhelmed by the response which saw publishers submit 186 grant applications.

The industry evaluation committee, headed by PwC’s Megan Brownlow, handed down its recommendations in late October with ACMA working on processing the grants since.

A number of publishers made multiple applications under the three tiers of the scheme which offered grants of up to $20,000 for small projects, up to $250,000 from medium-sized initiatives and over $250,000 for schemes promising a significant impact on the provision and availability of public interest journalism.

The criteria for publishers eligible under the scheme narrowed the field with publications associated with political parties, trade unions and lobby groups such as GetUp excluded.

The requirement that publishers had to be members of the Australian Press Council was dropped, instead being replaced with a requirement that applicants had a code of conduct and a “robust and transparent process” for complaints.

Next week’s launch comes at time when a number of private sector funds have been announced, with Media Super launching a $20m innovation fund for publishers in September, Google launching its Asia-Pacific innovation challenge offering up to US$300,000 for publishers’ projectsand Sydney billionaire Judith Neilson launching a $100m journalism fund in November.

Despite the scheme not yet being launched, the ACCC flagged in its interim digital platforms report released yesterday that it wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of the scheme when it expires in 2021.

Applications for the second round of funding are due to open in the new year.

 

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