Up to $12.4M 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.
Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund
The Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund (the Innovation Fund) has been established by the Government to support regional and small publishers to transition to and compete more successfully in the evolving media environment. The Innovation Fund will preserve and improve the viability of Australia’s regional and small news publishing industry in the current period of transition.
The ACMA is to award grants under the Innovation Fund in multiple competitive grant rounds over three financial years, beginning in 2018–19. Each financial year, a total of $16 million will be made available for grants under the Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund is a component of Program 1.2 in the 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statement for the ACMA.
The Innovation Fund targets regional and small news publishers as these groups have less size and scale to enable them to respond to market and technological developments, particularly the growth of internet-based media, which continues to impact both markets and advertising revenue across traditional media sectors. Larger publishers are not targeted by the Innovation Fund due to their generally greater capacity to adapt to these conditions, including access to greater skilled labour and capital, than may be the case in regional areas of Australia. Without intervention, there is a heightened risk that small and regional news publishers will no longer be able to support quality public interest journalism.
Grant opportunities under the Innovation Fund operate in accordance with the provisions of Part 14F of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA). The ACMA will administer grant opportunities under the Innovation Fund according to the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines 2017.
The Regional Grant Opportunity
The Regional Grant Opportunity is an additional program under the Innovation Fund designed to make residual funding from round one of the Fund (up to $12.4 million) available to regional publishers and online content providers.
The Regional Grant Opportunity is targeted at regional news publishers who can demonstrate a solid business case to increase the sustainability of their publishing activities, including news gathering, production and distribution. Its objective is to provide these businesses with financial security in the medium term to allow them to take calculated risks to reorient their business models to adapt to the digital age.
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.
The maximum grant amount available for each applicant is $400,000 (not including GST). There is no minimum grant amount.
Regional publishers who applied for grants in the previous round of the Innovation Fund (including applicants who were awarded grants under that round) are eligible to apply to the Opportunity, but the total grant amount awarded to any applicant (including any related bodies corporate) for the 2018–19 financial year must not exceed $1 million.
Consistent with the objective of the Opportunity, funded activities will increase the sustainability of the applicant’s news creation and publishing activities, including news gathering, production and distribution.
It is expected that funded activities may fall into one or more of the following categories – activities that:
- increase an applicant’s advertising or subscription revenue;
- increase other revenue that supports the production of public interest journalism;
- increase an applicant’s readership or distribution; or
- reduce an applicant’s operating costs through more efficient business practices.
The Opportunity is intended to fund a broad range of activities that relate to the applicant’s publishing. In addition to funding investment in capital projects, eligible expenditure includes that related to improving the sustainability of regional publishers. Eligible expenditure could encompass:
- the costs of acquiring new technology to assist with distributing content to a wider audience;
- the costs of journalists’ salaries or payments for new proposals;
- costs of training to upskill staff;
- establishment costs of a database of reader or subscriber information;
- costs to assist journalists with content production;
- 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; and
- pilots or feasibility studies for innovative projects designed to promote the long-term sustainability of the applicant’s business and their ability to provide public interest journalism.
The following 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 can include expenditure for staff employed by the applicant if it relates to the project.
- Commissioning—this may relate to commissioning feasibility studies or planning work through to commissioning full IT builds or installations.
- 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 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 to improve their skill base and capabilities
- Audit and assurance—the costs of financial auditing of project expenditure.
All applicants must satisfy all of the eligibility criteria set out below, otherwise the application will not proceed to merit assessment.
To be eligible to apply for a grant under this opportunity of the Innovation Fund, applicants must meet the 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.
In addition, applicants to the Opportunity will be assessed against the following eligibility criteria:
- An applicant must be an incorporated company. This could be a company incorporated under the Corporations Act 2001 or a corporation incorporated under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006, or a company incorporated under another Commonwealth, State or Territory law.
- Applicants will be required to attest that they are a constitutional corporation and include their Australian Company Number, Indigenous Company Number or otherwise indicate how they are an incorporated company.
- An applicant must have an Australian Business Number (ABN) and be registered for GST. This number must be supplied with the application
- An applicant must be a regional publisher (this includes publishers of newspapers, magazines or other periodicals, as well as content service providers). This means that an applicant must be a publisher whose:
- primary operations are located in a regional area; and
- news and journalistic output is targeted to readers and audiences in one or more regional areas.
- An applicant’s primary operations are the business operations of a company that generate the most revenue for the company compared to other operations.
- For the purposes of the Opportunity, a ‘regional area’ means a radio broadcast licence area that is not a metropolitan licence area. A ‘metropolitan licence area’ is defined in section 61CA of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to mean a licence area in which is situated the General Post Office of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide, or the licence area known as Western suburbs Sydney RA1. Note that for the purposes of the Opportunity, major population centres that are not mainland state capital cities are in regional areas – for example, Canberra, Darwin, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hobart, Newcastle and Wollongong.
- Applicants must:
- provide the address of their place of primary operations; and
- attest that their news and journalistic output is targeted to readers and audiences in one or more regional commercial radio licence areas.
Applications close 14 June 2019.
Top 18 Tips to Get This Grant
These are the things you will need to focus on in order to get this grant
- Strategy – how the proposed project aligns with, and supports, your own strategies for business growth and the sustainable production of public interest journalism
- Go or No Go – whether the project will proceed, in whole or part, without support from the Innovation Fund.
- Adapt – how you could or will adapt your business to take on the improvements and innovations from the proposed project
- Skills – your current and proposed access to appropriately skilled and experienced project personnel
- Resources – your current and proposed access to the infrastructure, capital equipment and technology necessary to deliver on the proposed project
- Intellectual Property – how you have or will secure beneficial use of any IP necessary to complete the proposed project
- Competitiveness – how the proposed project will improve the competitiveness of you.
- Costs – that the project is a cost-effective way to deliver the intended outcomes of the Innovation Fund
- Risks – the risks associated with the proposed project and how these risks will be managed
- Finances – how you will monitor the performance of the proposed project and manage the financial aspects of the grant funding
- Governance – how you will provide suitable and effective governance arrangements to successfully deliver the proposed project.
- Revenue – how the proposed project will improve the capacity of you to generate revenue from the production of civic and public interest journalism
- Innovation – how the proposed project will encourage innovation and experimentation in digital journalism
- 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
- Sustainability – your capacity to maintain and extend the benefits of the project beyond the grant funding period
- Measurement – how you will measure the effectiveness of the proposed project, including audience reach and impact.
- 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
- 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]