The Guardian reports that the news agency Australian Associated Press will close in June after major shareholders Nine Entertainment and News Corp Australia said the 85-year-old institution was unsustainable.
AAP’s chairman, Campbell Reid, described the news wire as Australian “journalism’s first responder”.
“It is a great loss that professional and researched information provided by AAP is being substituted with the unresearched and often inaccurate information that masquerades as real news on the digital platforms,” Reid, who is News Corp’s group executive corporate affairs, told staff at a meeting in the Sydney newsroom.
AAP provides more than 500 stories, 750 images and 20 pieces of video each day across news, politics, finance and sport to about 200 subscribers who use it for newspapers, radio news and talkback programs, television news and websites.
Nine could cut Ashes and T20 World Cups from free-to-air TV as profits fall. About 180 jobs would be lost, but there might be openings at Nine or News Corp, AAP said. The editor-in-chief, Tony Gillies, said AAP was a “place like no other in journalism. We exist for the public’s interest and I now fear for the void left by the absence of AAP’s strong, well-considered voice.”
The chief executive, Bruce Davidson, said the closure on 26 June would be an extremely sad day for Australian journalism. “AAP has been a critical part of journalism in Australia since 1935, and it is tragic that it will come to an end. Hundreds of wonderful journalists made their start at AAP and went on to brilliant careers. Many others chose to stay with the agency for several decades and are part of the revered AAP family.”
The loss of the news wire will have a major effect on public interest journalism and the coverage of local courts, as well as regional and rural news.
AAP is an independent news source jointly owned by News Corp (44.74%), Nine Entertainment (44.74%), West Australian Newspapers Limited (8.25%) and Harris Enterprises. AAP has provided news organisations big and small with daily news, information and photographs since it was founded in 1935 by Keith Murdoch.But the arrival of digital search engines, aggregators and social media platforms has had an increasingly detrimental impact on AAP, compounded by the recent merger of Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment.
Now Nine has access to the resources of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age it has less need for AAP, sources say. As well as AAP Newswire, the company has a subediting service, Pagemasters, the new product AAP Factcheck and a creative content studio.
After the merger Nine took subediting and production in-house again after years of outsourcing it to Pagemasters, another blow to the bottom line at AAP. Gillies has said the company was operating in a “massively disrupted environment”.
“We are in a constant state of change because you have to be in order to remain relevant,” he said the last time there were cuts.nWhile we are extremely proud of our news innovations and ‘can-do’ attitude, we need to do even more.”
The board of AAP met on Monday to discuss its future. It also provides a vital service to smaller regional outlets, TV stations, local newspapers and Guardian Australia.
Nine Entertainment’s chief executive, Hugh Marks, signalled at the company’s half-year results last week that his substantial investment in AAP was under review after Nine had reported a 9% drop in profits.
Marks said Nine was embarking on cost-cutting in areas which were no longer profitable, including “big output deals like AAP”. Sources said News Corp was also having major concerns about the cost of running the business, which has lost clients in recent years as the media landscape was transformed by digital.
“You have to continue to focus on those big cost areas … invest in high-quality cost content, try and get efficiencies in low-quality costs – printing, distribution, big output deals like AAP,” Marks said last week.
In 2018 AAP lost 10% of its journalists in a major cull, with executives blaming the digital platforms Google and Facebook for cannibalising their service.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance said an independent non-partisan news source was vital.
“For 85 years, AAP has provided important, reliable reporting of courts, politics, sport, general news and photography to a diverse range of subscribers including regional and metropolitan newspapers, websites and broadcasters,” the MEAA house committee for AAP said.