Federal Government Urged To Act On Not For Profit Media
11 July 2012 at 10:28 am
The Public Interest Journalism Foundation has called on the Federal Government to introduce tax deductibility for philanthropic and other donations to Not for Profit media groups that produce quality journalism in the public interest.
Bill Birnbauer from The Public Interest Journalism Foundation. Photo: Monash University
A Foundation spokesman, Bill Birnbauer, said the Government and the public needed to broaden consideration of the future of public interest journalism beyond the upheavals at Fairfax and News Ltd.
“We are in a time of incredible transition in the media and what is needed now is a recognition that meeting the information needs of communities is no longer the sole responsibility of newspapers,” Birnbauer said.
“The problem we face needs to be reframed from one of ‘saving’ newspapers to finding new ways of preserving the core of quality journalism on a variety of digital platforms.”
The Public Interest Journalism Foundation was established in 2009 with a broad brief to develop new approaches to journalism that will “maximise and explore the applications of emerging media technologies”. The Foundation is an independent organisation whose members include journalists, academics and community members.
Birnbauer, a senior lecturer in journalism at Monash University, award winning investigative journalist and committee member of the Melbourne Press Club, said tax deductibility had contributed to an explosion in the number of Not for Profit media organisations in the US, many of which were producing excellent work.
The Finkelstein inquiry had supported tax deductibility under a heading of “Recommendations for future action’’. It found that in order to encourage philanthropic funding for Not for Profit online ventures, “philanthropists could be allowed to claim a tax deduction for a portion of donations for the establishment of new non-profit news venture and/or assist funding of their operations’’.
Birnbauer, who is researching US Non Profit Journalism for a higher degree, said: “In the United States, a civic crisis due to the financial meltdown of the media was ameliorated because philanthropic foundations, wealthy individuals and mum and dad donors provided funding for non-profit news organisations.”
Birnbauer said Not for Profit reporting centres have used philanthropic funding to produce the type of quality journalism that mainstream media increasingly were struggling with due to staff and resource cutbacks.
Stories produced by the centres had been published in outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, commercial programs such as 60 Minutes and public broadcasters NPR and PBS. They have won key journalism awards, including Pulitzer Prizes.
“The fact that there are now about 75 investigative Not for Profit reporting centres in the US is due to the fact that donations to them are tax deductible,” he said.
“Any reporting organisation created under this model in Australia would have to operate on a Not for Profit basis in order to attract tax deductibility. If successful, a commercial model could eventuate in future.”
“I believe that there are philanthropists and individuals in Australia who care enough about the importance of a robust and diverse media for our democracy and who would donate to credible, independent and Not for Profit news organisations if such contributions were tax-deductible,” Birnbauer said.
In a letter to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, the Foundation has called on the Government to adopt the future of an informed citizenry as a national priority for Australian Research Council funding, to establish seed grants for research on journalistic innovation and to support collaborations between journalists and other sectors of civil society.
One of Australia’s first Not for Profit journalism sites is The Global Mail. The philanthropically funded site describes its Not for Profit mission as delivering original, fearless and independent journalism.