Australia’s peak multicultural media body, Independent Multicultural Media Australia (IMMA) has released a statement calling on more government action to fund the sector, which they claim has not been funded proportionally to mainstream and regional media.

Over the last five years federal and state governments have spent over $100 million to support regional and mainstream media; in a country whose residents hail from a plethora of nations. IMMA states that multicultural media is critical for providing information, and acting as a platform for the country’s diverse communities to be heard.

In their statement to media IMMA says their media organisations serve as a trusted source of culturally relevant and targeted information, as well as a point of connection for migrant communities.

In a statement provided to Neos Kosmos, IMMA stated “Communication with multicultural communities is effective when provided in a way which accounts for the unique cultures, languages and faiths of communities; communication delivered by trusted sources embedded in the communities they serve.”

They say the ability of independent multicultural media to continue to do public interest journalism for their communities remains under threat.

Multicultural media organisations in print, radio, broadcast and online have experienced enormous challenges in recent years as tech giants and digital disruption encroach on the industry’s traditional revenue streams.

In a separate announcement today the NSW Government said it will “double the proportion of mandatory advertising spend for government departments to better communicate with diverse communities.”

Fotis Kapetopoulos, Secretary of IMMA welcomed the announcement.

“IMMA welcome the Perrottet government’s announcement and acknowledge that the Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure has been active in developing a dialogue with IMMA however, we are disappointed that no funding was announced for sustainability and digital transformation,” he said.

“Our audiences account for 40 percent of Australians, up to 5 million every month and they are intergenerational audiences – we talk to individuals, to families, and to communities, we ignite word of mouth.”

IMMA claims print prices have increased by 50 percent since last year and costs keep augmenting as incomes continue to decline in media spend specifically on government messaging.

Neos Kosmos‘ Publisher, Christopher Gogos, shares IMMA’s sentiments.

“Over the past five years the previous federal government granted over $100 million to major media and regional media for the sustainability of journalism.”

“Multicultural media, including Neos Kosmos, have been completely sidelined from such support mechanisms.”

“It is time for governments, both federal and state to seriously consider sustainability and digital transformation funds for independent multicultural media, which are the only serious outlet for public interest journalism for diverse communities.”

The COVID crisis highlighted the importance of independent multicultural media in communicating with diverse communities.

IMMA says independent multicultural media organisations’ ability to communicate COVIDSafe information with integrity, authority, and with respect to the cultural sensitivities of their communities fostered an atmosphere of increased trust between government and members of the country’s diverse communities.

“Enormous funds have been allocated to regional and mainstream media over the years, governments also spent big on mainstream campaigns and big tech platforms during COVID, without prioritising independent multicultural media. Often at great detriment to multicultural communities, and the wider Australian community,” the IMMA’s statement read.

Since 2018, the former federal Coalition government announced several rounds of grant funding to assist mainstream media and regional media combat digital disruption from big tech giants and to digitally transform their media. During COVID many of those regional newspapers who received windfall grants closed their print editions to focus on digital.

Multicultural media was not eligible for those grants, nor did they receive supplementary COVID sustainability grants, where tens of millions of dollars went to major outlets such as Foxtel to keep them afloat as advertising revenue fell.

Prior to last year’s federal election, pledges were made from both sides of politics to assist with spiralling newspaper printing costs, where newsprint costs have risen from between 35-50% for most publishers. Whilst targeted towards the regional and larger publishers, multicultural media was, for the first time, included in the eligibility criteria.

The incoming Labor government followed through with the pledge, with most Australian newspaper publishers getting a lifeline to keep a lid on costs.

In June 2022, the NSW Government announced a $28 million package to support whole-of-Government Language Services, not media. IMMA has argued that whilst worthy, no proper consideration was given to the services that independent multicultural media already provide to its own in-language information.

Today’s announcement has gone some way in addressing IMMA’s argument, but the imbalance, they argue, needs to be addressed across all government, both state and federal, to provide multicultural media the same opportunities that has benefited both regional and mainstream outlets.

“IMMA calls on the NSW government and the Opposition to commit to supporting a diverse media landscape with a sustainability and digital transformation fund as it has with the current $3 million Regional Media Fund,” the statement concludes.