Pacific Media Watch

15 July 2012

AUSTRALIA: Federal government urged to act on crisis facing journalism

Hero image

MELBOURNE (Public Interest Journalism Foundation / Pacific Media Watch): The Public Interest Journalism Foundation has called on the Federal government to introduce tax deductibility for philanthropic and other donations to non-profit media groups that produce quality journalism in the public interest.

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.

Birnbauer said: “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.

“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.”  

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 non-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 non-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 non-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 non-profit basis in order to attract tax deductibility. If successful, a commercial model could eventuate in future.”

Birnbauer said: “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 non-profit news organisations if such contributions were tax-deductible.”

* For more information, contact Bill Birnbauer at:
Ph: 03 9903 4308

Melissa Sweet

Ph: 0411 459 274

Public Interest Journalism Foundation website:


Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons