Pacific Media Watch

7 May 2015

AUSTRALIA: Government funding to The Conversation 'to be axed'

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MELBOURNE (The Age/Pacific Media Watch): Education Minister Christopher Pyne has flagged that the Abbott government will axe funding for The Conversation news and analysis website in next week's budget.

The Conversation, whose executive director is former Age editor Andrew Jaspan, was created in 2011 to give academics a platform to promote their research to a broader audience.

After providing $1.5 million to launch the site, Labor gave the website an extra $2 million over two years in the 2013 budget. The website was also given tax deductibility status.

"The Conversation was initiated by the previous Labor government," Pyne said on Sky News on Tuesday. "It had a shelf-life of three years at which time The Conversation is meant to be self-sustaining.

"They were given $3.5 million – in that time they've expanded to Africa, the United States and the UK and I expect that they are in a position where they will be self-sustaining otherwise they wouldn't be able to expand overseas in the way they have."

Pyne said the website does a "great job" but that these were lean budgetary times.

"I believe that it is a useful service," he said. "Whether the Australian taxpayer should be requested to fund that is another matter."

Jaspan said that he had not been aware of Pyne's comments and would investigate the matter.

Political reporting veteran Michelle Grattan, now a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra, is the site's political correspondent.

According to its website, The Conversation also receives funding and support from many universities, the CSIRO, the Commonwealth Bank and medical research institutes.

The site will launch in Africa on Thursday.

PMW editor notes: Six academics at AUT University write for The Conversation.


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