11 July 2024

Does Regional NSW benefit from Sky News? Be careful about celebrating its demise in Griffith

| Oliver Jacques
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peta credlin and nigel farage

TV show host Peta Credlin and British politician Nigel Farage on Sky News. Photo: Nigel Farage, Twitter.

When Region broke the news that Griffith had lost its Sky News channel last week, it provoked an outpouring of social media schadenfreude – the German term for taking pleasure in others’ misfortune.

“The people of Griffith might now tune in to news channels that aren’t so blatantly biased and consistently pushing the opinions and objectives of the [Rupert] Murdoch empire,” was perhaps the most damning comment.

But even if you despise the station, the demise of yet another free rural media outlet is bad for the bush in many ways you may not have considered. It means less scrutiny of government, less diversity of content and less exposure for local businesses.

READ MORE WIN Network pulls plug on Griffith Sky News coverage, upsets local advertisers

WIN TV broadcasts Sky News Regional for free across much of rural Australia, but decided to stop doing so in the Griffith region and parts of South Australia at the end of last month.

“I’d say that they’ve done the residents an intellectual service,” Wagga councillor Richard Foley said on Facebook.

One person called it an “overall win” while another sarcastically quipped losing pundit Andrew Bolt’s “humanity” was “tragic”.

If I were still living in my hometown Canberra, I would have applauded each of those views.

Like most of my peers, I hated Sky News and saw the ABC as the beacon of truth.

Since moving to Griffith, I’ve realised the world’s not so black and white.

While the Murdoch media often pushes hardline conservative viewpoints that make people uncomfortable, they also have many good journalists.

When I was working in politics and on community campaigns, I had to seek out media to highlight rural injustice, like cuts to Griffith hospital services and the town’s shockingly high suicide rate.

To my surprise, reporters at “Murdoch media” outlets the Daily Telegraph, The Australian and Sky News were often more enthusiastic to pick these stories up than those at the ABC.

I quickly learned all media outlets have their prejudices and can be picky about what they cover.

It’s true that some Sky News coverage can be biased and ideologically driven, but they’re probably more interested in regional issues than a lot of established city-based broadcasters.

Rural NSW benefits from any journalist willing to shine a light on issues and hold governments, councils and corporations to account.

But every year, there are fewer reporters on the beat to do so.

As a growing number of people get their information from multinational social media networks, less money is earned by those who actually write, research and broadcast the news. As a result, more and more media outlets are disappearing or downsizing.

WIN TV used to broadcast a nightly bulletin from Griffith. That’s gone. Other commercial TV stations used to have the resources to regularly visit and cover stories, but no longer. Newspapers across the Riverina have had to fold, while others have put up paywalls that restrict access.

WIN news grab

Nightly WIN News has fewer resources to cover Griffith. Photo: WIN News Riverina Facebook.

That means there’s less scrutiny on those in power and fewer opportunities to celebrate community achievements. It’s also bad for local businesses, who are losing their ability to advertise their products and compete with out-of-town corporations.

Dean Owen of Griffith’s Owen Toyota said he was disappointed to lose the Sky News channel and expressed concern that Channel Nine and Ten would go next – meaning the 50-year-old company would have no presence on local TV. Other businesses felt the same way.

For now, Wagga residents can still watch Sky News for free on TV, as can the rest of regional NSW.

Even if you don’t tune in, it’s probably better for your town to have the station than to have it wiped from the airwaves.

We’ve already lost too many free media outlets to dance on the grave of those we don’t like.

How would you react if your town lost its Sky News TV channel?

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I don’t know exactly what Sky News offers in the way of local news, from where I sit, nothing seems to sum it up. Good riddance to the lies and hate, I say.

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