Australia markets closed

'Devastating': National news agency Australian Associated Press will close, as its owners say it is no longer viable

James Hennessy
  • News agency Australian Associated Press (AAP) is set to close in June after 85 years.
  • The company's owners, which include Nine Entertainment Co, News Corp, and Seven West Media, decided the business was no longer viable.
  • AAP coverage makes up the spine of the news Australians consume every day – leaving an open question as to what the media landscape will look like in future.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

National news agency Australian Associated Press (AAP) is set to wrap up in June, citing an inability for its newswire service to remain viable or competitive with the slew of freely available content online. It ends an 85 year history of providing Australians with rock solid, straight down the line news across a wide variety of mastheads and titles.

In an article provided through its own wire, appropriately enough, the company announced a total "cessation of output" at the end of June, including its subediting arm Pagemasters.

"The number of organisations choosing to no longer rely on the AAP service has made the business unsustainable," said AAP chairman Campbell Reid, who is also an executive at News Corp.

"It is a great loss that professional and researched information provided by AAP is being substituted with the un-researched and often inaccurate information that masquerades as real news on the digital platforms," he added.

AAP Newswire currently has more than 180 editorial staff, all of whom are set to lose their jobs.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 1 that the AAP was experiencing significant pressure from shareholders in the midst of a tough media market.

AAP's shareholders include Nine, News Corp, Seven West Media and Antony Catalano's Australian Community Media. The SMH estimates Nine currently injects $5 million a year into the business, whereas News Corp provides about $10 million. A number of other smaller media players are subscribers to various aspects of the AAP's service while not being shareholders, for which they pay a fee.

The AAP offers a wide range of services to media companies including wire stories, photos, and subediting. Take a glance at the homepage of Nine and News Corp papers on any given day and you'd likely see numerous AAP stories – especially in subject areas like politics, sport and local news. It also provides a media contact directory, named AAP MediaNet, which connects subscribers to relevant news outlets, journalists and media influencers.

It is difficult to overstate how important the AAP is to the general operation of the Australian news media, as it often provides the backbone of the day's reporting by covering major stories which would otherwise drain the resources of the already labour-deprived newsrooms of its members.

In a statement, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union representing journalists, described the closure as "irresponsible".

"The decision to close the AAP Newswire business in June and its Pagemasters sub-editing operation in August is a gross abandonment of responsibility by its shareholders," the statement reads.

MEAA federal president Marcus Strom said any decision to abandon AAP would be "devastating".

“Beancounters at the top of media organisations might think they can soldier on without AAP, but the reality is it will leave a huge hole in news coverage," Strom said. "Filling those holes will fall to already overburdened newsroom journalists. Or coverage will simply cease to occur."

CEO Bruce Davidson, in an address to staff, said there would be opportunities for some staff with Nine Entertainment Co and News Corp, now that those organisations will have to up their output to meet the content deficit left by the shuttering of AAP.

"We have had a place like no other in journalism," said editor-in-chief Tony Gillies in the AAP's wire story. "We exist for the public's interest, and I now fear for the void left by the absence of AAP's strong, well-considered voice."