Facebook makes investments in Australian media sector and expresses support for press freedom

The program provides training, coaching and project funding for news organizations and will launch in Australia later in 2019.

Facebook has announced an A$5m ($3.6m) investment in the Australian news ecosystem to support journalists, academics and news organizations in their efforts to advance journalism and help develop sustainable business models.

The tech giant has also formed a partnership with the Walkley Foundation to bring the Facebook Journalism Project News Accelerator, which was launched in the United States in 2018, to Australia.

The program, which provides training, coaching and project funding for news organizations, will launch in Australia later in 2019 and will host teams from newsrooms who will build on the expertise and best practices developed during the pilot US accelerators in 2018.

Facebook will also sponsor the Walkley Awards, which recognizes women leaders and emerging talent in media and contribute to the Foundation's upcoming media literacy pilot program for Australian secondary school students.

Facebook is facing greater regulation in Australia together with Google, following a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in December 2018, which stated that digital platforms should face similar regulations like traditional media businesses.

However, Andrew Hunter, the news partnerships lead for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, claims that the latest move by the tech giant in Australia is not a response to the ACCC’s report.

He tells The Drum that in Australia, Facebook has heard from its news partners that they would benefit from greater support specific to digital audience development, and diversifying revenue streams such as direct reader revenue.

That is why Facebook will bring the accelerator to the Asia Pacific region and at this stage, it is focused on getting the Australian program running. Hunter says Facebook will continue to build out the team and work with partners in APAC to build programs that will benefit newsrooms and the news ecosystem in this region.

“This is the next step in a series of investments in Australia – and the wider Asia-Pacific region – by Facebook. During the past 18 months, we have launched several products based on feedback from people on Facebook and testing with Australian publishers, including breaking news tags, Facebook Watch, subscription support in Instant Articles and Today In,” continues Hunter.

“This announcement is the next step in our partnerships work with news organizations. Our partnership with the industry will also continue to focus on co-developing products and features that provide access to important audiences as their behavior changes on our platforms, and enabling publishers to make more money out of their Facebook presence.”

He adds: “We are collaborating with publishers as they develop new ways to make money, both on and off Facebook, so they can continue to do work that's critical to a healthy democratic society.”

Facebook will also partner with the newly-formed Alliance for Journalists' Freedom (AJF) to support its work to promote media freedom in the APAC region and the right of journalists to report news safely.

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