Money: Media diversity concerns as PR firm takes control of Tasmanian regional papers - PressFrom - Australia
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MoneyMedia diversity concerns as PR firm takes control of Tasmanian regional papers

06:55  15 july  2019
06:55  15 july  2019 Source:   msn.com

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A public relations firm boasting two former Liberal party senior advisers purchases two regional Tasmanian newspapers , installing as editor a controversial former adviser to the Premier.

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Media diversity concerns as PR firm takes control of Tasmanian regional papers© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Brad Nowland (left) and Brad Stansfield are former Liberal party staffers. (Supplied: Font PR)

A public relations firm boasting two former Liberal party senior advisers has purchased two regional Tasmanian newspapers, installing as editor a controversial former adviser to the Premier.

In a Facebook post on Friday night, Font Public Relations announced it had purchased both The Sorell Times and The Tasman Gazette.

Both papers were formerly owned by Temperate Zone Tasmania, a private company based in the state's south-east, which also owns the East Coast View community newspaper.

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Former senior Liberal advisers Brad Nowland and Brad Stansfield are partners in the Font PR private enterprise.

"The papers will be independently edited by experienced journalist Martine Haley, who has more than 15 years experience in editorial at News Corp, both in Tasmania at the Mercury and Sydney, at the Manly Daily," the Font PR announcement read.

Controversial editor appointed

In March 2018, the ABC revealed Ms Haley — then a principal adviser to Premier Will Hodgman — had used a fake Facebook identity in an apparent attempt to have a woman reprimanded by her employer Cricket Australia for speaking out about a lack of abortion services in the state.

Five days after the story broke, Ms Haley offered her resignation after admitting she used the online alias Alice Wood-Jones.

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The Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) is a provisional visa for skilled workers which allows you to live and work in Tasmania for up to four The Tasmanian Government assesses your application for state nomination and the Department of Home Affairs assesses your visa application.

Font PR said under its ownership the regional newspapers "would remain editorially independent and will focus on being proudly local and a voice for their region".

"These new mastheads reflect our continued faith in the future of newspapers, particularly at the local level, and the importance of independent media.

"We would like to assure all our valued advertisers that it will be business as usual with The Sorell Times and The Tasman Gazette, and we will be be in touch next week," the announcement read.

The buy-ups come after Font PR purchased the Derwent Valley Gazette from News Corp Australia last year.

After the Coalition's strong showing in Tasmania at the May Federal Election, Mr Stansfield told News Corporation how Font PR — engaged by the Liberals to help devise a winning strategy — decided to exploit the long running north-south parochialism, in relation to Labor's promise of $50 million to the Museum of Old and New Art, in the state's south.

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"Labor's Mona promise was a major blunder which turbocharged our campaign, it was unpopular even in the south," Mr Stansfield told News Corp two days after the Coalition's victory.

"We remained ahead until polling day, after starting the campaign behind."

'Political fairness and diversity of views'

The Tasmanian branch of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said it held concerns over the diversity of Tasmanian media.

In a statement, The MEAA's regional director of Victoria and Tasmania, Adam Portelli, said he hoped the papers would remain balanced in their reporting and independent of political interference.

"MEAA recognises the competitive nature of the Tasmanian media industry, but holds concerns with the increasing concentration in the sector," he said.

"We expect the new owners, like all media outlets, to ensure that political fairness and diversity of views is maintained."

Associate Professor in Communications at Deakin University, Dr Kristy Hess, said Tasmanian consumers should be wise to any changes in the publications.

"As long as the interests of the local community are considered paramount by whoever is owning or maintaining local news, that is the number one consideration … this is one we need to watch and watch very closely."

Font PR and Ms Haley were contacted for comment.

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