Dubbo Regional Council have launched a fortnightly 'TV-style' news presentation, which they are saying will fill a 'void' left by the departure of media outlets in Dubbo.
The first episode was streamed on their Facebook page on Friday, January 15, reaching an audience of 3,500 views with 'a little over 10 per cent' watching all 23 minutes.
Corporate Image and Communications manager Andrew Parsons said the program was designed for the "purpose of sharing information, produced as a by-product of councils existing day-to-day media and communications work."
"Simple research will show council has already complained to broadcasters and government regarding the withdrawal of WIN News from the region in 2019. The same simple search would also reveal councils disappointment and concern regarding the closure of the Dubbo office and withdrawal of Nine News Regional's staff from the region amid the pandemic emergency in 2020," he said.
"DRC News is using that [material already produced by the communication team] to fill a video platform void."
Mr Parsons said the cost of episode one was $148.50 per week to hire a TV screen that makes the set.
He did not give a breakdown of the purchase of equipment and staff wages also used to produce the episode, only saying it "sits within the existing Corporate Image and Communications operating budget" and the "equipment, facilities and staff used are in-house and are council owned and operated assets."
"As sources of information it is good, and natural to have in an environment where [some residents] can't be reached, but there are two problems with it."Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Charles Sturt University Bathurst Jock Cheetham.
The trend for organisations starting their own 'news channels' started around 10 years ago, according to Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Charles Sturt University Bathurst Jock Cheetham.
"The decline in journalism in regional areas is a problem and that has led to the rise in sources of information - it's not a problem per se, the service level is information, but it's just not that simple."
Mr Cheetham said it was confusing for people who didn't have 'media literacy' and the bigger problem was there was less industry coverage.
"As sources of information it is good, and natural to have in an environment where others can be reached, but there are problems with it."
Mr Parsons said already council had been approached by others for advice on delivering a similar product.
A statement from council following the launch said the program was not designed to replace the role of 'traditional' news media. In the past similar services have been labelled as 'propaganda masquerading as news'.
"Viewers and critics alike can make their own interpretation of the publicly available facts provided in this video product," he said
Difficulties with pop-up 'news' channels
A decline in journalism in some regional areas has led to a rise in organisations creating their own 'news' channels to get their message out to the public.
While it's not a bad thing, Senior lecturer in journalism at Charles Sturt University Bathurst Jock Cheetham said it can be difficult if people don't have 'media literacy'.
"It's not a problem per se, the service level is information, but it's just not that simple.
Mr Cheetham said with the rise of these services, there is less industry coverage in traditional media, as councils and sporting groups have their own serious newsrooms that are full media operations.
"As sources of information it is good, and natural to have in an environment where [some residents] can't be reached, but there are two problems with it."
Mr Cheetham said he believes a lack of independence and organisations not feeling the same accountability pressures as if they were dealing with the newsroom were the biggest issues.
"They put out basic information and make it interesting and engaging for the community, but there is the temptation not to publish anything that is critical, or the temptation to hide and cover things up."
He also said there is also the option to 'ignore mainstream media', which in turn hurts those residents who rely on traditional media outlets to have all the information they need.
"Instead of just one source, residents now have to get their news from lots of different places."
Mr Cheetham did said he suspected getting information out was "not the strongest motivation for [Dubbo] council," but rather it was more about station and national media and wanting to put Dubbo onto the map outside of the region.
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