Australia’s only news agency folds amid blitz of Facebook, Google free content

Many credible news organisations have had to shut down or downsize in the face of free content, while their place is taken over by fake news

Sydney: Australia’s only national newswire will be shuttered after 85 years of operation, with around 180 staff told Tuesday their jobs will end in June.

Staff gathered on the newsroom floor at Australian Associated Press’ headquarters in Sydney were told a drop-off in subscribers in the face of free online content meant the company was “no longer viable.”

“This decision’s been made with very heavy hearts. It’s been made on an economic and financial basis,” chief executive Bruce Davidson said following the announcement.

The newswire will close at the end of June while its subediting business Pagemasters is set to close at the end of August.

The decision to close the wire needs approval from its owners Nine, News Corp Australia, The West Australian and Australian Community Media.

The announcement prompted concern about whether there would still be adequate scrutiny of democratic institutions.

“All news outlets have relied on AAP’s network of local and international journalists to provide stories from areas where their own correspondents couldn’t go, from the courts to parliament and everywhere in between,” said Alexandra Wake a journalism expert at RMIT University.

Originally founded by media baron Keith Murdoch in 1935, AAP became a central source of news for major outlets in Australia and overseas.

The “unprecedented impact” of digital platforms, such as Facebook and Google, taking content and distributing it for free had forced its closure, the company said in a statement.

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