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Saturday, 24 July 2021

Australian newswire AAP back from brink as buyer emerges

AFP , Friday 5 Jun 2020
News Corp, Australia
News Corp Australia's Holt Street headquarters in Sydney, Australia, May 28, 2020. (Reuters)

The Australian Associated Press appeared to have been saved from closure after the newswire's chief executive announced Friday that a sale was tentatively agreed with a philanthropic-led consortium.

The agreement offers a lifeline to AAP at a time of intense financial difficulties for the media sector, made particularly worse by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Three months after staff were told the AAP would shutter, management announced that a consortium, including former News Corp chief Peter Tonagh, was poised to buy the business.

"I am extremely pleased to announce that the AAP Newswire is expected to be sold to a consortium of impact investors and philanthropists," AAP chief executive Bruce Davidson said in a message to staff.

The 85-year-old wire will continue to cover breaking news, public interest stories, sport and photography but there would be further job cuts, with only around half of its previous 180 jobs to be offered under the new owners.

"They see this as a philanthropic venture and will have the patience to work on new commercial opportunities to aim for long-term viability," Davidson said.

The consortium was committed to continuing AAP's legacy of unbiased and reliable journalism, Tonagh added.

"AAP has always delivered on that and we are committed to seeing that continue into the future," he said in a statement.

In March, major shareholders Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and broadcasting and newspaper group Nine Entertainment pulled out of the wire in a surprise decision which fuelled fears of further concentration of Australia's media.

But weeks later, several offers to buy the business put plans to close the business by June 26 on hold.

"Finally, a good news story for an industry that has taken a hit lately," AAP's editor-in-chief Tony Gillies tweeted after the announcement.

"It's been inspiring to witness the poise and resilience of AAP's news team in the 95 days since its March 3 closure announcement... (the) new owners have secured Australia's best."

The rescue plan for AAP comes as the Australian media industry struggles with dwindling revenues. Last month, News Corp announced it will stop printing more than 100 regional and local newspapers, blaming a collapse in advertising made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

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