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Sydney, March 3, 2020
The Australian Associated Press (AAP) today said it would close the AAP Newswire at the end of June this year and its Pagemasters editorial production service at the end of August as the operations had become economically unviable because of the dwindling numbers of subscribers.
"This difficult decision has been forced by the decline in the number of media companies subscribing to the news wire service in recent years," a statement from the 85-year-old national news agency said.
"The unprecedented impact of the digital platforms that take other people's content and distribute it for free has led to too many companies choosing to no longer use AAP's professional service. We have reached the point where it is no longer viable to continue," it said.
The decision to close the business is subject to completion of formal processes by the shareholders, the statement said.
AAP is owned by Nine, News Corp, The West Australian and Australian Community Media.
AAP has been providing a newswire to Australian media companies for 85 years but recently the number of companies subscribing to the service has declined to the point that it is no longer viable.
AAP's press release distribution business Medianet and its media intelligence business Mediaverse will be offered for sale.
"The decision to close the AAP business means there will be job losses but there will be employment opportunities as AAP's shareholders and other external companies reorganise the way they receive news and page production services," the statement said.
In particular, News Corp and Nine will be making additional investment in their own news teams to replace some of the content they currently source from AAP, it said.
AAP CEO Bruce Davidson said the closure was an extremely sad day for Australian journalism.
“AAP has been a critical part of journalism in Australia since 1935, and it is tragic that it will come to an end,” he said.
“Hundreds of wonderful journalists made their start at AAP and went on to brilliant careers. Many others chose to stay with the agency for several decades and are part of the revered ‘AAP family’.
“Many more amazing people have been part of the fabric of the company in critical support and management roles.
“I want to thank all of them for their service and contribution to Australian journalism over many years.”
Davidson said the decision did not reflect on the quality, trust, accuracy and reliability of the AAP news service, but rather an economic reality.
“Our reporters, photographers, videographers and production staff are second to none. They have been leading the country in breaking news for decades and showed the way for publishers in terms of the 24-hour news cycle.”
AAP chairman Campbell Reid paid tribute to the AAP staff who had served the Australian community for the better part of a century.
"For generations AAP has been journalism's first responder,” said Reid, who is News Corp's Group Executive, Corporate Affairs, Policy and Government Relations.
“Its reporters, photographers and production staff have accurately recorded the first cut of contemporary Australian history and the nation is in their debt.
“It is a great loss that professional and researched information provided by AAP is being substituted with the un-researched and often inaccurate information that masquerades as real news on the digital platforms.
“I want to thank AAP's leaders, CEO Bruce Davidson, Newswire editor-in-chief Tony Gillies and many others who have been fighting to keep the AAP business alive in the face of this relentless disruption.
“But eventually the number of organisations choosing to no longer rely on the AAP service has made the business unsustainable.
“Today's decision is made with a very heavy heart.”
AAP Newswire provided reporting on general news, courts, politics, finance, entertainment, travel, racing and sport, sport results, plus images and video.
AAP Newswire has more than 180 staff spread across every Australian state and territory, plus New Zealand, Los Angeles and London. In addition there are about 100 freelance photographers. And scores more contractors working for Pagemasters.
Editor-in-Chief Tony Gillies paid tribute to his team, describing them as “the most humble and hardest news people”.
“We have had a place like no other in journalism. We exist for the public’s interest and I now fear for the void left by the absence of AAP’s strong, well-considered voice,” Gillies said.