The newswire division of Australian Associated Press is set to continue to operate with new owners.
AAP’s board on Friday confirmed that an agreement was in the final stages of negotiation with a consortium of investors and philanthropists led by Peter Tonagh.
The newswire, slated to close in late June, would now continue operating as AAP and provide breaking news, public interest journalism, sports coverage and news photography.
“I am pleased that, after months of discussions with various parties, it appears we have been able to secure a new home for AAP’s legacy of trusted news,” CEO Bruce Davidson said.
The sale involves only the news division of AAP, including text and photography, which currently provides reporting on general news, courts, politics, finance, racing and sport, plus images and video.
Other parts of the AAP Group will be retained by the current shareholders. This includes Medianet, Mediaverse, AAP Directories, Pagemasters and Racing operations and these businesses will continue to operate as usual.
Mr Tonagh said his consortium is committed to independent journalism.
“We live in a time where trusted, unbiased news is more important than ever. AAP has always delivered on that and we are committed to seeing that continue into the future,” he said in a statement.
“I’m looking forward to working with the AAP team to continue its great work and to find new commercial opportunities to ensure its long-term survival. “On behalf of the consortium that I lead, after consulting with staff, customers and other stakeholders, our consortium will provide more information about our future plan for AAP.” The new-look AAP will employ 85-90 staff, including around 70-75 editorial staff, and management, IT and support personnel.
The consortium will continue the AAP FactCheck service.
The consortium will engage with employees over coming weeks. AAP’s board announced on March 3 the entire operation would close on June 26, citing the financial impact of the increasing availability of free online content. It would have meant the loss of up to 500 jobs.
AAP is currently owned by Nine, News Corp Australia, The West Australian and Australian Community Media.
The newswire opened more than 85 years ago and its potential loss had been widely described as a blow to democracy.
Editor in Chief Tony Gillies described Friday’s news as a triumph for public interest journalism.
“Finally, a good news story for an industry that has been battered,” he said. “In the 95 days since the original March 3 closure announcement our journalists, photographers and editors have endured the anxiety of an uncertain future and the difficulties of the COVID-19 lockdown. And yet, they have been professional without exception, working as hard as ever.
“Their poise and resilience has been inspiring. The consortium is taking on Australia’s best.”