How fortunate for Fairfax that its new online venture in Queensland, The Brisbane Times, has been so eagerly supported by the Queensland Government.

Government agencies are conspicuous among the handful of advertisers who have opted to take out a series of sponsor deals for display advertising on the site. The deals are said to cost $65,000 for a two week package that guarantees the advertiser all-but exclusive display for a 24-hour period once a week. The Queensland Government and a Government quango Tourism Queensland have signed to the Brisbane Times along with the RACQ and Suncorp.

There should perhaps be no surprise in this. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie is a longstanding enthusiast of Fairfax entry into the Brisbane media market, a market dominated by one daily newspaper, News Limited’s Courier-Mail.

Beattie was the star turn at Fairfax’s launch function for Brisbane Times (as he was when News launched its afternoon throwaway MX) and spoke strongly on the need for another player in the Brisbane media when he gave last year’s A.N. Smith Memorial Lecture in Journalism at the University of Melbourne last year.

In his 2005 speech he quoted extensively from a speech he gave in 2003 in which he observed: ”Cities like Brisbane that once hosted a dozen different newspapers owned by competing proprietors with different political agendas and a sharp eye to each others failings are now served by a single newspaper”. Diversity was the key he said.

In 2005 Beattie asked: ”What is the Courier-Mail afraid of in this debate?” And then: ”We have the population to support another statewide newspaper. What we need is an Age or a Sydney Morning Herald or an Australian Provincial Newspapers title to offerer Queenslanders an alternative coverage.”

Which he didn’t quite get. Instead Fairfax delivered The Brisbane Times online – ”Fairfax lite” as Courier-Mail editor David Fagan calls it – but not without a little support from the Government coffers.

Peter Fray

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