The Morrison Government has heeded calls from regional media owners to release funds from the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund to help them operate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government on Monday announced it had brought forward the release of $5 million from the $48 million innovation fund to support publishers producing public interest journalism during the crisis.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said time frames for the competitive grants program would be significantly shorter than usual, due to the urgent need facing many regional and small publishers as advertising revenue falls during the COVID-19 shutdown.
He said the fund had been enhanced allowing more organisations to apply - with this round open to regional and metropolitan publishers and content service providers.
"Following extensive consultation, I have adjusted the fund so that money is available as quickly as possible to help publishers keep journalists in jobs and local communities informed," Mr Fletcher said.
"Many media organisations, particularly those in regional areas, are facing significant financial strain due to the community's necessary response to COVID-19.
"As we face these unprecedented challenges together, the media's role in producing quality news and providing Australians with timely and accurate information is crucial.
"This provides critical support at a time it's needed most."
The fund, administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, was set up in 2018. It's designed to help publishers find new ways to work in the modern media environment, and to make their business more sustainable.
Mr Fletcher said more information on how to apply would be made available in coming days on the ACMA's website.