City News

Troubled times for Sydney gay media

Sydney’s only weekly publication dedicated to covering local GLBTI issues is clinging to life, despite the Federal Court of Australia ordering the longtime publishers of SX to wind up.

After legal proceedings instigated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), the court ordered late last month that Evolution Publishing be wound up, with business insolvency specialists BRI Ferrier appointed as liquidators.

As first reported by the Crikey website, Evolution Publishing has immediately payable debts of at least $665,000, with $407,278 in unpaid employee income tax, superannuation, GST and administrative penalties, as well as $258,000 owed to a printing company.

However, SX and other Evolution titles around Australia – including Melbourne Community Voice (MCV), Brisbane-based Queensland Pride and the national arts and culture magazine CULT – were still being published at time of writing.

Their remit has been taken over by a company called Evo Media, which is portraying itself as an entirely separate entity from Evolution Publishing despite publishing the same titles, occupying the same East Sydney premises, and employing the same key staff.

In an interview conducted with City News via email last week, Mr Dean Bell identified himself as the sole shareholder of Evo Media.

Mr Bell has previously been listed as General Manager of Evolution Publishing.

Asked to explain the difference between Evo Media and Evolution Publishing, Mr Bell said: “Evo Media is an Australian-based media company and a separate legal entity.”

Evolution Publishing Company Director Mark Anthony – Mr Bell’s long-term business and domestic partner – also insisted: “Evolution Publishing is a separate legal entity.”

Mr Anthony claimed that attempts to resolve issues with the ATO and other creditors were unsuccessful despite “Evolution Publishing committing to full monetary settlement for all parties”.

The ongoing publication of SX under a different company name means Sydney continues for now to have a weekly GLBTI title with a local focus.

In November 2011, Sydney’s other weekly GLBTI publication, the Sydney Star Observer, dropped the word ‘Sydney’ from its title and merged with Melbourne’s Southern Star to become the Star Observer, adopting a national editorial focus and distribution.

Star Observer Chairman Sebastian Rice denied the move was aimed at bolstering diminished local advertising revenue for GLBTI titles.

“The shift to a single masthead brand with a national focus allowed us to improve our news coverage for audiences in Queensland and regional areas, while achieving efficiencies in our printed newspaper production processes,” said Mr Rice.

Mr Rice said there was still a role for GLBTI publications despite the increased acceptance of gay people in the wider community, and growing coverage of queer issues by other media outlets.

“In recent years we have certainly seen mainstream media publications start to occasionally produce stories that acknowledge the concerns of [GLBTI] people,” he said.

“We still see strong demand for specialist [GLBTI] publications.”

Mr Rice said he didn’t feel the collapse of Evolution Publishing would have any ramifications for the gay community.

“It will be interesting to see how the liquidator for Evolution Publishing resolves the situation,” he added.

Disclaimer: the author is a former employee of Evolution Publishing.

 

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