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Walkleys end media awards sponsorship deal with fossil fuel company Ampol
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Walkleys end media awards sponsorship deal with fossil fuel company Ampol

The Walkley Foundation will not renew its major sponsorship deal with the fossil fuel company Ampol after changing its donation policy to sever ties with companies whose dealings “offer no tangible benefit to humanity”.

Ampol’s two-year platinum sponsorship is understood to be worth several hundred thousand dollars and was the top sponsorship tier funding the national Walkley journalism awards.

The Ampol sponsorship will end in October, the Walkeys foundation confirmed to Guardian Australia on Thursday.

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A long list of award-winning cartoonists, led by Jon Kudelka, boycotted the 2023 prizes to protest against the fossil fuel sponsorship during the climate crisis.

Kudelka wrote he was shocked that a “well-known fossil fuel company is a sponsor of the Walkleys” and that when there was a revamp of the awards categories climate reporting “didn’t make the cut”.

Many cartoonists including Guardian Australia’s First Dog on the Moon and Fiona Katauskas, Glen Le Lievre and Matt Golding joined the boycott.

In response to lobbying from journalists to recognise climate reporting, the Walkley Foundation added a new category of science and the environment to its 2024 mid-year awards.

The new sponsorship policy contains an explicit focus on ethics and working with sponsors that share the foundation’s values.

“The foundation does not accept money from companies or individuals that it deems to pose a significant reputational risk due to the nature of their dealings that offer no tangible benefit to humanity,” the new policy says.

The old policy said the foundation would not accept sponsorship from any company that would affect the Walkleys “standing and reputation in the community” or jeopardise the its “moral integrity”.

“Ampol’s multi-faceted support of the Walkley Foundation has assisted with archiving decades of groundbreaking stories and photographs,” said the foundation’s chief executive, Shona Martyn.

“Its support for the opportunity scholarships recognised the importance to the media industry of ensuring greater diversity by providing a pathway for young would-be journalists from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”

After the cartoonists boycotted last year’s awards, the board said it would review its sponsorship policy.

“We recognise their concerns about fossil fuel sponsorship and hope to welcome them back as entrants in future years,” the board said at the time.

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“The foundation has a responsibility to show leadership in the journalism community. It will continue to pursue excellence in all its activities and actions to ensure they reflect a modern and diverse Australia.”

It was a change in tone from 2022 when the foundation welcomed Ampol as a sponsor.

The Walkleys were established in 1956 by Sir William Gaston Walkley, who founded Ampol.

“In 2022 our history has come full circle as Ampol joins us as a sponsor of the Walkley Awards,” Martyn said at the time. “Once again, our heritages are intertwined.”

Ampol, which is a fossil fuel refiner and retailer, said the company had a long history with the Walkley Foundation.

“More recently as a platinum partner, Ampol was proud to support the Walkley Opportunity Scholarships initiative to provide opportunities in journalism for individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged communities,” a spokesperson said.

The climate communications group Comms Declare, which wrote to the Walkleys last year about the Ampol sponsorship, praised the cartoonists who stood on principle.

“Coal, oil and gas companies are a reputational risk to anyone that helps promote them, and that risk will only grow as the climate becomes more unstable,” said Comms Declare’s founder, Belinda Noble.

Source: theguardian.com