The NUJ has welcomed as “long overdue” the inclusion of a Commission on the Future of the Media in the proposed programme for the new Irish government.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said the union “warmly welcomed” the concept of a commission and called for immediate steps to deal both with the financial crisis in RTÉ and the emergency in the regional newspaper sector. Séamus Dooley said:
“The NUJ has long been campaigning for a strategic review of the media industry in Ireland. We welcome the positive tone of the programme and the recognition of the need for a diverse, media sector.
“As part of our Rescue Plan for the industry we have called for all areas of media policy to be transferred from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to a department covering, Arts, Culture, Heritage and the Media. This would be similar to the model which existed from 1993 to 1997 under Michael D Higgins. We hope that in government formation talks this proposal will be considered.
“We look forward to receiving terms of reference for the Commission and to participating in a meaningful way in its work.
“However we are concerned at the lack of urgency on the part of the outgoing government in dealing with the financial crisis in RTÉ.
“The original Commission on Public Service Broadcasting was announced on 10 December 2019 by Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment with a report promised by September 2020. Despite the appointment of a chair no meaningful work has commenced and in the meantime RTÉ is prevented from selling land or taking strategic decisions to address the worsening financial crisis at the station.
“A broad ranging commission should draw on international best practice, including funding models for assisting media organisations and journalists without compromising editorial independence.
“There is also a need for urgent financial assistance for the ailing newspaper sector. Regional newspapers are on the brink of collapse and a package of short term measures is needed in order to protect local journalism. The scale of the threat cannot be overstated. Unfortunately there is not time to wait for the report of the proposed commission. As a trade union we have a real concern for employment in the sector and for the undermining of local journalism through underinvestment.
“Our members and local communities are paying the price for the failure of the current and previous governments to deal with the issue of the concentration of ownership and for the industry’s own failure to address the lack of diversity and for in service training to ensure that staff are best placed to meet the digital challenge.”