“We are effectively going to read a report and the death notice for the Future of Media Commission at the same time.” Séamus Dooley
The National Union of Journalists has called on the Taoiseach to publish, as a matter of urgency the report of the Future of Media Commission along with the government’s alternative proposals for the funding of public service broadcasting in Ireland.
Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, described the decision of the government to reject the report prior to publication as “beyond belief” and said that the Taoiseach and Minister for Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht were failing to grasp the extent of the crisis within the Irish media industry.
In a statement Mr Dooley said: “I find the leaking of this decision of cabinet to be deeply cynical. The Commission report has been on the desk of An Taoiseach and the Minister for a year. The work of the Commission is now seriously undermined by the manner in which its report has been pre-empted. We are effectively going to read a report and the death notice for the Commission at the same time.
It is bizarre that the cabinet’s reaction to key recommendations is already known before the public has the opportunity to know what has been recommended and, more importantly, why the Commission has made recommendations.
It is worth noting that the original Commission was established by then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Communications Richard Bruton in December 2019.
In establishing what was originally a commission dealing only with public service broadcasting Mr Bruton announced that it would bring forward proposals by September 2020 to ensure input before Budget 2021. That timeline reflects a crisis in public service broadcasting which has deepened since then.
Lack of political will and imagination has contributed to the financial crisis in RTÉ. The delay in publishing the report does not suggest that the Government grasps the full scale of the crisis, not just in RTE but across the media and across all platforms, public and private.
If government does not have the will or courage to introduce a new funding model for public service broadcasting one wonders if there is any hope for a reimagining of how the State could support public service journalism.
Journalism is a public good and the NUJ submission to the Commission, based on the union’s News Recovery Plan, was predicated on an acceptance by government that the survival of public interest journalism is essential to a healthy democracy. The work of journalists has been widely praised by politicians over the past two years, but rhetoric and platitudes are no substitute for public policy which supports journalism.
At best we are going to get a report just before the summer recess. This is a can which cannot be kicked down the road.
If cabinet is going to reject the report of the Commission after sitting on it for a year the least we can expect is a comprehensive alternative strategy for the future of the media in Ireland as a matter of urgency”