Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht

Future of Public Service Broadcasting and Impact of Covid-19 on the Media Sector: Discussion

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the witnesses for joining us and for outlining to us the significant challenges that they face in continuing to provide and develop the wonderful content that they produce. I have a couple of observations and questions for Mr. Lynch. He quite rightly told us earlier that one of the key elements of public service broadcasting is to nurture our cultural vitality. If any country can stand proud with in terms of its cultural vitality and cultural output, it is Ireland.

I was previously Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora. If one looks at the success of Joe Biden reciting the Heaney piece on the news recently, which is up to 10.5 million views at this point, there is a ready, willing and perhaps voracious audience for the kind of content that Ireland is renowned for. When one looks at streaming services and on-demand television, what kind of work is happening within RTÉ right now to connect with the more than 70 million Irish worldwide? Maybe there is not any, but should there be? It is a ready and willing audience to enjoy that cultural richness that we have to offer. I know there are issues relating to IP and so on. TG4 seems to have overcome them to a certain extent. Is there a way of communicating better with our 70 million people worldwide and leveraging that to increase income? I agree with Mr. Lynch that we have an extraordinary story to tell to the world and we have that incredible Irish community around the world who are more than willing not alone to be recipients of that story but to pass that story on to others as well. That video from a couple of nights ago is just one example of that.

I thank Mr. Dooley for his contribution also. Early on in the establishment of the Future of Media Commission, I identified a lacuna in the membership of the board in terms of representation from journalists themselves - working journalists and journalists on the front line - and I am delighted to see that Siobhan Holliman has now been appointed to the commission. Her insights from working in local radio, local journalism and local print media will be very valuable in determining how the Future of Media Commission explores the challenges faced by that sector and works collectively to address them in the future.

I could not agree more with Mr. Purcell. If one looks at the recent joint national listenership research, JNLR, figures, listenership for local radio is growing exponentially. What his organisation's members have done, reflecting my own experience with Galway Bay FM, has been incredibly important in building powerful social solidarity during the pandemic. From the moment Galway Bay FM starts to broadcast at 6.30 a.m., there is a sense of togetherness, community and looking out for those who perhaps live alone across our communities, particularly in rural Galway, who know that they are being listened to and their fears are being addressed. It happens day in, day out. It is a normal part of the endeavours of that station. That is my only experience but I am sure it is replicated across the whole of local radio. We need to make sure that that can continue, not just to survive but to thrive in the future and to continue to have the opportunity to continue building that social solidarity and to showcase the wonderful richness of our local culture. Sometimes they do not have that opportunity to get national exposure and local radio has a crucial role to play there.

I wholeheartedly support Mr. Purcell's ongoing calls for the lifting of the broadcasting levy and for some additional funding supports to be provided so that when we get to the end of this, and we will get to the end of this, broadcasters are as well positioned as they were at the beginning of this to continue to provide that service to local communities. I wish Mr. Purcell every success with the meeting with the Minister on Monday.


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