Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022: Second Stage


4:47 pm

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. In the previous Government, I worked in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. We were involved in the online advisory group, which I chaired. I know there is a difficult task ahead to try to rein in cyberbullying and make sure we put in place legislation that is not just valid in this country but can be used along with international law to make sure that cyberbullying and all that goes with that is curtailed on a global scale. In this regard, I think of young people, the vulnerable and the innocent. We cannot drop our standards in respect of what is tolerated on social media and the exposure of young and not-so-young children and teenagers to some of the abuse that can go on. These standards must be kept at the highest level. There is a significant onus on tech companies to conform and engage with Governments to ensure the legislation that is put in place is workable and that they work with it. It is important that if there are issues, they act swiftly to make sure every action possible is taken to stamp out the problem and protect children.

It is important to recognise that social media and all that goes with it has brought the world closer together. It is a marvellous tool that we can use. I know of many people living in Australia who can speak to their parents or grandparents using social media.

They can look at them and chat in an instant using devices in their hands. That is an unbelievable march we have made in digital development. The potential is there to bring that further in regard to healthcare and whatever else we need to do. The sky is the limit. However, one legacy that is building up is the abuse that takes place on these online services. I commend the Minister on bringing forward this legislation. It is important that we tackle this issue and work with everybody involved in this industry.

The Bill also included provisions on media regulation. Our local radio stations are close to my heart. Most Deputies rely on their local radio stations to get their views out and see them as a listening tool to know what is happening in their constituencies. The development of local radio has a positive influence and a major impact. Local radio stations are also balanced in their approach to current affairs and the entertainment they provide. I will highlight to the Minister a number of issues that we need to ensure we get right.

I understand local radio stations are excluded from the journalism bursary that is on offer. We should amend that to ensure that any bursary that is offered is available in the regions to train young journalists in the regions in order that we have a supply chain of good journalists to take care of future needs. Dare I say it but journalists do not have to be in Dublin. They need to be in the constituencies, working with local radio. They get a better experience of life by doing that. It is important that local radio stations are included in any bursaries available.

There is a levy on independent stations. We should reduce that levy to allow radio stations to develop and ensure they are fit, viable and sustainable into the future. They are competing for advertising, as are the local newspapers which are also a vital component of regional Ireland. It is important that local radio stations get every opportunity to survive and become sustainable and get as much of a break as possible throughout this legislation. We will look at the legislation with a view to bringing forward some amendments on which I will speak to the Minister.

Local radio stations should be funded in a way that makes them competitive and viable. If we are to have a democratic society, we must have local radio stations and other local media reporting local issues. They do that in a fair way so it is important that they are treated fairly and even shown some positive discrimination to ensure they survive. We must remember all of that when dealing with this Bill. We will introduce amendments on Committee Stage and we look forward to working with the Minister on those.

To return to my first point, our children are the most important thing we have. They are our future and we have to make sure we mind them and regulate online safety. I will support the Minister in any way I can help to make sure that happens.


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