Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022: Second Stage


4:57 pm

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. For too long, the Internet has been the wild west and our children's exposure to it has been devastating in many cases. This Bill is historic. It proposes a long-awaited reform to the Irish media regulation landscape by establishing a watchdog to regulate online services and reduce the availability of harmful content online. Despite much legislation we all accept that there is a massive gap both internationally and in Ireland when it comes to addressing harmful online content. This new law will close the legal gap and establish a robust framework to deal with the spread of harmful online content. We must have accountability by platforms for online safety and a more joined-up approach to audiovisual media regulation. I urge all Members to support that. One of the most important aspects of the Bill is that it establishes a new, powerful regulator to enforce accountability in the sector.

The Bill will introduce a content levy on online media services. I support the many calls I have received asking for this levy to be set aside to increase investment in the Irish audiovisual sector. Each year that we do not introduce a content levy the Irish audiovisual sector loses out on a minimum of €25 million in additional investment according to an analysis by Indecon. We must do all we can to nurture Irish creative talent and opportunities for Irish casts, crews and audiences. I am a great believer in supporting Irish and supporting local and this is all about the local. Irish audiences are currently paying for online media services, with only a small number of homegrown productions using local casts and crew available to watch. If Irish people are to choose these platforms, we have to ask that they support Irish-made productions in the same way they support Irish-made crafts, food and other items. For the same reason, I support the content production scheme to encourage the creation of European work, including independent Irish productions.

I will also support amendments providing that an coimisiún will have a particular commitment to the safety of children and to require an coimisiún to have regard to matters relating to child safety and to the regulation of gambling and the policies of Government, relevant Ministers and public bodies in that regard.

Previous speakers also spoke about infant formula. It is important that families can access objective information regarding feeding their infants and young children free from commercial interests. I would like to see society becoming more supportive of the decision and actions of mothers around feeding, whatever they may be. To do that, we must ensure that we are not promoting heavily in one area and not offering the same support in the other.

As I said, I support all things local and Irish. We spoke about young journalists and local media. I was at the ploughing championships today. There was a huge crowd there, which was excellent. Local media were also there, including KCLR from Carlow and Kilkenny. We have to make sure we have funding for everything local and the job local radio does. To give an example, during the Covid pandemic it was crucial that people got information in their homes. It is all about supporting local. I ask the Minister to support local media and radio stations in any way she can. Having spoken to her, I know this is a concern of hers.


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