Wednesday, 5 May 2021
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
244. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has assessed the pressures on the local print media and the challenges it faces in the short and medium-term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22587/21]
A strong and independent media sector is central to our parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech and to the provision of quality and impartial information, particularly in the context of Covid-19. I recognise the essential role that the print media plays in this regard and the particular value of local and regional newspapers in bringing communities together and sharing reliable and relevant local news.
In terms of specific supports for the local print sector, it is of particular importance regarding media organisations to avoid any perception of undue Government interference or influence and the funding of newspapers is therefore a complex issue. I am, however, cognisant of the importance of this sector, and the financial issues which it currently faces.
This is a sector which is undergoing fundamental changes due to new patterns in the consumption of media and a shift to online advertising. In recognition of these longer term challenges, the Programme for Government provided for the establishment of the Future of Media Commission to consider the future of print, broadcast and online media in a platform-agnostic fashion. While the Commission is not a representative body, the Taoiseach and I were pleased to be in a position to appoint a member of the Commission who has a strong background in local print and radio. In addition, at the Commission’s invitation, the representative group, Local Ireland, has participated in two panel discussions with Commission members and the public as part of the Commission’s series of thematic dialogues. The Commission has therefore been extensively briefed on issues facing the local print sector. I look forward to receiving the Commission's report in the summer. The print sector has participated in the Commission’s consultations and will be part of the recommendations.
The sector has suffered losses from Covid-19 and is receiving Government supports such as the temporary wage subsidy scheme and the employment wage subsidy scheme. In the shorter term, the loss of advertising the sector has suffered from the impact of the restrictions has been helped by the public health advertising placed by the Government. I understand that in the region of €4.4 million has been expended on regional print advertising from March 2020 to date.
My officials continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders in order to continue to explore issues and build an understanding of the range of challenges facing the sector at present.