Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
72. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has assessed the long-term impact on local media of accelerated changes during Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33267/21]
75. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of the future of local media; if there will be further rounds of the sound and vision funding; if similar levels of funding will be made available to local newspapers; if updates have been received from the Future of Media Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33249/21]
113. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has assessed the pressures on the local print media sector and the challenges it faces in the short and medium-term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30807/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 75 and 113 together.
The local media sector faces a fall in revenue arising from the pandemic, but also longer term challenges as a result of changing patterns of media consumption, technology and shifts in advertising revenue. I recognise the essential role that the local media plays and the particular value of local and regional newspapers, as well as local, regional and community radio stations, in bringing communities together and sharing reliable and relevant local news.
In recognition of these longer term challenges facing the sector, the Programme for Government provided for the establishment of the Future of Media Commission, chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, to consider the future of print, broadcast, and online media in a platform agnostic fashion. The Future of Media Commission conducted a public consultation, that resulted in over 800 written submissions from stakeholder groups, including local media, and the general public. In addition, the Commission conducted a number of online dialogues with stakeholders and experts CRAOL, IBI, the NUJ, Local Ireland, and NewsBrands. I look forward to receiving the Commission's Report on the completion of its work in July which will inform media policy, including local print and broadcasting media, over the next 10 years.
Since I assumed formal responsibility for the media sector in September 2020, I have met key stakeholders including NewsBrands, Local Ireland and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). My Department has developed an understanding of the impact of the pandemic and general financial trends in the print sector through particularly useful engagement with Local Ireland. My officials continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders in order to explore the issues arising and build an understanding of the range of challenges facing the sector.
The Government has put in place a range of supports for all businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are available to local newspapers, such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme. The loss the sector has suffered from the impact of the restrictions has also been addressed by the public health advertising placed by the Government.
I understand that at least €4.4 million has been expended on regional and local print advertising from March 2020 to April 2021. I am also ensuring that advertising campaigns organised by my Department include a local print media element. Recently the campaign for Cruinniú na nÓg, a day of free creative events for young people, included a spend of €187,000 on local print advertising.
To relation to the local radio sector, I have received quarterly reports from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, analysing how COVID-19 has affected Independent Radio. These reports have identified the size of falling revenue streams for commercial radio, especially local radio; and the beneficial impact of government supports, such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, which has reduced costs for local stations. In the first quarter of 2021, 17 radio stations availed of this scheme and received €1.5m in supports. Moreover, government and HSE COVID-related advertising spend also produced a source of revenue for radio stations which amounted to €1.8m in Q1 2021. The BAI will continue to report to me on the sector in the coming months.
In recognition of challenges facing the sector and its important contribution to society as a whole, I secured additional funding for the Sound and Vision scheme alongside the allocation of 7% of net licence fee receipts which normally supports the fund. I allocated an additional €4.9m to the BAI in December 2020. €1m of this was distributed by the BAI in December and the balance of €3.9m comprising €2.5m for the independent radio sector and €1.4m to support the live music sector was recently allocated by the BAI. On 31 May 2021, in Round 38 of the Sound and Vision 4 scheme, the BAI announced the allocation of €7.2m in supports which will facilitate the production of 104 projects.
A further round of €2.58m was awarded on 29 April to support all 32 radio stations in the independent radio sector. This funding, which is Round 39 of the Sound and Vision 4 scheme, is on top of the supports already put in place in 2020. Further Sound and Vision funding rounds will follow later in year and the BAI, will announce these as they arise.
It must be noted that the Sound and Vision scheme is a statutory scheme provided for under Part 10 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 and is largely funded by the television licence. It is limited by statute to audiovisual and sound media and is independently administered by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. There is no equivalent statutory framework for the print sector. However, as stated above, the report of the Future of Media Commission will make recommendations in relation to the print media when it reports next month.
My officials continue to engage with the secretariat of the Future of Media Commission and relevant stakeholders in order to explore the issues arising and build an understanding of the range of challenges facing the sector at present and appropriate solutions for the future.