Future of Media Commission begins as it will surely end – pleasing absolutely no one

Daunting task awaits members faced with unwieldy terms of reference

Catherine Martin is still Minister for Media but, in her full title, the media bit has been moved to the back. Photograph: Alan Betson

Catherine Martin is still Minister for Media but, in her full title, the media bit has been moved to the back. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Catherine Martin has a new title. Until very recently, the Green Party deputy leader was Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht. Now, according to her department’s press releases, she is very much Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

Keen observers will note that the latest title lists all the same things in a different order, with “media” booted to the end. Perhaps this is a portent of the prioritisation that this Government will afford the sector, or perhaps it just rolls off the tongue better this way.

The Coalition has been busy changing other names too. The mooted Commission on Irish Public Service Broadcasting, which the previous government rashly said last December would bring forward proposals by the end of September 2020 “to ensure input before Budget 2021”, was expanded in the programme for government to a Future of Media Commission. This was duly set up – sort of – on Tuesday, immediately pleasing no one.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the announcement was “long on jargon, short on specific action points and notable for a complete disregard for the consequences for workers within a sector in crisis”. It criticised the lack of trade union representation among the nine commission members named to date. Similarly, Newsbrands Ireland was “disappointed” by the absence of “individuals with direct experience in the Irish news publishing industry”, either at a local or national level.

These were not the only omissions. The Government has given itself an out by saying “two further proposed members” will be confirmed shortly. But if it even attempts to ensure every strand of the sector under discussion is represented, those Zoom meetings will fast become unwieldy.

Indeed, this commission, no matter who sits on it, is already at high risk of going round the houses. It is tasked, after all, not only with making recommendations about how to stop RTÉ from going bankrupt and how to keep indigenous news media alive, but with reviewing “the behaviours of younger audiences”, assessing the current “models of delivery”, proposing how public funding should support creative talent and even advising on regulation.

All this, with a strong chance of zero biscuits.

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