NUJ calls for commission on future of media

Minister for Communications Alex White ‘looking very closely’ at public funding

Minister for Communications Alex White, who has been asked to set up a commission on the future of the Irish media sector. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Communications Alex White, who has been asked to set up a commission on the future of the Irish media sector. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The National Union of Journalists has called on Minister for Communications Alex White to establish a commission on the future of the media in Ireland.

Séamus Dooley, the NUJ’s Irish secretary, urged the Minister to set up a body that would examine all aspects of media policy, including ownership, editorial control and employment standards.

“We need to to step out of the silos of print and broadcasting and form a commission that will deal with all the challenges,” Mr Dooley said at a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland event in Dublin that was attended by Mr White.

There is a “crisis in employment” in the Irish media sector across all platforms, the NUJ official said, while the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland group, which represents the non-RTÉ radio sector, reiterated its call for local stations to be given financial assistance.

“We’re at a critical juncture and time is of the essence,” said IBI chairman John Purcell, who runs the station KCLR FM in Carlow and Kilkenny, where he said he was having to cut jobs. “I am not entirely confident that I will be here in 12 months time, having worked in the independent sector for 20 years.”

Mr White, who took over the Communications portfolio from Pat Rabbitte in July’s Cabinet reshuffle, is expected to make a decision on the future of public funding for broadcasters in the next few months.

Before his departure, Mr Rabbitte put on ice a proposal to replace the television licence fee with a household-based broadcasting charge, while he had earlier rejected an IBI call for public funds to be made available to the independent sector.

Mr White said he was “looking very closely” at the system of public funding, but added he was not certain how to approach the future regulation of the media because it was not obvious what that future media would look like.

“If I sound tentative about some of these questions, it is because I am tentative about some of these questions,” the Minister said.

He cited “unclear” business models in the newspaper sector and the unknown impact that unregulated, internationally owned video-on-demand services could have on national broadcasters.

Meanwhile, the outgoing BAI chairman Bob Collins warned that the greater number of media outlets in the digital era did not guarantee diversity in their output. “It doesn’t matter how many media outlets we have, if it is about the dull, boring repetition of ideas.”