The Irish Times Group calls for State financial support for journalism
Submission to Future of Media Commission says news industry faces existential threats
The submission was made on behalf of The Irish Times and other news titles owned by the group: the Irish Examiner, the Echo, Roscommon Herald, Western People, Waterford News & Star, the Nationalist, Kildare Nationalist and Laois Nationalist. Photograph: David Sleator
The Irish Times Group has called for the introduction of State financial supports for journalism, news publishers’ technology investments and the home delivery of newspapers.
In its submission to the Future of Media Commission, the company said public funding should be available for specific public service roles, such as court reporters, as well as training schemes and internships for early-career journalists. It cited the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which is funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, as an example “worthy of exploration”.
The State can help Irish news media survive the existential threats facing the sector in a manner that protects editorial autonomy and does not trespass on the independence of a free press, it suggested.
“Transitional” funding for technology investment could help news groups improve their ability to compete online, while the State could follow the example of other European countries in subsidising the cost of distributing newspapers to homes, especially those in rural areas, it said.
The submission also reiterated calls from industry body NewsBrands Ireland for the “long overdue” reform of the Defamation Act, for VAT on newspaper sales to be cut from 9 per cent to zero and for the State to fully transpose the European copyright directive into Irish law.
The submission was made on behalf of The Irish Times and other news titles owned by the group: the Irish Examiner, the Echo, Roscommon Herald, Western People, Waterford News & Star, the Nationalist, Kildare Nationalist and Laois Nationalist.
The group noted that Local Ireland, the representative organisation for regional news publishers, has called for the creation of a community journalism fund, based on the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Sound and Vision scheme, and said that approach “could offer a useful test model” for how funding could be allocated.
The Irish Times Group’s submission is one of hundreds of written contributions received by the Future of Media Commission, which is chaired by Prof Brian MacCraith, chair of the High-Level Taskforce on Covid-19 Vaccination and former president of Dublin City University.
The commission, which has started holding online “thematic dialogues” with industry participants and observers, is due to issue its recommendations later this year.
The Irish Times Group welcomed its “timely and necessary” establishment. “The challenges to our industry are stark. For some titles, they may be terminal,” it said.
Despite progress across news titles on digital subscription revenues and voluntary donation models, there is “no escaping the reality” of the impact of the shift to digital on news publishing, it added.
The loss of advertisers to digital platforms – compounded by the dominance of Big Tech companies in this market – arguably poses the greatest threat to the future of news publishing, it told the commission.
* This article was edited on February 4th, 2021.