Call for Google fund to assist Irish newspaper industry

Media sector will flounder without ‘radical thinking’, warns former Irish Times editor

The Government should consider an Irish equivalent of France's agreement with Google to set up a €60 million fund to assist the French newspaper sector, according to Conor Brady, the former editor of The Irish Times.

"I would urge the current Minister [for Communications] Pat Rabbitte to consider some such initiative," Mr Brady said at the publication of the annual report of the Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman.

Technology giant
The French government signed the deal with Google in February after months of talks. Newspaper and magazine publishers had pushed for Google to pay them licensing fees for listing headlines and article snippets in its search engine results. The technology giant fended off these demands, but agreed to pay into a fund to help publishers develop their digital businesses.

Addressing an audience that included national newspaper editors, Mr Brady, who is also a former member of the Garda Ombudsman Commission, advised newspapers to take a “fresh look” at sponsored content and further explore opportunities for funding from philanthropic sources. Some publications will fail without “radical thinking” and support, he said.


If the beef tribunal or a conflict on the scale of the Troubles in Northern Ireland were to happen today, most news organisations would not be able to afford to cover them as they did in the past, Mr Brady claimed.

“Our democracy will be impoverished if news media are so reduced in their fortunes that they cannot actually report the news,” he said.

“There are fewer journalists and they’re working longer hours, discharging more tasks and spreading themselves across a wider range of duties than ever before. Not only this, many of them are being poorly paid. There are very few new entrants now with the security of staff jobs,” Mr Brady said.

Mr Brady documented the issues facing individual newspaper groups.

"Independent News & Media is grappling with debt – thankfully making progress, but grappling nonetheless. TCH has gone through receivership in the hope of emerging safely in its new incorporation as Landmark Media. The Irish Times is trimming costs and product to balance the books. The Irish Press is gone. The provincial press is pedalling harder and harder, like the man on the bicycle, trying to stay perpendicular."

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics