Call for journalists to be ‘essential service’ in Covid-19 lockdown

Newspaper industry groups call on Government to protect printing press supply chain

The letter noted ‘we cannot overstate the scale of the crisis facing the news publishing industry in the coming weeks’.

The letter noted ‘we cannot overstate the scale of the crisis facing the news publishing industry in the coming weeks’.

 

Journalism must be designated as an “essential service” in the event of any future restriction of public movement during the coronavirus crisis, Newsbrands Ireland has told the Government.

The group, which represents the national newspaper industry, wrote to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Friday. It asks that in any further measures to halt the spread of the virus, allowances would be made so journalists could continue their work to keep the public informed during the crisis.

The British government has published a list of roles it considers “key workers” in responding to the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19.

The list includes doctors, nurses, healthcare support staff, those involved in medical and food supply chains, and public services such as justice, education, policing and the military. It also includes journalists due to their role in keeping the public informed during the crisis.

In a letter, Newsbrands chief executive Ann Marie Lenihan called on Mr Varakdar to “guarantee that news providers will be treated as an ‘essential service’ in the event of further movement restrictions” in Ireland.

Newsbrands asked the Government to “ensure that journalists have free movement to continue to fulfil their essential role informing citizens and reporting on the crisis”.

Given the media’s role in informing the public it is essential that supply chains to newspaper printing plants are maintained, and that retailers continue to stock newspapers as an essential item in shops, the letter stated.

The letter was co-signed by Johnny O’Hanlon, director of Local Ireland, the body representing local and regional newspapers.

The correspondence laid bare the difficulties facing the news-publishing industry, due to a drastic decline in advertising revenue as the financial impact of the global pandemic hits Irish businesses.

The letter warned “quality journalism and news delivery rely heavily on advertising revenues”, which are “rapidly disappearing”.

Across national and local newspapers advertising was down by between 45 and 65 per cent last week, with similar drops expected in the coming weeks, the two industry groups warned.

“We cannot overstate the scale of the crisis facing the news publishing industry in the coming weeks,” noted the letter.

Due to the financial strain, “a number of smaller local publishers may be forced to cease or suspend publication within weeks, leaving local communities without any vital local independent and trusted news provision”, the letter added.

Authorities have appealed for people to avoid misinformation about the virus shared on social media and in messaging apps, and to only trust information provided on the Health Service Executive’s website and from the media.