Local Ireland Oireachtas Briefing. Deputy Brendan Smith (FF); Linda O’Reilly, managing editor, The Anglo-Celt; Senator Diarmuid Wilson (FF); Deputy Pauline Tully (SF); Senator Joe O’Reilly (FG) and Deputy Robbie Gallagher (FF).Photo: Fennell Photography

News publishers call for more Government support for sector

There was a strong turnout of Ministers, TDs and Senators at Leinster House for an Oireachtas briefing by local and national news publishers about the challenges faced by news organisations.

The briefing by Local Ireland, representing local newspapers and their digital outlets, and NewsBrands, representing national news publishers, outlined the economic pressures the sector faces in relation to advertising, newspaper sales, digital revenues and increased energy and newsprint costs.

The meeting in the AV Room was facilitated through the office of Deputy Brendan Smith and there were representatives from all Oireachtas parties and groupings in attendance alongside managers and editors of news publishers from around the country.

Local Ireland executive director Bob Hughes told the meeting that support from Government was essential to sustain local journalism.

He urged politicians to ensure that local news publishers receive their fair share of public information advertising, as well as Government supports through schemes under the new media commission, Coimisiún na Meán.

Publishers, he said, also need a level playing field for their negotiations with the tech platforms around the local content they use and a fair regime for defamation to be urgently established under new legislation.

Managing Editor of the Limerick Leader, Áine Fitzgerald, spoke of the vital democratic role played by local newspapers and their websites in the coverage of councils and courts and also their unique ability to report on many important social issues.

She added: “A local newspaper and website stands as the guardian of our communities’ knowledge base. The absence of local news publishers would leave a dangerous void, which would be filled by ignorance, corruption and negligence.

“I urge politicians to recognise the irreplaceable role of local journalism in the daily life of our schools, sporting clubs, charities, universities, parishes, towns and cities.

“Local news publishers are the lifeblood of journalism, and we need meaningful and tangible support to help us continue to serve our communities as watchdogs and storytellers.”

Head of Irish Times regional news and president of Local Ireland Dan Linehan said he was delighted with the large turnout of so many Oireachtas members.

“We felt that the Senators and TDs listened and understood the challenges facing local media - the need to address the issue of defamation reform, fair payment for our content from multi-national platforms and the importance of including local newspapers in government advertising campaigns because local newspapers play a key role in engaging with communities and in providing public service news coverage.”

The Local Ireland briefing was followed a panel discussion on the urgent need for defamation reform. The panel was moderated by Daniel McConnell, editor of the Business Post and included Dave O’Connell, editor of the Connacht Tribune; Noírín Hegarty, editor of the Sunday Times and Ruadhan Mac Cormaic, editor of the Irish Times.