21 April 2020
By Bryan Smyth
Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has said that social media platforms and other digital publishers must either voluntarily dip into their pockets, or be required by the State, to support Ireland’s local media and journalism.
“The Covid 19 crisis has really hit our local newspapers and radio stations. Many across the country have stopped printing as their print advertising has simply dried up and they can’t afford to print every week,” added the Renew Europe MEP.
“Yet, the level of digital advertising taking place across the internet has never been greater. In addition, more and more of us are now turning to sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get our news.
“While there are great benefits to these instantaneous and global news updates, they do not go through the same rigorous, and expensive, fact checking that takes place in newsrooms across the country and cannot replace deep investigative journalism or the importance of truly local reporting.
“In recent days, the Australian government has introduced a new mandatory code for digital giants that will require them to share revenue with struggling newspapers and radio stations.
“The importance of quality journalism has never been more evident. Yet, unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to sustain it based on traditional newspaper sales. Of course, digital subscriptions can help, but it is nowhere near what is needed to keep our local newspapers and radio stations operating.
“Obviously, I would prefer to see the digital and social media companies voluntarily coming up with their own proposals to help their traditional media colleagues, but if they don’t, the next Irish government must develop mandatory requirements.
“I have written to my party’s Finance and Communications Spokespersons, Michael McGrath (based in Carrigaline, Cork South Central) and Jack Chambers to request that this issue is raised while negotiating the next Programme for Government. My colleague, former Communications Spokesperson Timmy Dooley has already laid down much of the groundwork on this policy in a policy paper published in early 2019.
“Independent journalism has never been needed as much as it is today. Independent journalism costs money, and here’s a way of levelling the playing field and mitigating the distortion created by the rise of digital media,” concluded Kelleher.