Calls for Minister Bruton to support local newspapers during Covid-19

'A public health impact, especially in rural areas, if local newspapers are allowed to close'

Michaela O'Dea

Reporter:

Michaela O'Dea

Email:

newsroom@longfordleader.ie

Support needed for local and national newspapers amid Covid-19 shutdown

'A public health impact, especially in rural areas, if local newspapers are allowed to close'

Minister Richard Bruton has been called to find creative ways of supporting local newspapers through COVID 19 crisis.

Communities across Ireland are at risk of losing their local news source, this is due to the dramatic decline in advertising revenue since the onset of Covid-19.

Also read: Business as usual for the Longford Leader in print and online  - Keeping the local community informed

People are urged to continue to support their local community throughout this emergency. Particularly news platforms as false information is being spread through private messaging forums such as WhatsApp. Local news outlets supply authentic news curated from trusted sources.

Sinn Féin: We must do all we can to protect the vital services that local broadcast and print media provide

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment David Cullinane TD has called for positive action to support local and regional newspapers during this difficult period.

Deputy Cullinane is calling on Government Departments to take out advertising in local papers to both disseminate important information to the public while in turn providing financial support to local newspapers.

Deputy Cullinane said: “Over the last few days I have engaged directly and constructively with Minister Richard Bruton on solutions needed to support local print and broadcasting media. I welcome the temporary waiver of the Broadcast Levy and I have called for greater flexibility in releasing funds under the Sound and Vision Scheme.

“Equally, local print media needs urgent support. A crash in advertising revenue is having a devastating impact and is threatening the viability of local and trusted newspapers.

“I have asked Minister Bruton to establish a fund to be used by government Departments to advertise important information and updates on measures to combat COVID-19 in local papers. These can relate to health, employment rights, employer obligations and other general advice to the public.

“This would fulfil a number of purposes - to help disseminate accurate information to the public through reliable and trusted local publications, while also providing much needed revenue for local newspapers.

“This is a serious and precarious situation for all sectors of the economy. We must do all we can to protect the vital services that local broadcast and print media provide.”

Green Party: A public health impact, especially in rural areas, if local newspapers are allowed to close

Brian Leddin TD, Green Party spokesperson for Communications stated that there will be a public health impact, especially in rural areas, if local newspapers are allowed to close.

He said, "in the immediate term I would encourage everyone to buy a copy of their local paper, either with their essential shop or online, to support a trusted source of local news.”

Independent TDs: local newspapers provide a valuable public service

Independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice, Michael McNamara and Marian Harkin have also called on Minister Bruton to put in place as a matter of urgency, measures to ensure the independent radio sector – as well as local and regional newspapers – can be supported during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Unless urgent action is taken by the Government, it is inevitable at this time of national crisis - as advertising revenues collapse - that hundreds of jobs will be lost in the independent radio sector. This will inevitably lead to the closure of many independent radio stations who have a daily listenership of 2.6 million people. 

“While we appreciate that the Minister has moved to waive the BAI levy for six months, nonetheless the sector is urgently looking for a re-allocation of ‘Sound and Vision’ money that has already been earmarked for broadcasting and is therefore not an extra draw on the public purse.

“This funding for 2020 is estimated to be €14 million per year. So far, limited funds have been allocated, but unless a further amount of approximately €5 million is made available to the sector, it will be unable to continue to deliver its news and current affairs content. It is important to note that if any monies are allocated, such monies would be used exclusively for news, current affairs and speech-based programming only.

“The independent radio sector is an extremely important and powerful tool for providing news, current affairs and public information - particularly in the context of local happenings and circumstances.

“Many of the listeners have a huge loyalty to their local station and if those stations were to cease broadcasting people would be bereft and this would add hugely to the isolation that many people already feel due to the current public health crisis.

“Furthermore, as local radio stations are a vital link in the chain of mass communication and a significant proportion of listeners do not have internet access, they rely disproportionately on local radio for their information and entertainment and it is crucial this lifeline is supported,” the Group stressed.

Continuing, the independent TDs indicated that consideration must also be shown for local and regional newspapers who have also felt the huge negative impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The national Government, local Government and the HSE need to spread out their advertising budgets across these regional and local newspapers, as well as the national media outlets.

“Like their counterparts in the radio industry, newspapers have seen their revenue from advertising dip drastically as a result of this virus outbreak.

“We would encourage people to remember to buy their local paper, or subscribe online if they have an digital format, if possible in order to keep them viable. Without this support, some publications may find it difficult to keep their heads above water.

“These regional and local newspapers provide a valuable public service to people in their catchment areas, as well as a source of employment for many. We all have to put our shoulder to the wheel to ensure we get through this together,” the group concluded.

Also read: You can get your copy of the Longford Leader without leaving home