Taoiseach is urged to give newspapers cabinet voice
THE Taoiseach was last night urged to appoint a dedicated Minister for Media to give newspapers a voice at the cabinet table.
Enda Kenny was guest of honour at a special dinner for representatives of the world's press which took place in Dublin Castle.
The dinner was hosted by the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI). Those present heard speeches from Mr Kenny and from Gavin O'Reilly, the outgoing president of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
"Since I attended my first WAN event in 2000 in Rio de Janeiro ours is an industry that has seemingly been in a perpetual state of crisis," Mr O'Reilly, group chief executive officer of Independent News and Media plc, said.
"But in truth it was only ever a crisis of confidence. Of course, as president, I naturally wanted to change that, not by some feigned optimism but rather by getting publishers to focus on what they do best and to reconsider where newspapers ... fit within the ever-changing media landscape.
"In many ways it is somewhat analogous to the crisis of confidence that has plagued Ireland in the recent past. But, guess what? We're still here, despite what the pundits say.
"Ireland's problems are very real and very immediate, and Enda and his new Government haven't shied away from them ... that doesn't mean they're all sorted yet but ... there's a very clear plan." He added that the problems in the newspaper industry were also "real, but very surmountable".
In a speech that referred to the funeral of murdered PSNI officer Ronan Kerr in Omagh, Mr Kenny also spoke of the wider impact of the peace process -- perhaps the biggest news story of recent years.
"It made me think of that night in the '90s when the newsstands of Dublin went 'live' with some of the biggest news this island ever had.
"In studies all over this city and country are the three words carved ever since on the hearts and the minds of our people North and South: 'Ceasefire at midnight'.
"In a world before Twitter and Facebook, out on the streets that day, it was the papers, your papers, that brought us the news that changed our country. And our history. News we have guarded since with our hopes, with our vote in a referendum. And, in the case of Constable Ronan Kerr, with his life."
Among those in attendance last night were Dr Brian Hillery, chairman Independent News and Media (INM), Joe Webb, managing director INM, group managing editor Michael Denieffe, economics editor Brendan Keenan and journalist Sam Smyth.
Paul Cooke, the chairman of NNI, told the gathering of publishers and editors from more than 30 countries of the importance of press freedom.
"Like many newspapers around the world, Irish titles are being impeded and commercially harmed by competition for digital revenue from publicly-funded broadcasters, restrictions on advertising, unfair taxes on reading and other obstacles," he said.
He argued the Government should look to create a new ministry to help deal with these issues.
"I would say, however, that in the media world we now inhabit -- our view is that newspapers should have a voice at the Cabinet table," Mr Cooke said.
He paid tribute to Mr O'Reilly, who is approaching the end of his second term as Chairman of WAN-IFRA.