Denis Naughten in support of public funding for newspapers
Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30
Communications minister Denis Naughten favours allowing newspapers to draw down some of the money that currently funds broadcasting.
RTE is funded on a dual basis: public funding through the television licence fee and commercial income.
However, newspaper publishers say that they also contribute to the cultural, social, economic, intellectual and political life of Ireland. But in contrast to RTE, newspapers and independent broadcasters receive no public funding.
Newspapers alone account for €700m in turnover and an annual Exchequer payment of €100m in taxes. Publishers have also raised concerns about the way in which RTE leverages its position as a publicly funded broadcaster in areas where it competes with other media players.
Now, the prospect of state funding for quality print journalism has been raised by Mr Naughten. Speaking to the Association of European Journalists in Dublin, he said he would like to think that print journalism could draw down some of the money that goes to broadcasting at present.
"I think this is something that needs to be debated. I think we need to look at a broad debate in relation to journalism and content, because I think it is important that we have content that you can stand over. How that is transmitted is irrelevant.
"The important thing is that there is content there that people can rely on," he said.
He is to ask the Oireachtas communications committee to look at the broad question of how quality journalism should be funded.
"The public have respected institutions like our national newspapers. Like our national broadcasters, I think it is important that trust remains there, and I think it does need to be supported and that broader debate now needs to take place.
"Do I believe the print media needs to be part of it? Yes, I do. I do believe it needs to be part of that debate, because if we are going to provide quality journalism, if we are going to provide quality content, then we need to look at how we are going to support that," said Mr Naughten.
He said there was huge merit in the principle of a broadcasting charge per household rather than a licence for particular devices.
"Do I believe the current TV licence is sustainable in the long term? No...We're going to have to look at some new model, whatever that is, and that is why I want the Oireachtas committee to look at this."
He said there were likely to be minority governments for the foreseeable future so it was pointless for a minister to make any decision without doing it on an all-party consultative basis.
"If we can get an agreement on the issue of public service broadcasting and public service journalism, then we can look at how you fund it. I am happy to work with colleagues in the Dail so see how it works," said the minister.