Friday 23 March 2018

Broadcasting levy could be used to fund newspapers

Hildegarde Naughton at Leinster House yesterday Picture: Tom Burke
Hildegarde Naughton at Leinster House yesterday Picture: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Communications Minister Denis Naughten has urged an Oireachtas Committee to consider the prospect of the newspaper industry getting a cut of any future revenue raised from the introduction of a broadcasting charge.

In June, Mr Naughten ruled out bringing in such a charge to replace the television licence fee in the short term, but has sought a review of how public service media is funded.

In a letter seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Naughten told the Oireachtas Committee it should consider the future funding of public service media and question "how we define that media".

Mr Naughten said rapid technological advances and a sharp decline in commercial revenue have resulted in "dramatic changes" for broadcast and print media in recent years.

Mr Naughten said Irish audiences need "strong, independent public service media that can hold its own in the face of increasing competition from international media".

He urged the committee to consider solutions which will ensure the public can continue to get "distinctive and high-quality indigenous" coverage of current affairs from an Irish perspective.

"To my mind, this is a process that would require extensive engagement with all stakeholders and, in this regard, committee members will be aware of competing demands for public funding from a range of stake holders, including the commercial (local and national), community and print sectors, which it may wish to involve in this process," he said.

Last month, Mr Naughten told the Association of European Journalists in Dublin he believed newspapers should be able to avail of funding available to broadcasting charge.

Mr Naughten's letter was sent to the committee ahead of yesterday's hearings with officials from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment and representatives from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

Communications Committee chair Hildegarde Naughton said it will be a complex discussion, but she hopes to get cross-party support for her final report.

"People are now watching the television and reading the newspapers on the iPad and iPhone, so we need to look at a sustainable long-term funding model and that's what the committee will be looking at over the next few weeks," Ms Naughton said.

She hopes the committee will complete its deliberations before the end of the year.

Yesterday, Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment assistant secretary Patricia Cronin set out Mr Naughton's views for the committee.

Ms Cronin said they should "not lose sight of the fact" that his core concern is the immediate funding issues facing RTÉ and TG4.

Irish Independent

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