The sustainability of Irish media is at a tipping point and radical action is needed by the new Government and the Communications Minister Catherine Martin.
Newspapers (in print and online), local radio and RTÉ have been essential reading, listening and viewing respectively during the Covid crisis. Journalists and editors have been working overtime to ensure the public is up to date and informed.
However, many news organisations are on their knees financially and there is a real danger that some may not survive.
Despite occasional failings, we are well served in the main by the Irish media. You may not like all of them but they provide an essential public service in Irish democracy.
A report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in July found that Irish media retain high levels of trust, bucking international trends.
Social media ranked among the least trusted sources, according to the report, with three out of five Irish adults concerned about 'fake news' online.
But the business model that supported journalism for 150 years has been battered for more than a decade by a perfect storm of changing consumer behaviour and a shift to online consumption; a collapse in advertising because of the increasing dominance of tech giants like Google and Facebook; and the failure by the news media to innovate and respond quickly to these threats.
Local journalism is in particular difficulty despite its enormous importance. Some provincial newspapers have already closed and job losses and furloughs are rife across the industry.
The national public service broadcaster, RTÉ, is in dire straits. Staff costs have risen by €20m despite efforts to reduce headcount, and the firm has borrowings of €95m.
Paywalls have proven successful for INM, owner of the Sunday Independent, and for the Irish Times, but will not work for local newspapers or broadcasters.
We cannot blame the tech giants solely for the demise of Irish journalism but they do bear some responsibility. The near duopoly position Facebook and Google now hold in the advertising market has had a distorting impact on the ability of indigenous media to operate.
The two tech companies hoovered up an estimated 40pc of the total ad market (worth about €1.4bn) and a whopping 81pc of the digital advertising market in 2019.
It is not realistic to expect the Government could (or should) bail out the news media, given the perilous state of the public finances, but the news media do need support.
In that context, moves by the Australian government to introduce new laws to force Facebook, Google and other tech companies to pay royalties to the news media for content they produce may provide part of the answer.
The move follows a proposal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which would force the Silicon Valley monoliths to negotiate a 'fair price' with news media for using their content on their platforms. If they do not, then they could be forced to accept a binding arbitration.
The Commission has also proposed new rules to force both companies to be more transparent with their algorithms, give notice of changes that might impact on news organisations' digital traffic, and be more transparent in their data collection methods.
In response both Google and Facebook have said they would remove news content from their news feeds and search results rather than pay the royalties.
Such bully-boy tactics by the two tech giants reinforce how dominant their position in the market now is, and why it's time to rein them in.
No media company can afford not to work with social media or Google. Media companies rely on these platforms to drive traffic, while the tech companies piggyback on the content created by the media companies to increase the amount of time audiences stay around, gathering terabytes of data about their behaviour and selling that to advertisers.
While the tech giants claim it's a symbiotic relationship, the reality is that it's closer to a parasitic one such is the power imbalance between them and the media.
France, Germany and Spain have also tried to force tech platforms to pay for republishing news media content but none has succeeded so far. Proposals for digital taxes have come to naught.
The new Programme for Government commits to a new Commission on the Future of Media, unifying regulation and support of media online and broadcasting, though no detail has been published yet explaining how it might operate or what powers it will have.
To be effective, this new Commission will need to have substantial teeth to bring the tech giants to heel and force them to take responsibility for the content on their platforms and the power to issue substantial fines.
Ireland may be too small to do so on its own; it may take the political muscle of EU action to bring Facebook and Google to the table, forcing them, for example, to contribute into a ring-fenced fund that could be used to support public service journalism jobs in local and national media.
The Commission will also need to look at wider issues such as protecting privacy, the role of these platforms in the promotion of 'fake news' and how we should set limits on harmful content.
One shudders to think what will be left if Google and Facebook strip their newsfeeds of quality, trusted journalism. Cat videos will thrive for sure, but on a much more sinister level, our social media timelines and search results will likely descend into a wasteland of fake news, half-truths and propaganda, where the tinfoil hat brigade, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers will flourish.
We cannot leave our democracy to Mark Zuckerberg, it's much too important for that.
Radical and immediate action is needed by Communications Minister Catherine Martin.
So far, we have seen little to suggest she is preparing for the challenge.
Tom Felle is head of journalism and communication at NUI Galway and a former journalist and foreign correspondent