Fianna Fáil Senator, Shane Cassells, has called on the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to offer the same supports and funding schemes to provincial newspapers as is being offered to independent commercial radio.
Senator Cassells’ call comes after the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland announced its latest €2.5m commercial radio funding round under the Sound & Vision Scheme. This follows on from funding previously granted to radio stations during the first lockdown last year.
It also comes at a time where journalists have been laid off from a number of provincial papers across the country in the last week.
“The preferential treatment of radio over local print media by the Minister needs to be equalised,” remarked Senator Cassells.
“We need the same support for our local papers or quite frankly they’ll be gone and with them the coverage of local news and sport in towns right across Ireland.”
Commenting on the need for support for local papers Senator Cassells pointed out that 91% of advertising revenue for provincial papers comes from local businesses in their areas and the impact on their revenue streams during lockdown has been devastating.
“There are 46 paid for local newspapers in this country. There was a call for funding from the provincial newspaper representation group - Local Ireland - in December and I made that further call for this in the Seanad last week," he said.
“The reality is that if supports for the local print media sector are not brought in, that all those local court sittings and council meetings could go uncovered in the future, and where would that leave the transparent functioning of our democracy? Support from the Minister needs to be provided urgently in order to address this or we will be extending condolences in a few months on their demise.”