Fianna Fáil proposes fund to secure future of quality journalism

Fianna Fáil is proposing a €30m fund to secure the future of quality journalism.

Communications spokesman Timmy Dooley said the party had become concerned about fake news and job losses in the sector.

“This is about the preservation and protection of quality journalism and we need to support it through the transition to the digital space.

“We have a proliferation of news content not properly researched or verified on digital platforms, which leads to fake news.

“We are seeing too many journalists losing their jobs and very few coming into the sector.”

Fianna Fáil is proposing to establish a Print Journalism Unit within the Broadcasting Authority.

Its remit would be to deliver schemes to support the work of print journalists at national and local levels.

The unit would also deliver grants to support newspaper publishers in providing public service content.

Mr Dooley said: “Quality journalism, the bedrock upon which people are informed in order to make decisions for themselves, is currently jeopardised by a significant downturn in revenues for news publishers in Ireland.

“The figures are stark: national newspaper circulation is down 50% over the past 10 years, and down 35% for local newspapers.”

Fianna Fáil has also promised that, if elected, the party will ensure a single government minister would have oversight over all aspects of the Irish media.

“Many print newspapers see their work being shared widely and freely on digital platforms.

“They receive no payment for this content, and this needs fixing. Newspaper journalists research and fact check – this costs money.

“Those reusing their work must pay for that, otherwise we risk seeing newspapers go bust,” he said.

The party said the work of the Print Journalism Unit could be funded by ring-fencing current Exchequer VAT receipts from newspaper sales, at about €27m, or by imposing a 6% digital advertising levy which, based on 2018 sales, would be around €30m per annum.

Mr Dooley added: “Our proposals will secure the future of quality print journalism in the country for generations to come.

“Many of our EU colleagues are already investing in print journalism – in France, for example, 262 million euro was made available to newspapers in direct support for distribution, home delivery and modernisation and innovation in 2016.

“If we want independent quality journalism, we need to invest. Our citizens deserve open, honest and compelling journalism.”

The proposal has been criticised by Fine Gael, which labelled the announcement nothing more than a soundbite.

Dublin North West TD Noel Rock said: “The desire to support quality journalism is laudable, but to only support print journalism is bizarre.

Under Fianna Fáil’s proposal, only journalism in the print editions will be supported, while the online version will be “left to make their own hay”, he said.

“People are consuming their news online and that is unlikely to change. Quality journalism provided only in an online context would be excluded entirely under these proposals. Is that fair?”

- Press Association & Digital Desk

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