A public health impact- especially in rural areas- awaits if local newspapers are allowed to close.
That is according to the Green Party spokesman on communications, Brian Leddin, who called for a commission to be set up to examine options to make sure local media is sustainable in the medium to long-term.
His calls were echoed by his Sinn Féin communications counterpart, David Cullinane, who called for €5 million in funding under the Sound and Vision scheme to be released to local media outlets “reeling from a collapse in revenue”.
Mr Cullinane also called on Government departments to take out more advertisements in local publications.
“This will provide much needed revenue while also aiding in disseminating important Covid-19 related information.
"Local print and broadcast media provide an extremely important service and it is vital that information is disseminated through trusted sources and that these companies are properly supported,” Mr Cullinane said.
The Green Party’s Mr Leddin said local news was needed more than ever in “unprecedented” times.
“We have already seen the worrying reports of fake news being spread online and through messaging platforms like WhatsApp. Local newspapers are trusted in this country. There is a public health need for there to be trusted local news outlets to ensure that people receive
information that is accurate, fair and accountable,” he said.
“There will be a public health impact, especially in rural areas, if local newspapers are allowed to close.
"In the immediate term, I would encourage everyone to buy a copy of their local paper, to support a trusted source of local news,” the Limerick TD added.
Dozens of reporters, photographers, sales and other staff were let go by regional publisher Iconic Newspapers Group this week at a number of its titles around the country.
Iconic Ltd, headed by UK businessman Malcolm Denmark, owns over 20 regional newspapers in Ireland, including the Limerick Leader, the Longford Leader and the Kilkenny People.
It came days after the Celtic Media Group, which employs about 90 people, said it would have to suspend employment for some staff and reduce pay and hours for others.
Irish Secretary of the NUJ, Séamus Dooley, described the layoffs as “a devastating bolt from the blue”.
He said: “There has been no prior consultation and a number of loyal, experienced editorial executives and long serving reporters have been told they are to be laid off.
"The criteria for selecting who is laid off has not been explained. The NUJ is consulting with our members and we will be asking the company to reconsider its actions.
“The amalgamation of editorial posts across titles and the diminution in editorial resources at a time when local communities need local newspapers could have damaging long term consequences for the titles.
"We would have strong concerns for the health, safety and welfare of small teams left to produce titles in such adverse circumstances.”