The failure of the political establishment to address the issue of media ownership could have serious implications for public interest journalism, the Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists Seamus Dooley has warned.
Speaking ahead of a conference in University of Limerick on April 7 that will examine how journalism is impacted in times of crisis, Mr Dooley said there is a need for an informed public debate on the implication of concentration of ownership.
“The issue of media ownership and control is all too frequently assumed to be about direct editorial interference by owners and shareholders in editorial content. That is a simplistic notion and ignores the reality that ownership shapes media content in a variety of ways.
“Ownership is linked to financial control and determines the priority given to editorial budgets, it determines the business model, it directly determines wages and terms and conditions of employment within the industry,” he said.
The National Union of Journalists has called for a Commission on the Future of the Media Industry.
“It would be opportune for all potential government partners to agree to such a course of action so that it would not become a political football and more significantly to help overcome fear of a campaign by vested commercial interests against any political party who individually sought to address the issue of concentration of commercial control of the media,” he added.
“If the industry is dominated, as it is, especially in the print and commercial broadcasting sector, by a small number of owners whose dominant values are those of the market, who increasingly view journalists as ‘content providers’ and journalism as mere ‘data’ to be shared in the most commercially advantageous manner possible, there is little space for public interest journalism.”
According to Mr Dooley, the consequences of reduced editorial resources is less coverage of public bodies, courts and local authorities.
Over 30 journalists, media academics and theorists, will debate the role of journalism in the 21st century, conditions for journalists, and their prospects.
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