Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has urged the Government to help struggling local newspapers through ad buys, and urged the public to support their local and national titles by buying a copy.
He was speaking after one of the country's biggest local and regional newspaper groups announced it would temporarily lay off some staff due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Celtic Media said it would continue to publish five weekly papers in print and online, but was forced to reduce staff numbers due to falling revenues. The company employs 90 people. It will keep its print plant in Navan operating as normal.
Deputy Howlin said: “I welcome the action by the government to suspend the BAI levy for local radio stations giving some immediate relief in the face of collapsing advertising revenues.
“However assistance and recognition is also needed for local papers during the COVID-19 slowdown. They too are a reliable and trusted source of information for many.
The Government should look at supports such as extensive advertising in local papers and radio to get the key messages out. This would be an important way to support advertising revenue sustaining people in jobs while also providing the public with essential news.
"Similiar supports may also be needed for independent national broadcasters and newspapers if this is an extended crisis."
He also called on the public to support their local and national newspapers by buying a copy when they can.
"We all need to be reading reliable information sources," he said.
“Adding a copy of your local paper to supplies (you're buying for elderly neighbours) is another way to boost their sales.
“The economic consequences of the coronavirus will impact numerous sectors in our society and when problems are identified we must move quickly to provide support and assistance.”
Meanwhile,Newsbrands Ireland, which represents the national newspaper industry, wrote to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Friday to “guarantee that news providers will be treated as an ‘essential service’ in the event of further movement restrictions” in Ireland.
Newsbrands asked the Government to “ensure that journalists have free movement to continue to fulfil their essential role informing citizens and reporting on the crisis”.
Advertising revenue is down by between 45% and 65% in local and national newspaper titles in the last week, with further falls expected in the weeks ahead, Newsbrands and Local Ireland warned.
National and local news publishers request ‘essential service’ status to protect the media’s critical role in getting information to the public during the #COVID19ireland emergency @local_ireland https://t.co/bkfyHq92j8— NewsBrands Ireland (@newsbrandsirl) March 19, 2020