Credible public service media sources providing accurate news may die out if the Government keeps dithering over financial supports to prop them up.
That is according to the outgoing director general of RTÉ, Dee Forbes. She criticised the delay in Government support to ensure the continued survival of reliable, high-quality media in Ireland.
Ms Forbes said vital reform of the funding mechanisms that ensure the survival of RTÉ’s public services and other accurate news outlets has been “delayed over and over again".
At the Cork People of the Year Awards, Ms Forbes said while the importance of public service media became crystal clear during the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, support for public service media “has remained under threat for the entirety of my [seven-year] tenure” as the head of RTÉ.
She said: "RTÉ certainly is not perfect. It is the sum total of hundreds of editorial and creative decisions made every day. It is a living, human, and therefore imperfect idea - but at our best RTÉ can be a powerful force for good, a public or merit good, as the Future of Media Commission described public service media.
"I was determined to ensure continuity of this special and cherished role for RTÉ in national life, and also to ensure that I left RTÉ fit to take on the challenges ahead.
"It’s for others to decide on that particular legacy. But it’s perhaps truest to say that, before I arrived at RTÉ, little did I know the extent to which I and my colleagues would have to fight for its very future, day in, day out."
RTE this month advertised for the next director general to succeed Ms Forbes, whose seven-year term concludes in July.
She has consistently raised the broadcaster's financial plight during that time and speaking today in front of 250 guests, including ministers Simon Coveney and Michael McGrath, she warned delays would hamper the wider creative industries.
"We have not yet secured a sustainable future for a high quality and diverse media in Ireland, and while we welcome the Future of Media Commisions report and its recommendations, we still await a funding resolution," she said.
"The tragedy of this is that it is not just RTÉ that is impacted by this broken licence fee model, but also Ireland’s independent production sector, our artists, our creative economy – and the ultimate losers, at the end of the day, are the people of Ireland, who deserve a world-class, properly funded, sustainable public media.
Ms Forbes said time is running out for public media across the globe.
"Just as my time as director general is almost up, it’s true to say that time is running out for public media too, in Ireland and across the globe. Perhaps we will not appreciate what we have until it is no longer around or as been so severely diminished that it no longer has relevance.
"And I know that future generations will not forgive us for letting this Irish cultural institution slip through our fingers. Public service media is one of the last platforms capable of challenging the rise of fake news, of disinformation, by striving to speak the truth of the social, cultural, and economic nation it represents. It can only do this if is supported, and adequately funded," she added.