Chairman of NewsBrands Ireland addresses Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht on the impact of Covid-19 on the newspaper sector

Today, Wednesday, 16 December 2020, representatives from Ireland’s local and national news publishing industries, addressed a Joint Commitee on the impact Covid 19 has had on the newspaper industry.

Speaking to Commitee members, Vincent Crowley, Chairman of NewsBrands Ireland, said:

“As Chairman of NewsBrands Ireland and having served over 30 years in the news publishing industry here and in Australia, I am acutely aware of the challenges Irish news publishers are facing.

Paradoxically, the reach of our publishers’ journalism has never been so great, but publishers are struggling to stay afloat owing to the pandemic and a perfect storm of other issues.

The economic model which once sustained newspapers is broken.

Newspaper sales have declined significantly in the past ten years by up to 50%.

Revenues from print advertising for national titles has dropped from a high of €367m in 2007 to €87m in 2019.  The forecast for 2020 is around €60m, a decline of over 30% compared to last year.

The decline in print advertising has not been replaced by digital advertising, which is being hoovered up by giant digital corporations such as Google & Facebook, who secured €425m in ad revenues from this market in 2019, compared to €26m for national news publishers.

The dominance of the tech platforms is being addressed by Governments together with their competition authorities in other countries including the UK, Australia and France.

Unlike the UK and elsewhere, newspapers sales and digital subscriptions are taxed here, and publishers face draconian libel laws which are out of kilter with almost every other jurisdiction.

Ireland is an outlier compared to other countries where Governments actively support their news publishing sector in the form of direct and indirect subsidies.

We appreciate the recent short-term supports through PUP payments and Covid-related advertising.  However, if this Committee believes that public interest journalism is something worth fighting for, you can support the industry in the longer term in these ways:

  • Reduce VAT to 5% on newspapers and digital news products. Ultimately reduce VAT to 0% as is the case in Britain and other EU countries.
  • Tackle the dominance of tech platforms in the digital advertising market
  • Complete the long-overdue Review of the Defamation Act and reform Ireland’s draconian defamation laws that support legal costs so punitive they have the potential to put publishers out of business.
  • Ensure public service journalism is supported across all media

These are not big asks and supports such as these are modelled on many other European countries. The news publishing industry needs support now to ensure it can continue in to perform its critical role in providing fact-checked, reliable information to citizens, particularly at a time when such information is critically important.”

Ends

A video of the Commitee hearing can be viewed at this link: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/press-centre/press-releases/20201215-joint-committee-on-media-tourism-arts-culture-sport-and-the-gaeltacht-to-discuss-challenges-faced-by-broadcast-media-and-newspapers-due-to-covid-19/