Local and national news publishers unite to highlight critical challenges facing independent journalism in Ireland

18. September 2019. Over 30 representatives from Ireland’s local and national news publishing industry, including CEOs, editors, and journalists, today gathered in unity to speak with members of the Oireachtas about the challenges facing independent journalism in Ireland.

Among those in attendance at today’s event were: Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin, T.D.’s including, Michael Ring (FG), Minister Regina Doherty (FG), Brendan Smyth (FF), Timmy Dooley (FF), Minister Helen McEntee (FG), Catherine Murphy (Soc Dem), Bobby Alyward (FF), Maureen O’ Sullivan(Ind), Dara Calleary (FF), Jan O’ Sullivan (Labour),  Margaret Murphy OMahony (FF), Kevin O’ Keefe (FF), Jackie Cahill (FF), Roisín Shorthall (Soc Dem) , Eamon Scanlon(FF), Mattie McGrath ( Ind), Niamh Smyth (FF), Pat ‘ The Cope’ Gallagher(FF), and Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, John Curran TD (FF), Eugene Murphy TD (FF), Senator Diarmuid Wilson, Denis Naughten TD (Ind).

Organised by NewsBrands Ireland and Local Ireland, the representative bodies for the national and local news publishing industries, the event highlighted practical steps the government could take to ensure a sustainable future for journalism in Ireland.  These include:

1.Reduce VAT on print and digital newspapers to 5% in Budget 2020.  Ultimately reduce VAT on printed newspapers to 0% as is the case in Britain and other EU countries.

2.Complete the long overdue review of the Defamation Act. It’s now almost three years since the review was announced and 40 submissions were made to the Department of Justice.  The laws, as they currently are, have a chilling effect on democracy and a free press.

3. Extend the brief of the Minister for Communications to include all media and not just the broadcast sector , ensuring the Minister has full oversight of our complex and ever evolving media landscape and public service journalism is supported across all media.

Speaking at the event, Ann Marie Lenihan, CEO of NewsBrands Ireland, said: “Outdated defamation laws, high taxes and the dominance of certain online platforms are not just biting into the Irish newspaper industry’s margins, they are restricting our industry’s ability to invest in producing quality journalism.”

Ms Lenihan went on to say: “At a time when there is an even greater need for citizens to have access to information produced by professional journalists, it is more important than ever that the Government demonstrates its commitment to the value of quality, legacy journalism and the public service role played by news publishers.”

David Ryan, President of Local Ireland, also spoke to attendees about the importance of trusted local journalism: “Our titles are newspapers of record in their communities. We are trusted to record and report local news and sport. As you know we lead on issues that are important to our communities. Imagine a community without a local paper, no local government reporting, no health, education, court, sports covering, leaving a huge democratic deficit.”