Catherine Murphy TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, has welcomed the establishment of a Commission on the Future of the Media but called for its terms of reference to be widened to include defamation law reform and the impact of social media on advertising revenues in the sector.

Deputy Murphy said:

“This commission is welcome and it’s something I have called for in the past.

“We have seen recent job losses in this sector due to a sharp reduction in advertising revenue as a result of Covid-19, with many more titles and media organisations under threat.

“This is happening at a time when it has never been more important that the public can rely on trusted sources for their information, both at regional and national level – and indeed through online platforms.

“It is essential, however, that the make-up of the commission is inclusive. The last thing we want to see is that a worthy initiative such as the establishment of this commission falls short because there are gaps in experience and expertise.

“It is vital that the National Union of Journalists and representatives of the print industry are included on the commission as they are at the coalface of the media sector and are best placed to identify the challenges it faces.

“I also believe that the need to reform our defamation laws, which is contained in the Programme for Government, should be included in the commission’s terms of reference. Notwithstanding an individual’s right to their good name, the threat of defamation can have a chilling effect on media organisations in this country and can suppress investigative journalism.

“In addition, the sustainability of the sector has been impacted by the loss of advertising revenue to social media platforms and digital search engines, many of which are not generating original content but rely on the work of others. This also needs to be looked at by the commission.

“To be effective, it is essential that the terms of reference of this commission is broad enough and covers all the key issues without being too unwieldy.”

September 30, 2020

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