Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has again called on the Government to act in the Budget to support both local and national newspapers to ensure the continued viability of the sector.
In a question to Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan in Dáil Eireann, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “Despite our differences with newspapers at times, they contribute enormously to democratic, social, cultural, sporting, economic and business life. The journalism produced by the news publishers who are members of NewsBrands Ireland and Local Ireland is read by 82% of the population.
“Significantly, this represents four out of five adults. The viability of these publications and associated jobs is at stake. The Government must act in this budget by helping to ensure the continued viability of this sector. People must not be subjected to a reliance on unregulated social media for information and news, or, in many instances, misinformation and fake news.”
The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “Ireland is one of the few countries that impose a high level of tax on print and digital newspapers. NewsBrands Ireland and Local Ireland, representing our national and regional newspapers, such as The Anglo-Celt and The Northern Standard, have cogently outlined the crucial need to reduce the VAT rate on newspapers, in print and digital formats, to 0%.”
In response, Minister Ryan agreed with Deputy Smith’s assertions and stated that he believed that “if we become reliant on social media feeds where we only hear from people of the same views, that will result in a deepening sense of division and a coarsening of society”, adding: “It will lead to a disparaging of other people in a way that is not good for our health, our souls or our future.”
The Minister also spoke of the “threats that exist in the social media environment if it is not a space for regulated journalism that asks the hard questions”, adding that newspapers provide a different perspective and present different information in a way that is mediated by professional journalists and this is why it is important that they survive and continue to develop to fulfill this critical role in our democracy.