LOCAL Ireland, the representative association for 46 weekly paid for newspapers of record in the Republic, has called on the Government to provide an immediate stimulus of €2.6m to be distributed to newspaper publishers, in line with a similar fund provided to independent broadcasters last June.
This request was made during a submission by Local Ireland to the Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht last week.
In his address to the Committee, Frank Mulrennan, executive committee member, Local Ireland said; “Our titles are read by 1.5 million readers weekly and generate 90% of the published local news coverage in the country. We employ more than 1,000 reporters, correspondents and columnists and are, in effect, the largest local news agency outside Dublin and Cork cities.
Each week our titles publish vital, trusted public interest information ranging from local authorities to courts, education training boards and local policing authorities, not to mention sports, community events and life in regional Ireland as it happens”.
Continuing, Mr Mulrennan, CEO Celtic Media Group said: “Our readers have trusted us down through the decades but there is a serious threat to the financial future of our titles, caused most immediately by the pandemic but — in reality – our industry has been badly impacted by the last recession and by the dominance of Facebook and Google as we work to build a sustainable digital model.
“In terms of the pandemic, an audit of member titles for the period April to November 2020, reveals that our circulation, advertising and event income revenues have seen a staggering decline of €6.38m or almost 22%.
“While the combination of the PUP and wage supplementary schemes were most welcome, coupled with increased government advertising spend, these measures pale against the on-going income loss.
“Our request at this time is parity with the subsidisation given to the local broadcasting sector last July, in the form of a similarly structured once off grant of €2.6m to be distributed to the newspaper publishing sector”.
Mr Mulrennan cautioned that without this level of support Local news publisher’s ability to sustain the current high level of employment and coverage will be severely impeded.
“We welcome the news about the vaccine, but we face several more months of difficult trading ahead and this once off grant would be significant in preserving a local news industry that is intrinsic to the culture of our country.”