THE IRISH JOURNALIST
Newsletter of the National Union of Journalists in Ireland Winter 2020 DOWN TO WORK Media commission faces a tough task
By Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary After a false dawn and a rocky launch, the
government’s Commission on the Future of Media has finally gotten down to work. The belated decision of the cabinet to appoint
Siobhan Holliman, joint cathaoirleach of the Irish Executive Council and NUJ nominee to the Press Council of Ireland, is a positive development. The announcement follows widespread concern at the absence of a nominee with relevant print industry or trade union expertise when An Taoiseach named the commission on September 29th. That reaction is reflected in the contributions from
Oireachtas members featured in this edition. While Siobhan has been appointed in her own right, her contribution will reflect her experience as a newspaper journalist and trade unionist with a particular knowledge of the regional media, print and broadcasting.
The commission has a skilled chairperson in
Professor Brian MacCraith and includes talented members. From an NUJ perspective the terms of reference are extremely narrow. It is disappointing to note that issues such as concentration of ownership, access to the profession, the need for diversity within the media and the glass ceiling which still exists for women do not feature in the terms.
The commission faces an urgent task, confronted with an industry in crisis and an ambitious timetable – it is due to report in September 2021. It began life as the Commission on the Future of Public Service Broadcasting.
Big win at RTÉ, p3; Northern Ireland news recovery plan, p9.
Last December, in announcing the appointment of
Prof MacCraith as chair, then-Minister Richard Bruton stated that the commission would report by September of this year. No further action was taken on establishing the commission. Meanwhile RTÉ was forced to put on hold cost-saving plans, including the sale of land in Donnybrook. The NUJ argued that the terms of reference should
be broadened to include the future of all media, echoing a call the union made at a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland forum in September 2014. The decision of the new government to take on
board the NUJ call, combined with removing responsibility for media policy from the sprawling Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, seemed to represent a more strategic approach to media policy. While designating all media as a specific ministerial area seemed a good idea, we voiced concerns at the impossible workload involved in a Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
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Support for journalist in the wake of threats to her son
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