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Media sector facing ‘opportunities and threats’ | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp

The report of the Future of Media Commission contains 50 recommendations, 49 of which the Government has said it will accept, at least in principle.

The one it is rejecting is the one that has gained the most media attention – reform of the TV licence system.

The report recommends that the current system be scrapped and replaced with Exchequer funding from 2024.

“From that date, the source of public funding for public service media and public service content should change from the current TV licence system (combined with Exchequer funding) to a system based entirely on Exchequer funding derived from general tax revenue, with an appropriate adjustment in taxation, if necessary, to meet this cost,” the report states.

No thanks, said the Cabinet, at an event today to officially release the report.

It was a publication that was long-awaited – the commission concluded its work and gave its findings to the Government last year and there had been criticism over the delay in releasing the report.

The Taoiseach said that if the Government was fully in charge of RTÉ’s funding, it could pose questions around media independence and State control.

“A potential Exchequer contribution of €300m per annum was not realistic in the current fiscal climate… but also from the ring-fencing perspective, I think it would be dangerous for democracy,” Mr Martin said.

A technical group will now examine the overhaul of the TV licence system and it will report back to the Government in November.

It will look at evasion, collection and how to charge people who don’t watch traditional TV anymore and instead consume media on phones, tablets and computers.

Asking taxpayers right now to pay for anything extra, at a time of soaring inflation, would be politically toxic so the establishment of a technical group buys the Government time and allows the issue of the licence fee to be kicked to touch, at least for now.

RTÉ says licence fee system ‘utterly broken’

RTÉ said it was urging the Government to act as quickly as possible and repeated its warning that the current licence fee system was “utterly broken”.

“The decision by Government today to align the obligation to pay the licence fee with how people consume media today is critical to ensure the future sustainability of the system,” RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes said.

“We will engage with the proposed working group as to the scope of legislative and system changes that are required, and we trust reforms will be decided upon and implemented quickly,” she added.

So, is the chair of the Future of Media Commission disappointed that one of his main recommendations has been rejected?

It’s a question I put to Professor Brian MacCraith at today’s report launch.

“One would like if all 50 recommendations would be adopted, but it’s up to the commission to make recommendations and the Government to make hard decisions,” Prof MacCraith said.

“I think a 98% score in any assessment isn’t a bad one,” he said in his opening address.

Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar watch on as Catherine Martin speaks

The other 49 recommendations cover a wide range of areas including improving equality, diversity and inclusion across the media sector, environmental sustainability and tackling the problem of disinformation on social media and other platforms.

“The commission recommends the development of a National Counter-Disinformation Strategy to enhance trust and protect the safety of Irish users of global content platforms,” the report states.

In order to ‘rebalance’ the relationship between media and Big Tech, the Commission is recommending an assessment of the impact of the new EU Copyright Directive.

“If the review finds that the process has not resulted in a fair and adequate rebalancing between traditional news publishers and large online platforms, the Government should be prepared to move swiftly to take further steps to redress the imbalance, including the introduction of new copyright or competition law measures, as necessary,” the report states.

A new media fund will be established to support journalism at local, regional and national levels, and a new media regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, will set industry standards.

“The coming decade will be highly disruptive for Ireland’s media sector,” the report concludes. “It presents both exciting opportunities and serious threats to Ireland’s media system.”

“The survival of today’s media organisations, and the emergence of new ones, hinges on their capacity to innovate, adapt to the competitive landscape, and meet the changing needs of audiences.”

As the Government launched today’s report, cameras snapped and reporters shouted questions about a variety of topics including turf-cutting, the no confidence motion and the use of first-class flights.

The relationship between the media and politicians is always a complex one, but today those in power vowed to protect an industry that is facing unprecedented uncertainty.

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