Funding to be examined by Oireachtas Communications Committee meeting as call emerges to include newspapers in reform process.

RTÉ logoEarlier this year Irish public broadcaster, RTÉ, called for urgent reform of the TV License Fee after a decision not to introduce a planned public service broadcasting charge due to a lack of political feasibility.

Unlike the traditional fee, the charge would have been payable by all households, regardless of whether they owned a television, in an attempt to reflect changing digital media consumption patterns and one of the highest licence fee evasion rates in Europe – evasion is at 16% and costs the broadcasting sector €40million per year, according to the Irish Times

More recently, focus has been placed on improving the licence fee inspection process, resulting in the collection contract being put to tender due to its current high-costs and poor performance.

Yet the committee, formed from members of Ireland’s legislature, is not only likely to discuss the way in which public broadcasting is funded, but also whether other media platforms could be included under the public funding remit.

Ireland’s Communications Minister, Denis Naughton, wants to allow quality print journalism to be exposed to some level of public funding. At last week’s Association of European Journalist’s (AEJ) meeting in Dublin he expressed fears over the decline of trusted local newspapers and journalism, which has largely come as a result of fewer readers and diminishing returns from advertising.

Speaking to the AEJ, he said: “The public have respected institutions like our national newspapers. Like our national broadcasters, I think it is important that trust remains there, and I think it does need to be supported and that broader debate now needs to take place.

Despite there being no clear model for the funding of print “public service journalism” at the time of writing, any decision would likely be similar to RTÉ’s dual model, which receives some commercial income.

The model of publicly funded print journalism may be one way of supporting a medium that is widely regarded as being in decline, as readers move to alternative sources of news. The date for the committee meeting is to be confirmed.