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Irish unions back commission on media ownership

8 July 2015

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has unanimously supported the NUJ’s call to establish a commission on the future of the media in Ireland. 

The motion was proposed by Seamus Dooley, the NUJ’s Irish secretary, and seconded by Gerry Curran, Cathaoirleach (chair) of the NUJ’s Irish executive council. It was supported by Karan O’Loughlin, SIPTU’s organiser for Ireland's largest trade union.

The ICTU’s 2015 Biennial Delegate Conference delegates also supported a demand that the government honour its commitment to restore the right of representation and collective bargaining.

In moving the NUJ motion, Seamus Dooley, said:

"We seek such a commission because concentration of ownership directly influences the media landscape and the news we receive – and do not receive – every day.
"The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (previously the Competition Authority) views freelance workers as business undertakings and thus ineligible for collective representation by trade unions. Publication of fee guides is regarded as price-fixing and collected bargaining as an attempt to distort the market. It also chose to clamp down on voice-over actors and freelance photographers while ignoring genuine competition issues in the financial sector.
"Successive governments have hidden behind the concept of the separation of powers while the CCPC shoots fish in a barrel, targeting the minnows while the sharks circled with malicious intent.
"Exploitation of media workers – largely represented by the NUJ and SIPTU – is a feature of the media landscape. We should not be surprised that media owners who treat their workers with disrespect all too frequently treat their readers and listeners with contempt.
"We should not be surprised by the cowardice of successive governments when it comes to tackling powerful media owners. That cowardice is reflected in the recent failure of the government to tackle the issue of concentration of media ownership in Ireland.
"The refusal of the government to break the stranglehold on media ownership undermines the value of the process undertaken by communications minister Alex White.
"The emphasis in the guidelines is welcome, but the NUJ views them as too little, too late, and incapable of addressing the current unacceptable situation in the Irish media landscape.
"Positive language without strong legislative measures will not break the stranglehold on media ownership and control in this country.
"In a market where Independent News and Media titles account for more than 40 per cent of all national newspaper sales and just three groups own 23 of our 37 radio stations it’s not good enough to propose new guidelines for the future while ignoring the present.
"We need an independent commission to examine all aspects of media ownership and control. We need politicians to realise that media ownership and control is an issue of fundamental importance to democracy."

The NUJ motion submitted to ICTU and agreed today:

This Biennial Delegate Conference notes the dramatic changes within the Irish media landscape.

In particular conference notes the decline in permanent employment within the newspaper and broadcasting sectors; the increased dependence on casual and freelance workers combined with the outsourcing of many editorial functions and the severe impact of the actions of the Competition Authority (now the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission) on the rights of freelance workers.

Conference notes the undermining of employment standards and the refusal of many employers within the national and regional press sector to recognise the right of workers to be collectively represented by trade unions.

Recognising that there is a public interest in the existence of media plurality, conference notes with concern the failure of successive governments to ensure diversity of media ownership and control in the Republic of Ireland.

Conference calls on the Irish government to establish a Commission on the Future of the Media in Ireland which would examine all aspects of ownership and control of the print, broadcast and online media in Ireland including employment standards, access to training and career development and measures to ensure the survival and development of a diverse range of media organisations and platforms.

Tags: , ictu, ireland, democracy, motion, media barons, trade unions, conference, freelance, ownership