NUJ urges rethink on “giant Media Commission” watchdog
Union seeks new body to oversee media fund.
The National Union of Journalists has warned that the new media regulatory body Coimisiún na Mean may be incapable of dealing with the multiple roles envisaged by the Minster for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media.
At a seminar in Dublin, Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary renewed the union’s call for a stand-alone Media Training and Development Agency with responsibility for implementing measures announced in Budget 2022. He said the new Commission would be “a dangerously powerful giant with sweeping powers and responsibilities.”
In the long term, the newly announced Court Reporting and Democracy and Local Democracy Reporting Schemes will be administered by the yet to be established Media Commission, known as Coimisiún na Mean.
Welcoming the budget Dooley said:
“€6m has been allocated for the introduction of Court Reporting and Local Democracy Reporting Schemes but we have not been provided details of how the scheme will be administered, the governance structures or the criteria to be used in deciding on grants.
“The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, which is understaffed and under-funded, appears to have been given the task of setting up the structure even though it is about to be subsumed into a new oversight body.
“This is an extremely confusing situation. While we welcome the establishment of the funds, we need urgent clarification of how the schemes are to be administered. As the trade union representing journalists, we have been excluded from the process and there is a marked absence of stakeholder consultation.”
“We welcome the new schemes, but we need to know what steps will be taken to ensure that media organisations do not abuse State aid to displace employees or undermine existing freelance gaps. Neither should State aid be used to fill gaps caused by compulsory redundancies. Any scheme must be open to freelance reporters and photographers.”
Noting the changes to VAT on newspapers Dooley said: “There is no statutory obligation on publishers to ringfence savings for investment in journalism. Minister Martin stated that the tax change ‘will enable newspapers to invest in all news platforms and independent journalism’ but no mechanism was put in place to ensure that this legitimate aspiration will be met.”
Referring to the new Commission he added:
“The Commission will have an enormous level of powers and responsibilities including online regulation, broadcasting compliance, licensing, training, development and funding. The NUJ believes that the current training and development role of the BAI should be transferred to a new body separate from the Commission. It is not desirable that one super agency should be vested with so many aspects of media policy.”