The number of people getting their news from free and paid online publications has remained high this year, the Future of Media Commission report found.
Established by the government in September 2020, the Commission was tasked with examining funding models and challenges in the media sector, including print and digital, audio and visual media across the country.
The commission’s report contains a total of 50 recommendations — with the government agreeing in principle to implement 49 of those recommendations.
A new Media Fund will be created to support the wider media and journalism sector at all levels, including local, regional and national, which will be open to print, online and broadcast media.
Regarding newspapers and online publications, the report found that while newspaper circulation has declined in recent years, news consumption in online media has shifted significantly towards online publications.
While the number of people paying to subscribe to online newspapers has fallen from 80% to 65%, the number of people reading paid and free online publications remains high – with 1.5 million people reading regular news websites and over 600,000 reading or using mobile news apps.
“While print circulation has declined, the Irish public’s appetite for engaging with news content has not diminished,” the report said. “However, news consumption has shifted significantly to online media. In 2020, 2.5 million people say they read a news site or newspaper every week, with 639,000 people using a mobile app to access news, 383,000 watching online videos for news and 1.6 million of people using a news website.
“Local Ireland has highlighted the role of digital dissemination in extending the local, national and international reach of its member organisations, with its publishers attracting almost 8 million unique global users and over 25 million page views over the course of of a typical month.”
Following the release of the report, the government also announced that while it plans to keep the current television licensing system, it plans to overhaul it to make it more fair, relevant and sustainable.
The report recommended replacing license fees with funding from the public purse, but the government said it would retain the current system “in order to maintain a direct link between the media and the audience they serve, and to minimize the risk of real or perceived political interference in the independence of the media.’
“Today’s government decision to review the television license and target additional media investment in Ireland marks a new beginning, both for public service broadcasters and for print, online and commercial broadcast media. and community,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said when publishing the commission.
“The government is determined to do everything in its power to ensure that the Irish media continue to provide high quality public service content at local, regional and national level.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar added that the choice to revise license fees while keeping the system is the right one, saying: “It ensures a dedicated and more secure funding stream for public service broadcasting and ensures that public service funding is quartered.’