THE scale of the crisis facing the news publishing industry is so severe that now, more than ever, we need the Government’s full support to allow us to fulfil our public service role in society.
To help us disseminate accurate, fact-checked information, news and analysis to citizens in a time of unprecedented crisis this newspaper needs the full support of all of Waterford’s TDs, our MEP and our local elected representatives.
Some have already started putting their money where their mouths are. Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane, TD, and the Green Party’s Marc O’Cathasaigh, TD, took out ads in the latest edition of the Waterford News & Star and have pledged to take out more.
Our team is working tirelessly to ensure that the paper is published and available in shops across the city and county, as well as for delivery, and that our website and e-paper edition are updated on an ongoing basis.
“However, quality journalism and news delivery rely heavily on advertising revenues and these are currently dropping in both national and local press at unsustainable rates,” Editor of the Waterford News & Star, Mary Frances Ryan said, “Advertising declined last week by 45-65% across national and local titles. Forecasts for the coming weeks are predicting a further 50% decline week on week. In effect advertising is rapidly disappearing.”
According to Ms Ryan some publishers fear their ability to survive beyond the next few months without immediate government support.
“A number of smaller local publishers may be forced to cease or suspend publication within weeks, leaving local communities without any vital local independent and trusted news provision,” she said.
Among the measures essential to ensure news publishers can continue to operate is economic support through Government ad spend.
From an operational perspective, it is key at this time that a guarantee is instituted that news media providers are treated as an ‘essential service’ in the event of further movement restriction, along with free movement of journalists, newspaper availability, news site traffic and supply chain.
Deputy David Cullinane, who is Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, called for positive action to support local and regional newspapers during this difficult period.
Deputy Cullinane said he has engaged directly and constructively with Minister Richard Bruton on solutions needed.
“Local print media needs urgent support. A crash in advertising revenue is having a devastating impact and is threatening the viability of local and trusted newspapers. I have asked Minister Bruton to establish a fund to be used by government departments to advertise important information and updates on measures to combat COVID-19 in local papers. These can relate to health, employment rights, employer obligations and other general advice to the public.
“This would fulfil a number of purposes – to help disseminate accurate information to the public through reliable and trusted local publications, while also providing much needed revenue for local newspapers,” he said. “This is a serious and precarious situation for all sectors of the economy. We must do all we can to protect the vital services that local broadcast and print media provide.”