Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Arts, Culture, and Heritage Niamh Smyth TD has written to the Minister for Communications calling on him to consider the financial requirements needed for those in the independent media sector during the outbreak of COVID-19.

Deputy Smyth explained, “In past few days the Celtic Media Group has temporarily let go of 17 employees at my own local newspaper, The Anglo Celt, and suspended publication of the Offaly Independent during this public health emergency. Local newspapers and their journalists play a hugely important role in informing their readership.

“Hundreds of thousands of people from every county in our country also tune into independent radio, where they know they will receive trusted news, both local to them and nationally. Independent radio stations are often the heart of a community. Now more than ever, they are needed.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has changed the way we carry out almost every aspect of our daily lives as we maintain social distancing and many older people self isolate for their own safety. The importance of independent local media outlets is there for all to see.

“With falling ad revenues and competition with other media sources it is imperative the Government support our local independent radio stations and newspapers during this time. It is welcome the BAI levy has been suspended, yet more can be done, including the release of €5milion of Sound and Vision funding for independent radio. This funding is already there, it just needs the Minister to bring it forward. Those I engage with in the industry say this would be a major boost for the sector.

“The country faces a difficult period. The role of local independent media outlets in their public service broadcasting responsibilities is high. The Government have acknowledged the role the media play in informing the public. We need substance to this praise and see financial supports delivered to ensure local media sources around the country continue long after this pandemic has passed,” concluded Deputy Smyth.