New Independent Radio Stations Bill Hailed As A "Major Breakthrough"

The new Bill by Fianna Fáil seeks to extend extra support to local broadcasting by providing additional funding for programming with a local or regional focus.

Fianna Fáil Communications Spokesperson, Timmy Dooley TD has said that the Independent Broadcasting Bill 2017, if it's approved by government, will extend support to the broadcasting of local news and current affairs by providing funding to strengthen and promote diversity in media.

The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI), which represents Ireland’s 34 local, regional and national independent radio stations, have welcomed the proposed legislation as a "major breakthrough".

The IBI have endorsed the Independent Stations Bill, saying that it acknowledges the role played by independent radio in this country.

“While listenership to independent radio remains consistently strong with literally millions of people tuning in every day, the financial pressure on broadcasting organisations providing these services is growing at an alarming rate," stated John Purcell, Head of the IBI, "without urgent legislative action, it will not be able to sustain the level of public service content provided by our stations in our news, current affairs and information programming which is so beloved of Irish radio listeners."

The IBI also says that the bill recognises the "critical" situation that many independent broadcasters find themselves in.

Furthermost they are happy that it outlines some of the practical ways the Government can ensure that this type of radio can survive.

"It is imperative that the Dáil takes steps to ensure that a package of measures to support independent broadcasters is enacted without delay," Mr. Purcell added.

Commenting at the launch of the Bill yesterday, Deputy Dooley said: “Independent, public service service broadcasting has an important place in our society and we must do more to value it.

"There has been a significant shift in advertising spending towards social media platforms, and traditional media organisations are increasingly starved of revenue. This makes it near impossible to continue to provide the level of news and current affairs to the standards expected."

Deputy Dooley added: “Creating original news content is quite expensive, and the lack of funding for independent and local stations often makes it impossible for them to do so.

"This means that local communities miss out on content that is specific and important to their locality, such as coverage of local sports events or history programmes with a local twist.

“For democracy to properly function, it is essential that our citizens can access honest, unbiased news coverage of the events that matter to them.

“The Public Service Broadcast Scheme will be funded by the increased revenue that will come from a reduction in license fee evasion, ensuring that no other organisation will experience funding cuts as a result of the establishment of this fund."

He concluded: "The Minister claims that he has been examining means to reduce licence fee evasion, which is estimated to cost the state roughly €40m per annum. Under our Bill, 30% this sum will be allocated to our proposed Public Broadcast Scheme.

“I am calling on the Minister to prioritise introducing initiatives to challenge licence fee evasion to get this scheme kickstarted. I very much look forward to debating the proposals in the Dáil during the Autumn term, and I hope to get all party support in passing this important Bill."


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