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Irish media 'threatened in a way that has not been seen before' due to Covid-19

The Press Council and Press Ombudsman published their annual report today.

Image: Shutterstock/Photo Kozyr

THE PRESS COUNCIL of Ireland and the Press Ombudsman have warned that the future of Irish media is “very uncertain” because of the economic threat posed Covid-19.

Launching their annual report for 2019 today, both bodies noted that all newspapers and magazines are struggling due to falling advertising revenues and a drop in print sales.

They also said that if there is not a substantial recovery in the economy, it is certain that a number of titles will stop publishing.

The report outlines the activities of both bodies, which exist to safeguard and promote professional and ethical standards in Irish print and online media.

According to the report, the Press Ombudsman received 252 complaints last year, with the most common being alleged breaches of truth and accuracy requirements (33.9%).

This was followed by alleged breaches of privacy requirements (18.8%) and issues distinguishing between fact and comment (11.9%).

The Ombudsman issued formal decisions in relation to 32 complaints, while nine complaints were upheld. Fifteen appeals were made to the Press Council of Ireland, three of which were upheld.

It was also the first year in which a complaint about a podcast was made, although this was resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.

In the report, Press Council Chairman Seán Donlon said that 2019 proved to be a challenging year for member publications, as income from advertising continued to decline due to a continued focus by advertisers on social media.

He also called on the government to review the “detrimental impact” of Ireland’s defamation laws on press freedom, which he noted was affecting the commercial viability of the press in Ireland.

“When people are defamed they are entitled to take court action for any wrongful loss of reputation,” Donlon said.

“However, if the award is so large and the consequences so harsh that publishers run the risk of going out of business, there is a real danger that democracy will suffer through the suppression of the means of communicating facts and opinions.”

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In a statement accompanying the release of the report, Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney warned about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Irish media.

“It is no exaggeration to say that this function of the media is under threat in a way that has not been seen before,” he said.

“In a year so disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic there, is a genuine feeling that the media is at a point of profound change in its role in society.

“If societal values and practices are not to suffer, a future path for the media must emerge.”

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