Independent radio stations ‘on the verge’ of shutting down, warns industry chief

ALMOST ALL MEMBERS of Ireland’s Independent Broadcasters (IBIs) have “critically” moved to shutting down radio stations in the wake of the pandemic, a committee from Oireachtas has learned.

John Purcell, IBI president, said most of its 34 members were at least a week away from closure and had only been saved by government funding.

Purcell told the Oireachtas Media Committee that the average cost of operating local radio stations is between $ 1.5 million and $ 2 million.

The committee heard that local advertising revenues are down 20-30%.

Purcell said revenue had ceased due to the current “darker” outlook for Covid, with many broadcasters looking ahead to next year with “great concern.”

He said government funding enabled radio stations to play a “vital public service role”.

He added: “Without it the damage done to Irish society by online conspiracy theorists, hawkers of disinformation and the many bad actors who continue to have a channel for their opinions through social media and platforms online, would have been much worse.

“Frankly, I shudder imagining the consequences for local areas without the hard work of the dedicated men and women on stations across the country if the disinformation had not been challenged.”

He also told the committee that he wanted to see a report published by the Commission for the Future of the Media. The report was tasked with exploring funding for public service media.

“It was due in July and we haven’t seen the light of day yet, our concern is that it will just become another report,” he added.

“There is also a delay in the enactment of the Online Security and Media Regulation Bill and this is delaying the day when the damage caused by the online damage can be corrected.

“It also creates uncertainty in our industry regarding regulation and license renewals.

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“So these are serious issues for us.

“We welcome funding suggestions, but we are concerned about the timing and I think action needs to be taken now as the speed of change on the ground and dissemination is very fast, but the speed of change relative to the framework that we that I have lived is freezing.

Declan Gibbons, chairman of the Community Radio Forum of Ireland, said the delay in passing the online safety and media regulation bill means there is no level playing field.

“It provides solid structures, and it means we can control what we do, and I think that is still totally lacking in the online industry,” added Gibbons.

“Something has to be done about it.

“There is no sign of a level playing field at all. And the amount of revenue going online into an unregulated space is something that must remain a concern for all media and for diversity.


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