Minister for Communications Denis Naughten
Official Opening of "Radio Days" conference
Gibson Hotel, Dublin, 2.30pm Thursday 22 February 2018
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I'd like to thank the IBI and Chair John Purcell for inviting me to speak at your second "Radio Days" conference and I'd especially like to welcome all our international guests.
Congratulations to Learning Waves Skillnet and the IBI for organising this event. I know there's an impressive line-up of speakers and panel discussions ahead. The support received from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Skillnets and IMRO I know is also very much appreciated.
83% - that's the daily radio listenership figure in Ireland. This is a remarkable figure.
That's more than 4/5 Irish adults listen to radio every weekday so it is fair to say radio and the content you are producing holds a very special place in Irish life. Congratulations to each of you for this achievement.
As a rural TD, I know the important public service contribution that commercial and community radio stations play in communities around the country. The local news they provide maintains the fabric of rural society.
As we celebrate your contribution to our country here today I'm very much aware that we do so against the backdrop of growing concerns facing your industry - particularly as you grapple with the coming of age of online digital media platforms.
The providers want to deliver information in an age of news hungry people who are impressed by the volume, the ease and the speed of online news content, information and entertainment.
But no industry has ever simply arrived, it has developed over time. The difference now, is that such a scale, in such a short space of time, is unprecedented.
The service that IBI member stations delivers to listeners has never been more important. With advertising revenues stagnant or reducing for all traditional media, while digital media's advertising revenue soars – the most important question for me is how do we ensure the supply of local content that is reliable and relevant to local audiences?
My own view is that the most efficient way to achieve this is to support the traditional media organisations that are already operating in this area.
All of us as politicians and citizens expect a fair hearing on the issues which matter to us and, in an age where fake news can often inform public debate as much as hard facts, audiences demand and deserve trusted sources of information, with balanced, evidence-based comment and opinion. The content that you produce provides this.
Despite the challenges you face, we expect our broadcasters to provide high quality programming that reflects our common experience and provides an Irish perspective on events and current affairs.
Because of these challenges last year I asked the Joint Oireachtas Committee to look at the future funding of Public Service Broadcasting. To consider the wider question such as whether our current definition of public service media will be fit for purpose in 5 or 10 years' time.
When I was appointed Minister, I focussed on steps which I could take in the short term, which would put all broadcasters on a more stable financial footing.
I received government approval for the drafting of a number of proposed amendments to the current Broadcasting Act 2009, which includes changes to the broadcasting levy.
This amendment will help alleviate the levy burden on independent broadcasters by up to 50%. I am proud to say that I am the first Communications Minister to move on reducing the burden that I know the levy imposes on you.
I also secured Government approval for the creation of a new funding scheme that would provide bursaries to young journalists working in local or community radio stations who produce content with a real public service value.
These legislative proposals are currently undergoing Pre-Legislative Scrutiny at the Joint Oireachtas Committee since May 2017. I have been assured this stage will be finalised next week so that detailed drafting can start immediately to ensure passage through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible.
Flexibility in respect of advertising minutage
Since bringing forward those legislative proposals I have spoken to many of you and I understand the pressures that you face, particularly in respect of advertising revenues.
I am conscious of the need for caution when proposing that Government would interfere in the advertising market, but I feel that some of the restrictions faced by Commercial Radio Stations are outdated and in need of reform.
As a result, I am today announcing my intention to seek Cabinet approval to amend section 41(2) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to remove the hourly limit on advertising for Commercial Radio Stations.
I will seek cabinet approval to make these amendments at Committee Stage of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, once the JOC has concluded its pre-legislative scrutiny. For clarity - flexibility in respect of television minutage will be considered further during the implementation of the revisions to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
Once again I'd like to thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I look forward to working with you all further in future, keep up the great work and enjoy the rest of your conference.