A Trusted Voice: The Threat to Irish Local Radio News Journalism

Conference Presentation


McMahon, D. 2021. A Trusted Voice: The Threat to Irish Local Radio News Journalism. Future of Journalism Conference 2021 Cardiff University.
AuthorsMcMahon, D.
TypeConference Presentation
Abstract

For an anxious public living through the triple threat of biological, environmental, and economic crises, the need for rigorously gathered and trusted news and information has arguably never been more important. The proliferation of fake or unreliable news disseminated by social media, among other sources, puts into sharper focus the need for an independent, robust and publicly funded voice to cut through the nonsense and clutter.

Radio remains the most trusted source of news and information in the Republic of Ireland (Reuters Institute 2018) and with 81% of all adults tuning in to radio daily (Ipsos MRBI 2021) news and current affairs output from the Irish Radio Industry is a particularly valuable public service. Much of this is as a result of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s licencing conditions, however, this overlooks the fact that local radio’s unique selling point, and that which draws audiences to them and away from the public service broadcaster RTÉ, is their knowledge and coverage of local news, current affairs, weather and sport. Furthermore, the commercial sector is much more adept and responsive to change in response to adversity and new challenges and can be the leader of transformation in the industry (McMahon 2019). As a result, local radio holds its own against the sizeable and well-resourced RTÉ and on average local stations enjoy around 50% market share (Ipsos MRBI 2021).

However, the Irish Radio Industry has been experiencing a sustained period of economic hardship since the great recession in 2008 crippled the Irish economy. Add to this the competition for audience attention and advertising spend posed by the digital behemoths Facebook and Google and the picture is somewhat grim and pessimistic for this medium that is relied upon so much by the public for trustworthy news. RTÉ has not been immune to these pressures and it too is in a dire financial situation at present with cuts and asset sales ongoing to balance the books. Local radio news departments are the largest and most expensive cost centres for local radio stations due to the aforementioned quality of coverage offered and are therefore under threat. Less resources will inevitably lead to a reduction in the depth and breadth of news coverage.

The primary threat to Irish radio’s news and journalism comes in the form of the agglomeration of radio stations by powerful multinationals into fewer entities. Under this form of structure stations typically cover larger areas but with a more homogeneous output and, crucially a centralised (McDonald & Starkey 2016) and generic news service which is cheap and limited in its scope. This rationalisation of radio has been the trend in the United Kingdom over the past decade (Hendy 2000; Waterson 2020) and the recent takeover of Communicorp, Ireland’s largest commercial radio group, by Bauer Media suggests a similar trend is on its way to Ireland. Using the Irish Radio Industry as its focus this paper draws from interviews with Irish industry professionals and considers what action the industry might take in the coming years and what government measures might help protect radio as a trusted and valued voice.

Keywordsradio journalism; local radio; Irish Radio Industry; public service radio; radio agglomeration; news and information; news quality; commercial radio; news reliability
Year2021
PublisherFuture of Journalism Conference 2021 Cardiff University
Web address (URL)http://hdl.handle.net/10545/626082
http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/
hdl:10545/626082
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Publication dates22 Sep 2021
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Deposited09 Nov 2021, 16:31
Accepted24 Apr 2021
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ContributorsUniversity of Derby
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https://repository.derby.ac.uk/item/92961/a-trusted-voice-the-threat-to-irish-local-radio-news-journalism

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