Launch of the 2019 Annual Report of the Press Council of Ireland and Office of the Press Ombudsman
The Press Council of Ireland and Office of the Press Ombudsman today launched their Annual Report for 2019.
Over the course of 2019 the Press Ombudsman received 252 complaints. As in most previous years complaints of breaches of truth and accuracy requirements were the most common, followed by breaches of privacy requirements.
During the Covid-19 crisis, thanks to the commitment of Council members and staff, the Press Council has continued its work and to offer the full range of services while complying with all Government directives and guidelines.
The Annual Report covers the activities of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council in 2019. Five months after the end of the year in which these activities occurred the landscape of the media has changed hugely. Today, because of the rapid decline of economic activity resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown the future of the media in Ireland is very uncertain. Revenue from advertising has declined sharply. Sales of print editions are also suffering. All newspapers and magazines are struggling. If there is not a substantial recovery in the economy it is certain that some titles will cease publishing. Even those titles which continue to publish will do so with reduced resources as the only option for publishers faced with reduced revenue is to cut costs. This means less journalists to carry out the essential tasks of journalism - providing objective and accurate news and information, holding to account those in public life, giving attention to worthwhile endeavours in the arts, sports, literature, music and culture.
Why does this matter? Because the media plays an essential role in democratic society. People choose their elected officials on the basis of information available to them. If the sources of information are limited and if they do not offer objective and calm information
the risk is that important decisions will come to be made on limited and in some instances flawed information. Recent concerns about conspiracy theories and misleading reports on social media in regard to Covid-19 highlight this.
The media has in this country and other countries provided the means necessary for the creation of an informed citizenry. It is no exaggeration to say that this function of the media is under threat in a way that has not been seen before. Increasingly a section of the public no longer accesses its information from print and broadcasting but relies on its information from social media. Social media is a world away from newspapers (print and online), magazines and online-only news services where the wisdom and experience necessary to underpin objective news has accumulated over centuries. If these decline to a point where their relevance becomes marginal the loss to society will be inestimable.
For these reasons 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. Clearly part of that path will be the increasing provision of journalism on digital platforms. But a role must also be found for print as so much of good journalism depends on well-resourced primarily print publications.
The Annual Report is available here and on the Press Ombudsman and Press Council website (www.presscouncil.ie)