The Independent Broadcasting Bill 2017 which seeks to extend support to the broadcasting of local news and current affairs by providing funding which will strengthen and promote diversity in media. Independent, public service broadcasting has an important place in our society and we must do more to value it.
There has been a significant shift in advertising spending towards social media platforms, and traditional media organisations are increasingly starved of revenue. This makes it near impossible to continue to provide the level of news and current affairs to the standards expected.
Creating original news content is quite expensive, and the lack of funding for independent and local stations often makes it impossible for them to do so. This means that local communities miss out on content that is specific and important to their locality, such as coverage of local sports events or history programmes with a local twist. For democracy to properly function, it is essential that our citizens can access honest, unbiased news coverage of the events that matter to them.
The Public Service Broadcast Scheme will be funded by the increased revenue that will come from a reduction in license fee evasion, ensuring that no other organisation will experience funding cuts as a result of the establishment of this fund.
The Minister claims that he has been examining means to reduce licence fee evasion, which is estimated to cost the state roughly €40m per annum. Under our Bill, 30% this sum will be allocated to our proposed Public Broadcast Scheme.
I am calling on the Minister to prioritise introducing initiatives to challenge licence fee evasion to get this scheme kick-started. I very much look forward to debating the proposals in the Dáil during the Autumn term, and I hope to get all party support in passing this important Bill.