LOCAL Ireland, the association representing 42 weekly paid-for newspapers around the country, including The Southern Star, is calling on the government to match its €5m funding for local radio with support for local newspapers.
President of Local Ireland David Ryan said: ‘We provide a unique service to our readers both urban and rural. We are in every county, every town, every estate and every townland.
‘We have seen a dramatic fall in advertising revenue during the pandemic with an average drop of 22% among our members in 2020,’ said Mr Ryan.
‘That has come on top of advertising and circulation being hit hard by first the recession post 2008 and then the huge migration of advertising to tech giants like Google and Facebook.
‘The outlook for 2021 is, if anything, worse.
‘Local radio stations, which operate in the same market as ourselves, received €2.5m via a Covid funding scheme last April and have just been given the opportunity to apply to another €2.5m scheme this month. We have received no such similar support.’
Mr Ryan said that local newspapers would normally source 91% of their advertising revenue from local businesses.
Many businesses in the hospitality, entertainment and tourism sectors had closed in the lockdown, while other business had reined in spending because of future economic uncertainty.
The consequent losses to local newspapers had led to some publishers taking emergency measures, such as shorter working weeks, lay-offs and redundancies.
Mr Ryan said: ‘It is vital that we receive support in the same way as our local radio colleagues in order to continue the valuable service we provide to our communities and to maintain the high standards of coverage that they expect and deserve.’
Mr Ryan also called on the government to ensure that local newspapers receive their fair share of advertising around national Covid campaigns.
He added: ‘Our newspapers reach older people and the most vulnerable in society who rely on us for the latest information about changes in Covid restrictions and the roll-out of vaccines. We need to see a fairer distribution of advertising spend to serve our readers and to support our businesses.’