Sunday, 30 October 2016

Irish Independent: Lynn Boylan commissioned a report to get result SF wanted

Story from Irish Independent:

Lynn Boylan's much-publicised Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland tells us little we didn't already know about the newspaper, radio and television market here.

But it patently fails to tell people much about what they should know about the wider media sector. As far as the report - commissioned, but not written, by the Sinn Fein MEP on behalf of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament - is concerned, the elephant in the room is Denis O'Brien.

Specifically, his ownership of newspapers and radio stations in this country.

Yes, O'Brien is a major media player here, with control over some key elements of the so-called traditional media. That can't be disputed.

But is that fact the most pertinent point with regard to plurality in the media in Ireland today?

Because the irony is that the analysis in this report largely ignores a massive behemoth of its own - the enormous, and growing, influence of new media (blogs, YouTube) and social media.

The report describes Ireland as one of the most concentrated media markets of any democracy in Europe.

But all the evidence suggests that Irish people have never had such a multiple of news sources available to them.

Thirty or 40 years ago, people got their news from a small number of media outlets - RTE (just a couple of times a day, mind), the Press Group, Independent Newspapers, the Irish Times - and perhaps the Cork Examiner group if you lived in Munster.

Fleet Street newspapers had barely penetrated the public consciousness outside of the east coast.

There was no competition in TV or radio. Today, the influence of the traditional, old-style domestic media is seriously diluted.

Around two-thirds of people have a Facebook account - 74pc of them use it daily and around half use it as a source for news.

Mark Zuckerberg might claim Facebook is a tech, rather than a media, company.

But, all the evidence suggests otherwise. It mightn't create its own news content but, in today's world, control over distribution is just as important as actually creating the content.

For better or worse, Facebook is arguably the most powerful media company in the country right now (yes, more so even than RTE).

Virgin Media, with its strong broadband presence in Dublin - not to mention its ownership of television channels, including TV3 and UTV Ireland - falls into a similar category.

Yet curiously neither company gets a mention in Boylan's report. It doesn't stop with Facebook or Virgin Media.

One in 10 people says social media is now their primary news source, with over half getting at least some news through social media sites.

For now, TV remains the big beast when it comes to accessing news, with three quarters of people getting their news this way.

But given that many of the younger generation barely watch traditional TV, it remains to be seen how long this dominance will last.

© Irish Independent.