AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractFor 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.
CitationMcMahon, D. (2021). 'A Trusted Voice: The Threat to Irish Local Radio News Journalism' [Presentation]. Future of Journalism Conference. Online, Cardiff University, 22 - 24 September.
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The economic, social & cultural impact of the social network site Facebook on the Irish radio industry 2011-2016Davies, Huw; McMahon, Daithí (University of DerbySchool of Arts: College of Arts, Humanities & Education, 2019-07-04)This thesis explores the relationship between radio and Facebook in Ireland during the period 2011-2016 and the ways in which radio production practices, audience participation and radio as a medium has changed over that time. From 2008, the Irish Radio Industry experienced a steep decline in advertising revenue which would continue for the next 8 years. Initially seen as a possible threat to the still largely analogue medium of radio, social media platforms such as Facebook were quickly adopted by radio stations and turned into tactical instruments to attract and engage audiences. Again, radio proved its resilience and adaptability to change. Although producers for the most part used Facebook creatively and skilfully to gather their audience in online communities, Facebook has unfortunately been found to be presenting some significant issues for the Irish Radio Industry. This thesis employed a multimethod approach to explore the research problem from the perspective of the audience, the producer, and the media texts. This triangulation approach allowed for a comprehensive examination and analysis of the research question and an objective set of findings. The research included interviews with Irish Radio Industry professionals (N=11) as well as direct observation of the presenters’/producers’ daily production routines. An extensive audience questionnaire was disseminated via Facebook and yielded a high response (N=416). Textual analysis of radio station Facebook pages offered insight into the bespoke nature of each station’s output including audience tastes and staff production strategies. A longitudinal content analysis allowed the researcher to measure the growth of radio station Facebook and Twitter followers over a two-and-a-half year period. This research highlights the importance of Facebook for radio stations in Ireland as an audio-visual tool to reach new young audiences who have grown up in the digital age, although it does expand the producers’ remit. I argue that radio stations can accumulate social, cultural and symbolic capital through Facebook, and in some instances, economic capital. This thesis highlights the changes that are representative of convergence culture where the audience play a much more active role in media production and dissemination, but their ‘play labour’ is simultaneously being commodified and profited from by Facebook and Google. This research offers case studies which include some best practice in terms of social media management and will therefore inform radio production teaching in higher education. Based on the research I propose that Irish radio needs to act fast while the industry is still afloat and engage in collaboration between commercial and public service radio, regulation of online advertisers and social network sites (SNSs) and innovation to engage further with digital media and find new revenue streams. Should action not be taken I predict the conglomeration of the commercial sector of the Irish Radio Industry and with it the loss of valuable and trusted public services from local communities.
Informed & educated: when public service radio learns from the commercial radio sectorMcMahon, Daithí; University of Derby (VIEW Journal of European Television History & Culture, 2019-12-19)Using the Irish Radio Industry as a case study, this chapter illustrates how the Public Service Broadcaster (PSB), Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), was slow to react to change and the effect this had on the organisation’s competitiveness. This chapter analyses how RTÉ’s youth radio station, RTÉ 2fm, lost its place as the market leader to the competition including commercial station Beat and other stations as it resisted the required technological, social and economic change which ultimately affected its listenership. The author argues that the independent sector led the way in innovation and affected change which greatly benefited the industry as a whole and brought it into the digital age. This research was based on a methodology involving in-depth interviews, online surveys, textual analysis, direct observation and a longitudinal content analysis.
With a little help from my friends: The Irish radio industry's strategic appropriation of social network sites for commercial growth.McMahon, Daithi; University of Derby (IGI Global, 2017)Ireland has faced significant economic hardship since 2008, with the Irish radio industry suffering as advertising revenues evaporated. The difficult economic circumstances have forced radio station management to devise new and cost effective ways of generating much-needed income. The answer has come in the form of Facebook, the leading Social Network Site (SNS) in Ireland. Using Ireland as a case study, this chapter looks at how radio station management are utilising the social network strategically in a bid to enhance their audiences and revenues. Radio station management consider Facebook to be an invaluable promotional tool which is very easily integrated into radio programming and gives radio a digital online presence, reaching far greater audiences than possible through broadcasting. Some radio stations are showing ambition and are realising the marketing potential that Facebook and other SNSs hold. However, key changes in practice, technology and human resources are required to maximise the profit-making possibilities offered by Facebook.