FuJo was was delighted to partner with Learning Waves for a report on the impact of Covid 19 on Ireland’s independent radio sector. Led by Colm Kearns, the research examined the perspectives of senior figures within the sector including the CEOs of radio stations.
Station management considered trusted information about the pandemic to be a key strength of independent radio as 85% asserted that this was one of the main reasons why listeners tuned into their station. Almost 100% of stations surveyed said they made it their responsibility to combat the spread of misinformation and educate the public by sourcing credible and qualified contributors and challenging contrary views.
Regarding the future of the sector, sustained funding, clearer communication from policy-makers, and staff upskill support were among the key areas highlighted. Considering the challenges faced by radio staff, respondents cited ‘mental-health concerns’, job security, and fighting the spread of disinformation.
Key observations and recommendations include:
- Supports for independent radio, while remaining rigorous in their application process, must take account of the vastly varied resources of the stations that make up the sector.
- Reliance on ad hoc schemes, such as Sound and Vision, creates uncertainty. At the same time, funding schemes should be broadened and ring-fenced/sector specific to include a wider range of content including news and current affairs.
- The state cannot combat the ‘infodemic’ of misinformation and mistrust alone. Independent radio can play an active role in this effort, but they cannot effectively play this role while considered purely commercial entities.
- Innovation is required to reassess the long-term business models of Irish media at national, local, and community levels, and this will come through cross-pollination of perspectives and insights.
- Independent radio staff clearly rose to the challenges of the pandemic with energy and creativity. However, there is a need to build on this by supporting the structures which equip staff with the abilities to adapt to the ongoing upheavals in wider media.
- Learning Waves is well-placed to play a key role in building capacity in the sector to combat misinformation and address digital innovations, but needs support and recognition to do so. Sustainable funding for the provision of training and development opportunities across the media sector is needed.