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Population: 5 million
Internet penetration: 92%
17th June 2024

The cost and purpose of public service media (PSM) have been debated across the nation this year while a payments scandal at Raidió Teilifis Éireann (RTÉ) has unfolded. The scandal began in July 2023 when the Grant Thornton accountancy firm uncovered that secret payments had been made by the former management to boost the pay of a star presenter.

This and further revelations have meant that RTÉ has scarcely been off the front pages of the newspapers and online media outlets. The previous director-general Dee Forbes stands accused of a number of breaches of corporate governance and these decisions have been scrutinised regularly on live television by the Media Committee of the Irish Parliament.

While Ms Forbes has pleaded too ill to attend the sessions, the incoming director-general Kevin Bakhurst has had to help uncover and explain the decisions made by the previous management team. These decisions have included high exit payments to departing staff and chronic overspending on loss-making programming.

Media analysts, politicians, and the public have subsequently questioned the very necessity of PSM in a changing digital landscape.1 RTÉ is a ‘semi-state company’ and most of the problems centre around its commercial activities; however, the degree to which public money has been squandered is also being questioned.

In terms of consumption though, RTÉ News still tops the chart for the most used news source in the categories of ‘TV, radio, and print’ and ‘online’ and retains very high trust levels. More disturbing for RTÉ, however, is the fact that the number of TV licence fees bought last year fell by 13%, a drop of over 123,000 compared to 2022.2 This has resulted in a loss of almost €22m. A proposed government bailout of RTÉ is now contingent on cost-cutting. So far RTÉ has announced plans for salary caps and 400 redundancies.

In late November serious riots broke out in central Dublin that included attacks on the Gardai (Irish police) and members of the public causing over €20m of damage. The riots began after an assailant stabbed four members of the public, including young children. News that he was of Algerian origin spread quickly on social media and anti-immigrant crowds and general rioters joined in the fray. Social media have been used increasingly by right-wing activists to stir up resentment of migrants.

In February the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) was introduced in Ireland, requiring online platforms to do more to remove illegal content and counter the impact of disinformation disseminated through their services. The Irish media regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, is responsible for enforcing the DSA in Ireland, alongside the EU, and has set up a contact centre to advise the public on their rights and escalate complaints under the legislation. Platforms that are repeat offenders can face heavy fines and EU-wide bans.

Meanwhile artificial intelligence companies OpenAI and Anthropic are establishing bases in Dublin. OpenAI’s office will be responsible for the company’s data privacy and oversight and will provide services such as ChatGPT across Europe.

According to a PwC report3 (November 2023), newspaper publishers will see an increase in revenues from digital media by 2027, but this upturn will not make up for the expected decline in print sales. The country’s newspaper market was worth €379m in 2022 and is forecast to fall to €288m in 2027.

The chief executive of Mediahuis Ireland, Peter Vandermeersch, publisher of titles including The Irish Independent, announced 50 job cuts while repeating his mantra that the news industry is shifting from print to digital under a plan known as ‘Digital-only 2030’. This will involve an eventual disappearance of printed newspapers from Monday to Friday.

The Irish radio sector meanwhile appears to be in relatively good health, according to figures from the industry body Radiocentre Ireland which boasted advertising revenues of €164m in 2023, with digital audio revenue up 33% to €7.2m (excluding global brands).

Coimisiún na Méan has also announced funding of €2.4m to independent radio stations to aid digital transformation and for programmes with equality inclusion themes. This year it is also introducing a Local Democracy Reporting Scheme and a Courts Reporting Scheme.

Professor Colleen Murrell
Dublin City University

Changing media

After a slight COVID bump, TV continues its long-term decline as a news source. Print has been hit even harder with use now well under half the level of 2015.

Pay for online news




Trust in news overall



While overall trust in news is down 7 percentage points since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is relatively unchanged this year. At the brand level, trust in RTÉ News appears unaffected by the recent scandal, with it at 72%, level pegging with The Irish Times.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 85.59

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at


1 David McWilliams, ‘We are Witnessing the Death Throes of RTÉ. I Say This with a Heavy Heart’, Irish Times, 2 Mar. 2024.

2 ‘Tell us your Story: Why did you Stop Paying the TV Licence Fee?’, Irish Times, 13 Feb. 2024.

3 ‘Ireland’s Entertainment & Media Outlook 2023–2027’, PwC, 6 Nov. 2023.

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