The future of the media – young people, access and inclusion
NYCI addressed the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media on Wednesday 1st February 2023 to discuss ‘the future business model plans and long-term vision for the media sector with a focus on access and inclusion’.
Paul Gordon, NYCI Director of Policy and Advocacy and Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe, NYCI Young Voices participant and student journalist, spoke on NYCI’s behalf.
National Youth Council of Ireland’s Opening Statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht:
We at NYCI know from our engagement with young people and our members in the youth work sector the distinct challenges and opportunities new media channels present to young people, their changing consumption habits and concerns about how representative media outlets are of young people.
A robust and healthy media sector is pivotal to the effective functioning of our democracy. The sector needs to be sustainable to support this and NYCI believes that young people must be the cornerstone of that.
With the support of Government, PSMs and PSCPs can and must adapt to secure the future of the sector.
To start, they need to foster a culture of inclusivity for young people who are either consumers or potential consumers and provide meaningful opportunities for them to drive the development of the Irish media sector of the future.
This means including young people on diversity boards, implementing youth participation strategies and crucially, gathering and using data effectively to monitor and improve youth representation.
The sector and Government must also support and listen to young people working in media.
As part of our submission, we spoke with young journalists across print, online and broadcast outlets. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their time and valuable insights.
They spoke about increasing workplace demands, barriers to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds pursuing a career in media, gave unfavourable assessments of the lack of diversity in the industry and highlighted challenges for young women entering editorial and management roles.
To ensure a workforce and sector that is representative of modern Ireland, the sector, with support from Government and the Media Commission, must ensure greater access including through paid apprenticeships, by identifying career pathways for women and minorities in the industry, along with addressing the concerning dearth of data collected on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and youth representation. Without radical change, this will hamper not only access to careers and adequate representation of minorities, but the industry.
All the young journalists we interviewed also spoke of a toxic online culture of gender-based harassment and abuse against female journalists. We heard accounts of female journalists receiving threats, unsolicited pictures, suggestive comments and of appearances on television or radio being followed by a “barrage of abuse”.
NYCI believes that action needs to be taken to prevent this kind of abuse and to support young journalists who are subject to it. This includes adequate sanctions for social media companies that do not enforce standards, and mental health supports for staff at PSMs and PSCPs, funded through a levy on social media companies.
In a context where disinformation is rife on our social networks and media consumption habits are changing, Ireland remains vulnerable to disinformation, while the prevalence of hateful and harmful content and content violations being circumvented or not enforced properly pose real risks.
Despite high digital skills among our younger population, they need to be further empowered to recognise disinformation and be safe from harmful content and abuse. Government has a key leadership role to play in ensuring we set the highest regulatory standards, providing the right supports to empower young people to be autonomous users of online media, and to holding big tech companies, especially those with a presence in Ireland, to account for upholding standards.
From our discussions with young people and young journalists, it is clear that the future can be bright for the media sector, if it elevates and embraces the voices of those who engage with media in a very different way to the past, and listens to and acts to support young professionals who are passionate about serving the public interest and dedicated to telling stories that inform, entertain and represent the full diversity of communities across Ireland.