The growth in global streaming ‘means the Irish-language media, already marginal, risks irrelevance if it is not resourced properly in the coming years’.
This warning was given by TG4 Ard-Stiúrthóir (Director- General) Alan Esslemont, who was in conversation with RTS Republic of Ireland Chair Agnes Cogan at an event in early November.
TG4, Ireland’s Irish-language channel, celebrated its 25th birthday at the end of October.
Esslemont, who has been Director-General since 2016, said: ‘Despite the significant number of major global media services and intense competition, we believe that TG4 is needed more now than ever.... We are a vital part of modern Ireland.’
He argued that viewing habits had changed radically during the pandemic: ‘Since Covid especially, people are taking two, three, four subscriptions [to streamers] and they’re seeing a really wide variety of very high-quality programming. That’s the biggest challenge to broadcasters in Ireland.
‘If we don’t tell Irish stories... then [audiences] will be very happy to listen to English and American stories. The [Irish] state has to realise that this is a crossroads and investment is needed.’
Ireland’s level of public service media funding is one of the lowest in Western Europe, he said. ‘Irish media consumers clearly behave very much like UK media consumers and would seem as likely to subscribe to see The Crown or Bridgerton as their British counterpoints. It seems a sensible commercial decision for Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+ to invest in British stories and trust the Irish will want to pay to watch them.’
But, he warned: ‘The Irish state needs to be very aware of the impact of US and UK soft power on the culture and democracy of Ireland.’
He continued: ‘Minority linguistic groups will be under-served in this new media order.
‘Irish-language media lacks scale and is at risk.’