Ireland needs to "tool up" to defend itself against massive international media interests, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.

Rory Coveney, Director of Strategy at RTÉ, said Irish broadcasters are in competition with "the best resourced TV channels anywhere on the planet".

He warned that it is "an enormous undertaking to expand the regulator's powers into all these platforms".

Industry representatives today spoke to the Joint Committee on Media about the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill.

An "arms race" is under way in online political advertising, Mr Coveney warned the Committee.

The sums involved are "massive", especially in the US, he added.

"We are not advocating that RTÉ should be carrying" political ads, Mr Coveney said.

"But there is a strange asymmetry when RTÉ and TG4 coexist on devices with online services with no such prohibition," he said.

The bill excludes misinformation, disinformation and fake news.

This is a "very significant omission", Mr Coveney said, as they "cause real harm".

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne praised Irish news and current affairs programming for its accurate coverage of the pandemic.

He emphasised the importance of "quality, trusted news".

Ensuring it continues to be available will be one of "the big challenges for media", Senator Byrne said.

Mark Carpenter, Director of Regulatory and Corporate Affairs at Sky Ireland, said any content levy should be examined by the media commission.

He warned that a levy, which is provided for in the bill, could have "unintended consequences".

Additional funding for domestic production could be found in other ways, Mr Carpenter suggested.

He raised the possibility of replacing the licence fee with a new system which "brings more households into the net".

"A household-based media charge collected by the Revenue Commissioners is the best way forward", Rory Coveney said.

Peter McCarthy, Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs at Virgin Media Television, said that any content levy must be used to support journalists.

He warned that there is "already a distortion in the market between licenced broadcasters and digital players."

Virgin believes that "OTT (over the top) and video on demand players must be included" in any levy, he said.

Mr McCarthy emphasised that Virgin is an internet service provider, and that it cannot police content.

"We don't host material on the internet... we provide the pipe... we build the road," he said.

The Committee heard that figures from the Department of Health reveal that people in Ireland strongly favour domestically produced news.

Social media platforms were trailing far behind in terms of popularity.

Various witnesses pointed out that on the electronic program guide (EPG), prominence is given to Irish media.

Alan Esslemont, Director General of TG4, pushed for this to be made a legal requirement.

Mr Coveney welcomed the Minister's promise to address this issue.

But he added that it must include content and not just channels.

Mr Coveney said that RTÉ surveys the public all the time, and "they want us to do more, and do more, better".

"They never want us to do less," he said.

Mr Esslemont said the future of public service broadcasting can be summed up in two words: "funding and findability".

He agreed that the "competition for audiences is intensifying" with streaming services "spending billions".

"We must maximise the relevance and discoverability of TG4's content," he said.