The Press Ombudsman has said the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of traditional print and broadcast media. 

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One after launch of the 2019 report of the Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman, Peter Feeney said: "There is a sanity and a calmness and an objectivity there about traditional media that you simply don't fine online. 

"Some would argue the opposite that online media is healthier because it is unconstrained but the very nature that it is unconstrained, leads to its problems. 

"In Covid for example there have been some harmful reports in social media which have been balanced by a much calmer approach in print and broadcasting." 

He said social media needs to "get its house in order" in terms of regulation. 

"You cannot have an entirely unregulated media which has many examples of misinformation on it and many examples of harmful content on it." 

Highlighting the importance of an informed public to a functioning democracy Mr Feeney said traditional media provides an Irish context, which, if lost, leads to distortion of what is important in Ireland. 

"If you lose that and it comes from social media you lose entirely the Irish context and you replace an informed public, with a public which get their information from sources outside of Ireland which often can lead to a distorted image of things that are important in your own country." 

In its report the Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman described the future of the media in Ireland as "very uncertain" and warned that if the economy does not recover substantially "some titles will cease publishing".

A statement accompanying the publication of the bodies' Annual Report for 2019 said that the landscape of the media had changed hugely in the five months since then as a result of Covid-19.

The report itself details the activities of the two bodies tasked with safeguarding and promoting professional standards in Irish print media in 2019.

Last year the Press Ombudsman received 252 complaints.

As in most previous years, complaints alleging breaches of truth and accuracy requirements were the most common (33.9%), followed by alleged breaches of privacy requirements (18.8%).

Formal decisions were issued in relation to 32 complaints and nine were upheld.

"Unregulated social media conglomerates, using micro-targeted advertisement campaigns, are now in receipt of most online advertising revenue"

25 were resolved to the satisfaction of both the complainant and the publisher, 66 were not pursued beyond the preliminary stage, 29 were out of time as they were made after three months had passed, 21 were made by an unauthorised third party and in 12, the publication complained about was not a member of the Press Council.

Fifteen appeals were made to the Press Council of Ireland and three were upheld.

In the report the Chairman of the Press Council noted the decline in newspaper and magazine print circulation in 2019 and the fall-off in advertising revenue with campaigns increasingly being directed towards social media.

"Unregulated social media conglomerates, using micro-targeted advertisement campaigns, are now in receipt of most online advertising revenue, leaving the rest of the market competing for a declining share of this essential source of income," Seán Donlon wrote.

The statement that accompanied the publication of the report noted that advertising revenue has declined even more since then and that all newspapers and magazines were struggling.

In terms of where people get their news it stated that if sources are curtailed or do not offer "objective and calm information" there is a risk that people will make decisions based on limited and sometimes "flawed" information.

"Recent concerns about conspiracy theories and misleading reports on social media in regard to Covid-19 highlight this," it said, adding that it was "no exaggeration to say that the function of the media is under threat in a way that has not been seen before."

Additional Reporting Laura Fletcher