The Taoiseach has said that independent journalism is essential to underpin democracy and is vulnerable to attack.

Micheál Martin also said the Government should financially underpin media in a way that ring fences its editorial independence.

He was speaking in the Dáil about the new Future of Media Commission, which was announced today.

Mr Martin also said the TV licence fee was not sufficient, nor was the way of collecting it. He said many people were paying it and many were not, which he said was not fair.

He said journalism should be financially remunerative, which he said is becoming more challenging and he said the current pandemic has shown public service broadcasting at its best.

The delivery and funding of public service media, RTÉ's role, financing and structure and best international practice are among the issues to be considered by the new commission.

It will be chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, a former DCU president, and includes in its membership experts in public service media, independent journalism, and social media.

The new commission will look at Irish public service broadcasters, as well as other broadcasters, print and online media at local, regional and national level.

It will examine the challenges created for media by new global platforms and changing audience preferences and look at the current situation and how it might evolve over the next decade.

It will make recommendations on RTÉ's role, financing and structure and take into account EU obligations, including the audio visual services directive.

The commission was originally planned as a commission on the future of Irish Public Service Broadcasting.

However, its remit has since been expanded to consider the future of all media, print, broadcast and online.

It is expected to publish a report within nine months.

Minister Catherine Martin also welcomed the commission, saying the Government is determined to chart the way forward to ensure an energetic public service broadcaster that informs, entertains and reflects us as a people.

She said she looked forward to receiving recommendations on how to protect and enhance independent journalism, as well as ensuring that creative artists have the platform to showcase our culture.

Members of the Future of Media Commission 

Chair of the Commission, Professor Brian MacCraith, former President of Dublin City University.

Sinéad Burke, Director of Tilting the Lens, writer and academic active in social media, and member of the Council of State.

Alan Rusbridger, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, and former Editor-in-Chief of Guardian News and Media.

Lynette Fay, freelance broadcaster (broadcasting as Gaeilge and in English on BBC Radio Ulster) with an academic background in applied communications.

Nuala O'Connor, co-founder of South Wind Blows, writer and documentary filmmaker in the areas of music and the arts.

Gillian Doyle, Professor of Media Economics (Theatre, Film and Television Studies), University of Glasgow.

Mark Little, CEO and co-Founder of Kinzen. Founder of social news agency, Storyful.

Stephen McNamara, Director of Communications, Irish Rugby Football Union.

Dr Finola Doyle-O’Neill, Broadcast Historian, University College Cork.

*Two further proposed members will be announced subject to confirmation of availability.

In the Dáil, Fine Gael's Richard Bruton said that Covid-19 had underlined the importance of an independent media.

Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it has never been more important to have good journalism to hold people to account.

However, he said that, there has been a drift from political commentators to political advisors because journalism does not pay well and the hours are unreasonable.

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald said quality public service and journalism was essential.

She said there was ample evidence that very able professionals move from media into the political space and that we need to ask ourselves why that is.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists has criticised the terms of reference for the commission and its composition.

NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said: "We are surprised and gravely disappointed that the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht should find it acceptable to nominate a commission which is devoid of any trade union representation and which has no obvious print industry expertise.

"We are now formally requesting that the NUJ be included in the composition of the commission and that the membership be extended to include expertise drawn from the regional press sector."

In a statement, RTÉ welcomed the announcement of the commission and "the recognition given to the broad and vital role played by both public service and commercial media in Ireland, which is more important now than ever".

RTÉ said it "looks forward" to working with the commission in the coming weeks and months to create a sustainable future for public service media and journalism in Ireland".

News brands Ireland, which represents news publishers, said it welcomed the commission but was disappointed at what it termed a lack of individuals with direct news publishing experience and it called for the role and influence of digital search engines to be included in the terms of reference