Fianna Fáil has launched a series of proposals aimed at securing the future of Irish print journalism.
The party is proposing that the State provide around €30m per year to secure the future of quality journalism at a time when it is jeopardised by a significant downturn in revenues for news publishers in Ireland.
The document outlines the "stark" figures for the industry that show national newspaper circulation is down over 50% in the past decade and the figures for local newspapers show a 35% decline.
Against this background, Fianna Fáil's communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley launched a policy document today.
Speaking at Leinster House, he said: "The media landscape has changed very significantly over the last number of years.
"The emergence of digital media platforms have taken a significant amount of the traffic that would have gone to newspapers in the past."
As well as declining circulation he added that "the shift in advertising revenues to digital media platforms is having a very significant impact on the ability of media organisations to sustain their journalistic output.
"It is well known now that many of the newsrooms around the country have cut or are cutting their journalistic staff. We think that has the potential to have a significant impact on the democratic institutions.
"Quality journalism holds all of us to account - institutions of the State, politicians and business. Anything that would undermine the capacity of effective journalism has a negative impact."
The Fianna Fáil document proposes expanding the role of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to establish a new Print Journalism Unit. This unit would allocate grant aid to support newspaper publishers in providing public service content.
Fianna Fáil proposes the new unit could be funded by ring-fencing VAT receipts from newspaper sales, around €27m, or by introducing a new 6% digital advertising levy, which would amount to €30m per year based on the 2018 sales.
Mr Dooley is also proposing a new Minister for the Media at Cabinet, who would have overall responsibility for media, including news publishing.
He pointed out that the growth in digital advertising has not benefitted newspaper publishers as much as anticipated.
The Clare TD said Facebook and Google will earn up to 80% of the projected €500m digital advertising spend in Ireland in 2018.
Mr Dooley also pointed out that "many of our EU colleagues are already investing in print journalism.
"In France for example, €262m was made available to newspapers in direct support for distribution, home delivery and modernisation and innovation in 2016."
In response, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock said all Irish journalism should be supported with no preferential treatment.
The Dublin North West TD said: "The desire to support quality journalism is laudable, but to only support print journalism is bizarre."
He cited the recent Reuters Institute Digital Report for 2018, which he said shows more people rely on the online version of newspapers as their main source of news than the print editions.
Mr Rock said under Fianna Fáil's proposal, only journalism in the print edition will be supported, while the online version "will be left to make their own hay".
He said the proposals have not been thought out as quality journalism provided only in an online context would be excluded entirely under these plans.
"Whatever initiatives are taken in relation to the media need to reflect modern realities and be future-proofed", he said.