A major conference in Dublin on Saturday, 9th March, will examine how Ireland’s media treats social justice issues and will ask how social justice can be brought to the forefront of the conversation by broadcast, print, community and social media. 

 The day-long event will be opened by Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, and speakers will include Nessa Childers MEP, Farrel Corcoran, former head of the RTE Authority, and Gavan Titley, lecturer in Media Studies at NUI Maynooth. ‘Social Justice Media – Examining the Evidence, Exploring the Possible’ is being hosted by the Near Media Co-op, broadcaster of community radio and television, to mark its 30th anniversary. The conference takes place at the new Chanel Centre in Coolock, home of Parnell’s GAC. 

 Conference organiser Jack Byrne, one of the founders of the Near Media Co-op in 1983, said: “This exciting and thought-provoking event will look at how media in Ireland has evolved over the past 50 years and how it has treated social justice issues. It will examine the impact of shrinking media ownership on coverage of these issues and will ask how community media can step up its game and enhance social justice.
 “We hope this conference will not only provide a critique of state-owned and commercial media, but will also critically examine the role of Near FM and other community media, as well as the impact of social media.”

 Sally Galiana, vice-president of AMARC (the European association of community media broadcasters), who will also address the conference, said: “We hope this event will result in a greater appreciation of how we can utilise the tools at our disposal to improve the quality of the public conversation surrounding social justice.”

 “Just one example of a new initiative that could be considered is a non-mainstream news service that could be shared between all of the 30-plus community broadcasters on the island of Ireland.”

 One of the group sessions will seek to lay the foundations of a new citizen journalism scheme, facilitated by Tom Murphy of Boards.ie. Details of two new courses offered by the Near Media Co-op will also be announced at the conference: a media literacy course (Fetac level 5) and an online social justice media course. The conference will also be an interactive event embracing all new facets of social media.

 Attendees will hear from a range of media practitioners and community activists, including Fr Peter McVerry, community activist Rita Fagan and Gerardine Rowley of Ruhama. The day will also include a performance by Near Drama Company of an extract from a Sean O’Casey play. Attendees will contribute to the drafting of a declaration about how mainstream, community and social media should treat issues of social justice and how they can put these issues to the forefront of media conversation. This declaration will be published after the conference.